India in 2014

I first visited India in 2005 when I filmed documentaries on tea and spices for TVNZ. Subsequently, I was lured back by Robyn Bickford and Manav Garewal — who had become managers of the five-star resort Amanbagh in deepest darkest Rajasthan. Robyn suggested I host one of my culinary tours to India, basing it at Amanbagh. So in 2008 back I went to set up my first 10 day India tour, and I have visited every year since.  I sipped pomegranate juice while listening to the bansi flute, monkeys and peacocks crossed my path, I dressed in beautiful Indian clothes like Robyn, dove into the kitchen to make buffalo milk feta, yoghurt, haloumi and learn Rajasthani dishes, went into the villages to learn how to make butter and grind wheat and shopped for Kashmiri shawls and hand blocked cotton in Jaipur. 

My India tour now encompasses Jaipur, Goa, Kolkata and Darjeeling. The four destinations we visit are chosen for their clear contrast in cuisine - in Rajasthan it is austere desert food mixed with rich Mogul food; in Goa it is a mix of Indian and Portuguese and they eat pork and beef; in Kolkata it is harmonious and extravagant with an English influence and in Darjeeling it is Nepalese influenced with lots of meat and fermented foods. Indians love colour and celebrations so pathways are decorated with flower petal designs, we enjoy rooftop candle lit dinners of Rajasthani specialties and there is always traditional music playing. Glenburn Tea Estate where we stay in Darjeeling is a haven of peace, beauty and sophisticated food. We walk through the villages, meditate facing the Himalayas if we feel like it, do yoga if we feel like it, visit the temple, get massaged, have dinner in the garden, all lit up with fairy lights and sparkly things floating from the roof, participate in hands on Indian cooking lessons, shopping trips and picnics by the river. Our last night feast is always a very low-key affair – five course dinner, fireworks, dancing girls, musicians ...

This is a very personal tour of what I love most about India - the huge differences in cuisine, culture and geography from state to state. India is sublime, ancient, challenging, searingly colourful, emotional, passionate and dangerously addictive. It is changing and emerging as a financial, artistic, commercial and intellectual powerhouse. Every destination I've chosen for its strong food culture and my intimate connection to it.  Our experience is authentic and respectful, luxurious without the price tag and very well organized. I have been working with the same people in India since the very beginning and when I leave them I am already missing them. Come and join me - 6 - 16th October 2014.