Uparwali Chai Curry Puffs – the recipe

I wrote recently about my friend and baking partner Laura leaving Delhi, and the demise of our Uparwali Chai events as a result. Sad times, to be sure, but I thought I would pass on one last tea party recipe before forcing myself, reluctantly, to move on.

Although Laura and I changed the menu for every event, the one thing that always appeared was Curry Puffs. I sometimes wished it otherwise—they’re time-consuming and fiddly and it was my job to make them—but Laura always overruled me. As well as being amazingly delicious, she said, they were the very essence of what we were trying to do: India-inspired refined baking.

The original recipe, though—a classic French puff pastry filled with spicy chicken—actually originated in Hong Kong. It was given to me by a food writer friend called Susan Jung who is astonished that these “mock Indian” savouries, using curry powder of all things, have been so popular in India.

Don’t be daunted by the long list of ingredients and detailed instructions: The process is actually quite simple, and the result is so worth it—crisp, buttery, flaky layers holding a creamy spiced filling. The pastry needs to be started a few hours before you want to make the puffs because the rolling, folding and resting process takes some time. The pastry, and indeed the filling, can even be made the day before you want to assemble and fry the puffs.

CURRY PUFFS

Makes 18-20 gujiya-sized puffs

Ingedients

For the pastry

130g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

30g white butter

80ml warm water

Also Read Pamela Timms’ previous Lounge columns

For the fat layer

100g flour

90g white butter

For the filling

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 small onion, finely diced

1 garlic clove, grated

1-inch piece of ginger, grated

1 medium carrot, finely diced

1 medium potato, finely diced

40g peas

2 tsp garam masala (or curry powder for that authentic colonial touch)

1/4 tsp chilli powder

100ml coconut cream

1/2 tsp salt

Method

First make the pastry. In a large bowl, sift the first quantity of flour and salt. Add the 30g butter and rub with fingertips until completely mixed in. Add the water and form a dough with your hands. If necessary, add a dash more water. Pat the dough into a square, cover with cling film, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.

For the fat layer, mix 100g of flour and 90g of butter in a bowl with your hands until you have a sticky mass. Put the bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes.

While the pastry and fat layer are chilling, start the filling. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the chopped onions and cook until soft, but not brown. Add the garlic and ginger and stir for 1 minute.

Add the carrots, peas and potatoes, add a splash of water, give the mixture a good stir and cook for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are completely soft. If necessary, add more water to stop them sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add the garam masala/ curry powder, chilli, salt and coconut cream and mix well. Continue to cook until the mixture is almost dry, then remove from heat. Adjust salt and chilli and leave to cool.

Roll the pastry out on a floured surface to a 15cm square. Pull each corner out slightly, then place the fat/flour mixture in the centre of the pastry square in a diamond shape. Take each corner of the pastry and place on top of the fat/flour, then seal the edges of the pastry.

On a floured board, roll the pastry and fat/flour into a rectangle approximately 22x12cm. Take one of the short ends and fold one-third down towards the centre, then fold the bottom third up over that so that it forms three layers. Turn the pastry so that the short end is parallel to the edge of the work surface and repeat the rolling and folding process. Put the pastry in the fridge for 30 minutes, roll and fold twice more. Repeat the rolling, folding and resting process twice more, then leave the pastry in the fridge for at least one hour.

Roll out the pastry into a rectangle about 30x15cm. Starting at the shorter end, roll the pastry into a tight coil. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate until needed.

When you’re ready to make the curry puffs, cut the log of pastry into 1cm slices, then roll each slice into thin pastry disks—about 2mm thick.

Place the pastry disc on a gujiya mould and on one side place a teaspoon of the filling. Close the mould to seal. If you don’t have a mould you could simply cut out circles of the pastry, fill one half, then seal.

Heat a deep pan with sunflower oil until a small piece of pastry rises quickly to the surface. Place the curry puffs a few at a time into the hot oil and cook until golden brown.

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11 thoughts on “Uparwali Chai Curry Puffs – the recipe

  1. I think I’ll leave the making to you and stick to the eating. I recently asked Mrs Carvalho of The American Express Bakery here about why mutton patties in all bakeries tend to have masala while chicken puffs are bland. According to her it is because mutton ‘patties’ have originated from curry puffs and therefore are spicy/ Indian

  2. Hi Pam,
    You know, I almost didn’t serve these to Dean when he was here – I was so embarrassed to be serving someone living in India these fake Indian things! But Nigel persuaded me – and Dean liked them so much he asked for the recipe, which I thought was very strange. Anyway, so glad you’re making them – I might make them this weekend too!

    ttyl,
    susan

  3. Haviing lived in Newcastle for 18 years I was so looking forward to putting my name down for one of your ‘Upparwali chai’ and so regret that my husband and I will miss out on what appeared to be a delectable experience

  4. Hi Ms. Timms,
    I’m a devoted reader of your blog, and you are incredibly inspiring. Thank you so much for writing here, and for all your recommendations. I love reading of your adventures. Following your directions, I ventured upon a food walk of my own, and had a glorious time. I’ve blogged about it here: http://nithya13.blogspot.com/2011/06/food-and-history-in-old-delhi.html
    I can’t wait to go back and visit other places you’ve recommended. Your directions were spot on.
    Thank you again.
    Nithya

  5. Hi Nithya – thanks for your comment, glad you had such a nice outing. I’m in Scotland at the moment but you made me want to dash back!

  6. Hi Kavita – well, depending on when you’re coming to India, we might have something else to offer you!

  7. Hi Susan – well thank God you did give him the curry puffs! btw we met up with your friend who, it turns out is living two doors away from us!

  8. So glad to have across your blog. I’m from Delhi & love the way you have adopted the Indian food. The name uparwali-chai party is such a fun name for your get togethers!!

    Anamika@Taste Junction

  9. Anamika – although I recently discovered that ‘upar-wala’ is a way of addressing God so fear we may have upset some sensibilities.

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