A Sunday Brunch Breakthrough: Home Made Pav Rolls

Old-time recipes: Enjoy freshly baked rolls with bhaji






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

Makes 12


450g all-purpose flour (maida)

2 tsp salt

1tsp sugar

1 sachet of fast-action yeast

50g butter

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






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


Timms and Pimms, Summer in Wales

We’re on holiday, our annual jaunt to UK to catch up on family and friends. It’s been a more hectic trip than usual this year – we’ve already taken in Edinburgh (twice), Glasgow, London, and Brighton.

Last week, my youngest, Fergus and I went to stay with my sister, Jeni at her home in Wales. The picture above is Jeni, in her woodland kitchen.  Yes, my sister, with her husband Richard and four children, lives a life straight out of Country Living magazine: they have a smallholding miles from anywhere in West Wales with their dogs, cats, bunnies, chickens, ducks,  sheep and pony (hope I didn’t leave anyone out).

Since we visited last year Richard has built a fully equipped kitchen in the woods behind their house (Richard is the kind of man who disappears after breakfast saying “I’m just off to build a zip ride for the kids”.  And does.)

To go with the kitchen, Richard has also knocked up a wonderful barbeque area and a bunkhouse for the kids to camp in.

We had some great weather while we were there and managed a couple of meals al fresco.  One was a lazy Sunday afternoon affair with our Dad and half sister Kate who had driven down from Manchester.  My niece  Evie got busy making stickers for everyone and everything; Richard dealt deliciously with the meat side of things and Jeni and I raided the vegetable patch and whistled up a Gooseberry Tart.

All in all, a perfect British summer afternoon – all washed down, of course, with a few glasses of Pimms.

By the way, if you’re ever in that part of the world (nearest town is Builth Wells), you have to pop in for some of Jeni’s wonderful eggs and plants – check her out  – Pentre Plants, on Facebook.  If you’re very lucky, you might be able to persuade her to part with a punnet of gooseberries or blackcurrants.

Holi, the start of summer, and a recipe for crumpets

Well, the warm weather is finally here in Delhi.  As always, Sunday’s festival of Holi marked the start of the long summer slog.  As the streets drowned in colour and revellers succumbed to the effects of Bhang Lassi, the mercury crept up.  Westrayed into a Holi party in Lodhi Gardens while we were out walking the dogs and were cordially invited to eat our fill of samosas, patties and gujjia – all washed down with ‘special’ lassi.  Just look what was in the bottom of my glass:

So we’ve put away our jumpers, heaters and hot water bottles until the end of October, and  braced ourselves and our air-conditioning for the sweaty months ahead.

But with a longer than usual winter this year, I’ve had plenty of time to perfect my crumpets – those fiendishly moreish thick yeasty pancakes, specially designed to soak up obscene amounts of dripping butter.

Just what is so sexy about crumpets? Elizabeth David noted in 1977 that “crumpet” had long been a colloquialism used to describe “a piece of skirt, any likely young woman, a girl with whom someone is having a passing affair, and other less polite interpretations”. In the heyday of political incorrectness, a leading British broadcaster, Frank Muir, coined the phrase “thinking man’s crumpet” to describe Joan Bakewell, a woman audacious enough to be both attractive and intelligent. The term has also been applied over the years to Helen Mirren and Nigella Lawson.

At first sight, though, the crumpet, with its pudgy paleness, is the shrinking violet of the baking world. It only becomes irresistible when slathered in salty butter, becoming a great and illicit pleasure on a par with, to use the language of the 1970s Carry On films, a spot of slap and tickle.

More importantly, crumpets are a great example of the many unsung heroes of British baking, conjuring up visions of roaring fires and hissing kettles, steamy windows keeping out the worst of a northerly winter. They’re delicious, comforting and indulgent but rarely made these days—a great shame because they could definitely give their more glamorous and feted European counterparts a run for their money.

The key to a perfect crumpet is creating a mass of tiny holes for lots of butter to seep into. The yeast is partly responsible for this texture but while researching all things crumpet for this column, I discovered a 1937 recipe by Walter Banfield which incorporates a little bicarbonate of soda at the end of the first fermentation. This, Mr Banfield pronounces, will avoid “grotesque, unfair creations”, that is, crumpets without holes, sometimes described as “blind”.

I can’t decide whether crumpets are best straight from the pan or after cooling and re-toasting. I can also never decide what’s more delicious—crumpets bearing nothing but melting butter or with butter and jam for an exceptional salty sweet hit. One thing I do know is that the best time and place to experiment is Sunday morning—in bed.

Traditional British Crumpets

Makes approximately 18 crumpets


450g plain flour (maida)

1 tbsp salt (this seems like a lot but crumpets are meant to be quite salty)

1 tsp sugar

1 sachet (7g) of fast action, dried yeast

350ml cold milk

350ml boiling water

2 tbsp oil

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

150ml warm water

A little extra butter for greasing the pan and rings

For traditional-style crumpets, you will need some metal rings. If you don’t have rings, you can go free-form and make the flatter variety known as pikelets.


Sift flour into a large bowl, then stir in the salt, sugar and yeast. In a jug, mix the cold milk, boiling water and oil, then pour into the flour mixture. Stir with what Walter Banfield describes as “vivacious turbulence”, until the batter is well mixed.

Cover the bowl and leave the yeast to do its work. Depending on how hot your kitchen is, it could be anything between 45 minutes and 2 hours before the batter has doubled in size, with a surface bursting with tiny bubbles. Crumpets are one of the few baked treats which actually thrive in a hot, humid Indian kitchen.

When the batter has risen, mix the bicarbonate of soda with the warm water, then stir well into the batter. Cover the bowl and leave until the surface is again covered with bubbles.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over low heat—I prefer to cook the crumpets slowly to prevent the bottoms browning too quickly. Grease the pan and rings (if using) thoroughly with butter. Pour a heaped tablespoon of batter into each ring and leave to cook until the surface is dry and covered with tiny holes—this should take 5-7 minutes. If the holes don’t appear, the batter may be too thick, so add a little more warm milk or water to the next batch—but don’t make it too thin or it will run out of the bottom of the rings.

Gently lift away the metal rings, then flip the crumpets over to lightly brown the holey side. Keep the crumpets covered with a clean tea towel to keep warm.

If you click here, there’s a step by step slideshow to making crumpets

Monsoon Breakfast in Sitaram Bazaar

Breakfast time at Ram Swaroop

Well folks it’s been a while! I seem to have been so busy since we got back from the mountains that I just haven’t been able to apply myself to the serious business of street food.

Good to see that some things never change, though – like my fondness for the Hipstamatic app on my iphone (as per above photo).  Is it just me or is it really cool?

Something else that never changes is the Eating Out in Delhi gang’s dedication to gorging in the gullies. And certainly no-one could ever call us  fair weather foodies.  This was the scene when when 15 of us stepped out of Chawri Bazaar metro station last Sunday.  By the way, as of last Friday I now have a metro station on my doorstep with a direct line into Old Delhi. Top Kebabs and Kheer now minutes away at all times!

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Pictures from our Sanskriti tea party

Here are a few quick pictures I took with my phone ( did I mention I got a lovely new iPhone from The Caveman for my birthday?) while Laura and I were getting ready for our lovely tea party at Sanskriti Kendra last Sunday.

The clicking had to stop when the 40 or so guests arrived as things got a bit frantic.  But there should be some lovely pictures in Mint and Hindustan Times on Saturday as both newspapers covered the event.

By the end, Laura and I were the most exhausted we’ve ever been but thoroughly chuffed to see so many people happily tucking into pukka afternoon tea in such gorgeous surroundings!

The First Ever Upar Wali Chai

So this is Laura and I at the start of our first ever  ‘Upar Wali Chai’ (def: n. tea, high – decadent tea-time treats served with no restraint whatsoever) which was held at Gunpowder Restaurant in Hauz Khas Village last weekend. Thirty guests, a mountain of cakes and the sun setting over the lake made for a winter afternoon to remember.

Here’s a selection of pictures taken by the lovely and super-talented Tom Pietrasik

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Blowout Sundays: Himalayan Sports Club

At the flour mill - the door to hell

At the flour mill - the door to hell

I’m living with a caveman and although I’ve yet to be dragged back to the cave by my hair, for the past few months my husband has been avoiding carbs, eating huge quantities of meat and exercising in furious bursts as if being pursued by wild animals.  It looks more like New-Man Yoga to me, but he insists he’s remaining true to his primitive man credo and in the process turning his body into a temple as he eschews sugar in all forms.

Perhaps I’m a bit unreconstructed myself, but personally I think it’s no bad thing for a man to look plumped up on his wife’s pies and cakes, but the Caveman has other ideas.  He’s been on a mission to get back to his pre-marriage sylph-like self and convince the rest of us that mashed potato is the devil’s work.
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