I’m so excited about this recipe – it represents a major breakthrough in the brunch department. I love, love, love street dishes like Pav Bhaji and Vada Pav but the pav available in Delhi is so disappointing it’s almost not worth eating. Here, I’ve hit on a solution – authentic, homemade soft fluffy pav. Incredibly, it’s based on a very old recipe for Scottish morning rolls, and really easy to make. Give it a go – I know what I’ll be making for brunch tomorrow…
A Very Scottish ‘Pav’
(first appeared in Mint 12th May)
I live in two parallel culinary universes. In one, I spend abnormal amounts of time thinking about or making cake, biscuits and bread. The other is where I tramp around the back alleys eating street food, pestering vendors for recipes in a bid to replicate the dishes at home. Occasionally the two worlds collide and today’s recipe is a good example.Pav bhaji, beloved snack of millions of Mumbaikars, is one of my favourite street foods but I only like it with the pukka soft, pillowy pav available in Mumbai and Goa. The pre-packed pav available in shops in Delhi just won’t do.
I recently came by a great recipe for vegetable bhaji but have yet to find someone to share pav know-how, despite repeated stalking of bakers in Goa and on the Konkan coast. Then, on a recent trip back to Scotland, I had a thought. I realized that pav, despite its Portuguese heritage, is almost identical to what we call “morning rolls”, the vehicle for our so-good but definitely artery-clogging “bacon butties”. All I had to do was find a recipe for morning rolls and I could be serving up pav-bhaji brunches in no time.
I needed to look no further than one of Scotland’s oldest cookbooks, The Scots Kitchen, written by F. Marian McNeill in 1929 (I inherited my mother’s 1976 edition). It is, incidentally, a wonderful compendium of long-forgotten and evocatively named recipes, like Cabbie-Claw (salted and dried cod) and Parlies (a type of gingerbread made for members of Parliament). In fact, this gem of a book always reminds me that Scotland once had a cuisine as rich as any in Europe—in the early years of the 20th century, there was even a Scottish version of Ile Flottante made with quince, egg whites, cream and wine. Although now most Scots buy pre-sliced, factory-produced bread, we were once particularly well-endowed in the artisan bread department—the Aberdeen buttery could have given the croissant a run for its money.
Scottish Morning Rolls, the softest, fluffiest of breads, were once made in every home for breakfast and traditionally known as baps—possibly, the author suggests, “an analogy with pap, the mammary gland, on account of its shape and size”. I see no good reason to deviate too far from McNeill’s recipe, except to bring the measurements up to date and introduce fast-action yeast. And, of course, to point out that the bap does a great impersonation of pav.
Pav/Scottish Morning Rolls
450g all-purpose flour (maida)
2 tsp salt
1 sachet of fast-action yeast
150ml of cold whey—I always have whey in the kitchen from paneer-making but if you don’t, use water
150ml hot milk
A little extra cold milk for brushing
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Add the butter and use your fingertips to blend it into the flour mixture. Pour in the milk and whey/water mixture and mix to form a rough dough. Cover the bowl and leave for 10 minutes in a warm place (not too difficult to find at this time of year in India). After 10 minutes, you will see that the dough has already started to seem more elastic—the yeast has done its work without any arm-numbing kneading.
Scottish Morning Rolls are traditionally known as baps
Turn the dough on to a lightly floured board and knead gently for about 10 seconds until you have a smooth ball of dough. The dough should be very very soft but not too sticky. Put the dough into a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave for about 1 hour until it has doubled in size.
Take the dough out of the bowl and knock the air out, then cut into 12 pieces. Knead each piece into a smooth ball, then place in a lightly oiled tin. Cover again and leave until the pavhave doubled in size—this will vary according to how warm your kitchen is. Thepav would have stuck together as they expanded. Brush the tops of the pavwith a little milk.
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Bake the pav for about 15 minutes until the tops are brown. Let the pav cool slightly before tearing into them.
Baps/morning rolls/pav don’t keep well. They’re at their best soon after they emerge from the oven so make sure your bhaji or vada is ready and waiting
Saturday was Ashtami, the 8th day of the nine-day Hindu fasting period known as Navratri (literally, ‘nine nights’) during which the goddess Durga is honoured.
Food, as ever, plays an important part.
As the temperatures rise and Delhi-ites rush to get their ACs serviced and start to dread the long, sweaty slog ahead, we have been granted a few days’ reprieve in the shape of unseasonal chilly squalls. This, we are informed by every daily newspaper, is thanks to the ‘Western Disturbance’, a term used in this part of the world to describe a sudden cold snap caused by extratropical storms in the Mediterranean.
The cold winds and swirling leaves are making me think back to some of the lovely book-related Old Delhi outings of the past few months that I never got round to blogging about. Winter is such a great time for Old Delhi pottering, when the city is warm and cheering rather than exhaustingly hot.
Back in January, for instance, on the day of the Lohri , I went for a stroll in the area which specialises in gajjak – a jaggery/nut brittle eaten and gifted during this winter harvest festival. The gajjak shops turned out to be not too far from Chawri Bazaar metro towards the Khari Baoli end of Lal Kuan, and seemed to envelop the area in a tantalising nutty, jaggery aroma.
In Frashkhana, there was a cluster of shops overflowing with nutty delights and doing a roaring trade. It was a street I hadn’t explored before and was keen to keep going but Rahul my rickshaw driver stopped after about 100 yards and said it wasn’t safe to go any further as the end of the gully marked the beginning of G.B. Road, Old Delhi’s red light district.
I wanted to linger, though. Luckily I spotted a busy food stall snuggled up to an old Mughal archway. Bathed in the soft winter sun, Khan Hotel was crowded with workers in their cosy woollen tank tops, an old man was making bread and all seemed well with the world.
The shop’s young proprietor, Chaman Khan, looked astonished when I strolled up and ordered a plate of mutton and potato – I suppose not many foreigners stray into these parts. One of the workers ushered me to a bench in the gully under the arch where I sat and dipped my fresh tandoori roti into the gravy, studiously ignoring Rahul’s rising twitchiness. The meal was simple and homely with none of Old Delhi’s signature spicy pyrotechnics – also on offer was potato and spinach and dal, each served with the freshest of bread for 20 rupees a go.
Eventually, I gave in to Rahul’s constant reminders that this was not a good area and got back on the rickshaw. Returning via Lal Kuan, we stopped at Lal Ramkrishan Das and Sons where a huge crowd was blocking out a beautiful display of gajjak. I sampled a few – a perfect chaser to the savoury meat – then watched sugar being spun at the back of the shop. (unfortunately I’ve managed to delete a video I made of this!)
Just looking at these photos makes me feel winter is already a distant memory but if the Western Disturbance troubles us for just a little bit longer, we can enjoy a few more leisurely Old Delhi strolls.
Khan Hotel, about fifty yards up on the right of Frashkhana coming from Lal Kuan
Lal Ramkrishan Das and Sons, gajjak shop, on Lal Kuan next to the opening for Rodgran Gali
Happy New Year everyone - wishing you all great things in 2012! One of my wishes for the year ahead is to spend more time here on my poor neglected blog. Thank you to everyone who wrote to find out if I’d dropped off the face of the earth – I really appreciate all your messages.
The truth is, I wouldn’t let myself do any blogging until I’d made some serious headway with the book. I spent most of the autumn in Old Delhi, taking part in all the festivals, soaking everything up and filling dozens of notebooks but as soon as Diwali was over I knew I had to just sit down and try to make sense of it all. For a while I seriously doubted I could do it (I still have my doubts actually). How could I possibly do justice to my beloved Old Delhi? How would I ever get beyond my journalist’s comfort zone of 1500 words? Was my spine , and sanity, going to survive sitting at a desk for months on end?
Eventually I gave myself a good talking to, strapped myself to a chair, switched off the internet and vowed to do no blogging or excursions to Old Delhi until I’d made significant progress. It worked, sort of, and it was a massive relief when I sent off the first chapter a day before Charlie arrived back for the Christmas holidays. Baby steps, but still an achievement.
My back’s still killing me but at least I’d earned a trip to Old Delhi. So last Friday, Dean and I left the kids sprawling on the sofa and headed out into the chilly morning. When we arrived in Chawri Bazaar the streets were still thick with cold winter fog so we decided to warm up in Standard Sweets, a few steps from the Metro station. We ordered two plates of Chhole Puri, a soft and comforting chick pea dish served with piping hot deep fried breads. The Standard version of this ubiquitous Delhi dish is the addition of potato, paneer and an extremely tasty kofta (a creamy vegetable dumpling). We parked ourselves at a table to watch the shop and street get ready for the day. A huge platter of carrot halwa was set on a stove to keep warm while young men in mufflers trooped in bearing trays of freshly made samosas and balushahi. Our breakfast, washed down with sweet spicy chai was delicious – I particularly enjoyed the kofta. All round, a perfect winter warmer. From Standard Sweets we decided to wander through Gali Peepal Mahadev where several temples were doing a brisk trade in early morning pujas. Here, on the left, we spotted the young owner of Standard Sweets making his offerings
We came across an embroidery workshop and a dyeing shop
From Ballimaran we headed towards Kinari Bazaar and found a Daulat ki Chaat vendor.
I say ‘found’ but they’re not exactly difficult to come by these days. Has anyone else noticed the multiplying of Daulat ki Chaat wallahs in Old Delhi this year? A happy renaissance to be sure but I’ve noticed some of them, particularly those clustered round Chawri Bazaar metro station, taste a bit synthetic – cutting corners perhaps? The one we ate in Kinari Bazaar, however, was top notch. The vendor, a serious young man in a Nehru waistcoat, was almost hidden from view in a side lane. He took great pains to make sure each plate was just so, waited for us to finish then folded up his stand, put the platter on his head and disappeared into the main bazaar.
Dean stopped for a haircut, which as cruel friends have pointed out, never takes that long
From Kinari Bazaar we turned into Paranthe Wali Gali, not for paranthe but for sweets at Kanwarji which is at the end of the street on the corner with Chandni Chowk. Here I bought the beautiful rose chikki you can see at the top of this post. Chikki are like nut brittle – usually nuts, seeds or puffed rice set in sugar or jaggery. In the winter months, when the roses are at their best in India, the sweet shops sometimes add rose petals to their chikki. Delicately rose-flavoured and beautiful to look at, they made the prettiest of new year gifts.
We also popped into the historic Ghantewala sweet shop a few doors up on Chandni Chowk to try their Habshi Halwa, a dark sugary, nutty, spicy sweet which, it turns out, both looks and tastes like Christmas pudding.
Then, just as we were about to head home, we decided to take a peek in one of the lanes between Chandni Chowk and Kinari Bazaar. And in that little detour we found this lovely little place;
this young man with his thriving knife-sharpening business. Can you see the sparks flying from the scissors he’s sharpening on a stone that he’s turning by pedal power?
an old abandoned desk;
and a happy doggy soaking up the winter sun…
It’s not just the food of Old Delhi I’ve missed over the past few weeks, I’ve also missed these endless discoveries. It doesn’t matter how often I go to Old Delhi there’s always something I haven’t seen before; a doorway, a clock, a shaft of light, someone making something or fixing something, the boy with one blind eye watching the crazy foreigner have his hair clipped.
Here’s to a year of discovery!
Standard Sweets, Gali Hakim Baqa. From Chawri Bazaar metro station turn into Chawri Bazaar and take the first little turning on the left and you’ll see the shop on the left.
Here’s a link to a feature I wrote for the Australian food magazine ‘Feast’. Photographer Alan Benson and I did this in May when it was boiling, boiling hot and even I was finding it hard to eat huge amounts of deep-fried food! At Dilli Haat craft market we were literally the only people at the food court.
Alan’s photos are gorgeous though – Old Delhi never looked better and happily, there are no shots of my red, sweaty face in there!
On India’s 64th Independence Day on Monday I woke to a text message from Old Delhi friend Amit: “Rain has played spoil sport”. I looked out to see the Monsoon rains sheeting down and felt his pain.
Normally rain is met with joy and relief in North India. In Old Delhi, though, Independence Day is celebrated by flying paper kites, a symbol of freedom – rain means the festivities will be a wash out. (There’s a nice piece here on the tradition of kite flying in Old Delhi, with pictures by my friend Simon de Trey White.
I was particularly disappointed because this was the first time I’d been invited to take part in not one, but two kite flying parties in Old Delhi.
Happily, by noon the rains had petered out and I headed off. The first stop was the beautiful haveli owned by Dhruv and Richa Gupta in Sitaram Bazaar. Continue reading
So one good thing about having a dodgy back is that you’re forced to take it a bit easy. This has meant watching way more TV than usual – happily we’ve recently started subscribing to a service that lets us watch British and American channels. I’m now up to date with every food programme on the BBC, including Nigel Slater (always inspiring) Lorraine Pascale (wonderful new baking talent) and Raymond Blanc (always more French than he has any right to be after 100 years of living in Britain). I’ve also plodded through the rather dull Brit version of Masterchef – not a patch on the Oz series – enlivened only by an appearance by the wonderful Yotam Ottolenghi.
I’ve also been able to catch up on some food-related reading, and thought it might be nice to share. Among other things, I’ve been enjoying various anthologies of American food writer M.F.K. Fisher and the New Yorker collection of food writing.
As a lifelong sugar addict, this lengthy article in the New York Times, ‘Is Sugar Toxic? scared the life out of me and while I’m not about to turn my back on all things cake and jalebi, I’ve decided to give up sugar in tea and coffee to see if I can stall the inevitable slide towards diabetes and worse.
My Twitter friend Robyn Eckhardt who runs the wonderful Eating Asia blog from Kuala Lumpur wrote this thoughtful piece about safely eating street food http://www.zesterdaily.com/travel/899-asian-street-food-safety-tip. Just as applicable to eating street food in this part of the world
While I’ve been feeling very low energy, I’ve been marvelling all the more at those bloggers who seem to juggle effortlessly job, family and three posts a week, including pictures and recipes. One of my recent favourite, super-energetic bloggers is Kathy Gori. A screenwriter and once the voice of Rosemary the Telephone Operator in cartoon series Hong Kong Phooey (I remember it well!) Kathy writes a wonderfully entertaining Indian food blog even though she lives in Hollywood and as far as I know has never been to India. Kathy seems to cook and blog constantly – this week she’s been cooking up some seriously impressive-looking momos.
Another blog that caught my eye was this cutie - a young cook living in Paris who invites people to her tiny apartment for lunch. It took me back to my own garret-living days in Paris.
I loved this article about the two families of sufi singers in the Nizamuddin area of Delhi, written by my fellow Mint writer, Mayank aka The Delhiwalla. We lived in Nizamuddin for a while and Thursday nights in the dargah listening to the qawwals were some of our most magical times in Delhi.
It was good to see three British restaurants appearing in the world’s top 50 restaurants announced last week. It seems like a really exciting time in British cooking (contrary to what Masterchef would have us believe!) – I’m really looking forward to trying out some new taste sensations when we’re home in the summer.
And finally, for fun, a big talking point in our house this week: what was Domestic Goddess Nigella Lawson thinking going to the beach in this hideous burkini? Has she lost the plot or was it a clever two fingers up at the paparazzi?
A WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS NO PICTURES. IT DOES CONTAIN SOME SADNESS
A little over two years ago I met the wonderful Eating Out In Delhi gang and it is no exaggeration to say that they altered my food horizons forever. Through them came my life-changing introduction to Indian street food and a lifelong addiction to Chhole Bhature.
At EOID’s helm was Hemanshu Kumar who organised regular jaunts to obscure eateries – we even had a couple of out of town gorging sessions – our trips to Amritsar and Lucknow will stay with me forever. Eating street food became less of a priority for Hemanshu, though, when he got married recently. Several other founder members have also moved onto pastures new. We meet sporadically now but it’s always the highlight of my week – eating and laughing, laughing and eating, then a bit more eating.
Last night we met to say goodbye to our friends Sachin and Prajakta who, sadly for us, are moving back to their beloved Bombay. So that’s the sadness. Happily the food was exceptionally good and Prajakta kept us all entertained with hilarious impersonations of Kiran Rao.
Sachin had chosen Purani Dilli in Zakir Nagar for his last supper and what a treat it turned out to be. Zakir Nagar is a Muslim area near New Friends Colony positively overflowing with good things to eat. The main street of Zakir Nagar has the party feel of Matia Mahal in Old Delhi, with the added chaos of people trying to drive 4x4s down it. Purani Dilli is at the far end of the street so it can take a while to get there and for me it was an anxious rickshaw ride as Sachin had warned us that the Haleem for which the restaurant is famous would be finished by 8.15. By the time we arrived there was only a spoonful of Haleem left and it looked a little forlorn - hence no pictures.
The taste, though, was divine. I don’t exactly know how haleem is made (and I’ve spent way too much time on Twitter this morning trying to find out!) but I do know it’s a dish that originates in Hyderabad, a divine marriage of mutton, ghee, wheat, lentils and spices.
Bizarrely, the thing it most reminds me of is French ‘rillettes’ – meat, usually pork, slow cooked in fat then shredded and served as an extremely rich paté. When I lived in Paris rillettes were my passion (and downfall in the dress size department) and I think Haleem might be about to become my Indian equivalent. Both dishes have a soft, soothing yet incredibly rich texture (that’s the beauty of ghee and pork fat!), set off perfectly by good bread. In Paris that meant baguette, at Purani Dilli a perfect naan.
The Haleem was so good I couldn’t focus on anything else although the mutton stew alone would be worth a return trip. And there will be a return trip – but next time I’ll be setting out earlier.
Thank you to Sachin for choosing Purani Dilli and thank you to both he and Prajakta for sharing some of my best times in India – eating! All the best to them and their gorgeous little girl Aanya – we’ll be down to sample some Bombay street food very soon.
Rocky Singh and Mayur Sharma are the rock stars of the Indian food scene. I’m devoted to their insanely popular TV show Highway on my Plate, on NDTV Good Times. In their quest to track down the authentic dishes of India, these guys spend most of the year on the road – there are dhaba-wallahs in Tamil Nadu who see more of them than their wives!
They’ve ad-libbed their way round this vast country eating everything from Juma (blood sausages) in Arunachal Pradesh to Karimeen in Kerala, they’ve hung out in tribal huts and army camps, they’ve been feted and berated and they do it all with huge charm and panache.
In a time of creeping MacDonalds and KFC, their enthusiasm for India’s street food is irrepressible and infectious. I’m a huge fan and couldn’t have been more chuffed when the publishers of the new book of the series asked me to help launch it.
In a packed tent at the back of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club on a chilly ‘Lohri’ evening last week I got the chance to quiz them about where their great foodie adventure began.
Rocky and Mayur have known each other since they were kids, growing up in the same South Delhi street, and fondly remember all the neighbourhood ‘aunties’ who used to feed them. As young men they would frequently take off on road trips which largely revolved around food. Which is pretty much the winning formula of their TV show and as Rocky said ‘find something you love doing and you’ll never have to work again’.
As huge champions of what they call the ‘real food of India’, they spoke about their fears that the wildly varied regional food of the country is at risk of being lost in the headlong rush towards global chains and food courts. The book is a wonderful attempt to point us in the right direction, packed with detailed and loving descriptions of unusual dishes we should all get out and try before they disappear.
Rocky and Mayur – food heroes and thoroughly nice blokes – oh and as you can see really, really tall!
Highway on my Plate, Random House rs 299