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 Glory of Ghee and a Recipe for Shahi Tukda

Now what I’m about to say may cause a painful parting of the ways  in the year’s mission, but I can’t put it off any longer.   The plain fact is I love ghee, I love cooking with it, I love eating it, I love the way it  transforms everything it touches, I even love the beautiful tins it comes from.  I could eat it till the cows come home and the way 2010 is shaping up, I’m going to need a lot of cows to come home.


I know this may have been a shock and a few of you will now feel the need to form  a more meaningful relationship  somewhere with ‘health’, ‘low-fat’ or ‘salad’ in the title. I’ll be  sad to lose you, obviously, I’ve really enjoyed having you along these last few months,   our trips to Old Delhi were really cool, but well, If I couldn’t  keep you, you were never mine.  Before you go, though, at least concede that the tin is really, really pretty!

If, on the other hand, you’re a ghee worshipper, then this is a really, really safe place for you to be and I’m really going to make it worth your while. OK, now we all know where we stand, lets get busy.

A few days of grey skies, cold winds and heavy showers  here in Delhi have been an excuse, not that I ever need one, to linger under the duvet with something buttery and sugary – preferably with two spoons! One of the most wanton, wtf-I’m-cold-and-in-need-of-comfort dishes I’ve ever come across  is Shahi Tukda, the mighty Indian bread pudding.

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A Diamond Bakery and a Bucketful of Brains in Old Delhi

Diamond Bakery Loaves

Mostly I go to Old Delhi in the evening when the city’s hardworking day is done, the kebabs are smoking and the Biryani  pots are beckoning.  But recently a sudden craving for pukka Aloo Puri opened up a whole new daytime world of foodie avenues to explore.

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Slurping ‘Ishtoo’ in Al-Jawahar

Matya Mahal Bazaar

Matia Mahal Bazaar

India’s largest mosque, the beautiful Jama Masjid, is at it’s most charismatic right now during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. For food-lovers the time to go is early evening, just  before ‘Iftaar’  when thousands of  Muslims wait patiently for the day’s fast to end.  Soak up the atmosphere of spiritual devotion and unbearable  anticipation – minds focussed on Allah, stomachs on the tiffin boxes in front of them. Continue reading

How to Eat Out in Old Delhi in August

Gola Kebabs in Chitli Qabar Old Delhi

Gola Kebabs in Chitli Qabar Old Delhi

Eating street food in Old Delhi in the middle of the monsoon isn’t everyone’s idea of a great night out.  But Monday evening,  when temperatures were still up in the mid thirties and humidity was around 70% , the caveman and I had a date with Rahul Verma, the man with the best job in Indian journalism – Street Food Correspondent for The Hindu newspaper – and nothing was going to stop us.

Rahul’s knowledge of  Delhi’s street food is encyclopaedic – he’s been pounding the city’s pavements for more than twenty years to bring his readers news of everything from  Kharorey in Jheel to Nahari in Bara Hindu Rao. His great passion is the food of Old Delhi although even he doesn’t usually venture there in August.  He agreed to come as a special favour but issued a few Monsoon-condition health warnings:  don’t touch the fresh chutneys or the raw onions – by evening they’ve probably been lying around too long in the humid heat; liberal use of hand sanitiser – a surprise here, I thought it was only for sissy expats; keep moving, it’s too hot to linger; and most important of all, make sure you’re back at the Press Club in time to cool off with some ice-cold Kingfisher before last orders at 10.30. Continue reading

Anglo-Indian ‘Scotch’ Pancakes

Anglo-Indian 'Scotch' Pancakes
Anglo-Indian ‘Scotch’ Pancakes

Pancake-making has a special place in this cook’s heart, and I have a vast collection of recipes to prove it. The plain ‘Scotch’ variety remind me of my mother, watching Dr Who on Saturday afternoons and High Tea at Scottish aunties’ houses in the summer holidays. The Moroccan semolina type, dripping butter and honey, take me back to our honeymoon. The taste of sugar and lemon on the ‘Pancake Day’ variety always feels like a celebration. Whenever I get up in time to make them for the kids’ breakfast it never fails to make me feel like a proper, good Mummy – and that’s one of the best feelings there is!

A trip this week showed there are genius pancake recipes to be found in the unlikeliest of places……

As I was checking out of my hotel in Bangalore the other morning, I caught the tail end of an NDTV dispatch from the G20 Summit in London and heard the reporter signing off with a cheery, ‘Well, we can only hope the outcome of the summit won’t be as bland and disappointing as British food’.

It’s depressing enough that people still believe we specialise in taste-free cooking, but the commentary hit me particularly hard as I was in town at the beginning of a quest to track down what I believe is the rich culinary legacy of Britain’s long and eventful stay in India.

Bridget Kumar
Bridget Kumar

To most people, Bangalore is the epicentre of flat-earth economics but I was in town to meet Bridget Kumar, leading chronicler of all things Anglo-Indian. By the time I arrived at her home, with the Indian TV reporter’s words still ringing in my ear, I was praying that she might find it in her heart to say something polite about the food of my and some of her forefathers but secretly wondered if the whole project was doomed.

I needn’t have worried. As we munched our way through a plate of shortbread that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Scottish Highland tea-room, it became clear Bridget is a lifelong fan of British food and has the Woman’s Weekly recipe clippings to prove it. She’s also on her own mission to record what she believes is the rich food heritage of the Anglo-Indian community. Her five self-published books are crammed with recipes and anecdotes, many with a clear British pedigree, like Dak Bungalow Chicken and Mulligatawny Soup, some passed down from her Mother and Grandmother.

As a modern-day Scot in exile, I was particularly excited by the various recipes which seemed to have a clear link to our ‘Second Sons of Empire’ (the landless offspring of titled Scottish families who came to India to make their fortune in the eighteenth and nineteenth century). Bridget has inherited recipes for Plum Pudding, Porridge and, our national dish, Mince and Tatties, all of which she cooks regularly, and with relish, for her own family.

She also has a wonderful pancake recipe so it was with a new-found pride in our culinary capabilities that I rustled up Bridget’s ‘Anglo-Indian ‘Scotch’ pancakes’ for my own children when I got back to Delhi.

anglo-indian-scotch-pancakes1

Anglo-Indian Apple ‘Scotch’ Pancakes

Adapted from Bridget’s book ‘Flavours of the Past’

Ingredients

1 cup maida (plain flour)

quarter teaspoon baking powder

half teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons caster sugar

2 eggs beaten

half teaspoon vanilla essence

1 tablespoon ghee (butter)

1 cup milk

1 apple, peeled and finely chopped

1. Sift flour and baking powder. Stir in salt and sugar.

2. Add eggs, vanilla essence, ghee and milk and beat until batter is smooth. Stir in the apple

3. Smear a little ghee onto a medium-hot non-stick frying pan and put dessertspoonfuls of the apple-y mixture.

4. Cook on both sides until golden brown and serve with butter, jam or honey.

We all slurped these up for a leisurely weekend breakfast, so there’s a good chance they’ll become a permanent feature of our kitchen.

I love this recipe because although it clearly has British, probably Scottish lineage, and is recognisably the pancake of my childhood the addition of ghee makes for a thrillingly Indian variation, the extra egg makes it more substantial. The apple – Bridget also suggests banana – is one of those subtle but when you think about it, blindingly obvious, innovations which result in truly great food.

Long Live Upaar Wali Chai

Recently I’ve started to wonder if the Brits left behind more than railways when they quit India in 1947. It started with a meal we had in the Kullu Valley last summer which began with the Himalayan cousin of Arbroath Smokies and ended with a dessert called ‘Say Hello to the Queen’.

Since then I’ve discovered jam-making in Kashmir, something suspiciously like Scots ‘tablet’ in Kalimpong and a hotel in Darjeeling where, according to writer Jan Morris, the porridge is ‘unsurpassed in Scotland’.

This week I’ve been in contact with a delightful Anglo-Indian lady called Bridget Kumar in Bangalore and my conversations with her have led me to believe there is a corner of former Empire that will be forever ‘uppar wali chai’ (High Tea) – in fact yesterday she sent me her recipe for Mince and Tatties, Treacle Sponge and Shortbread! I’m now eagerly awaiting a delivery of the five books Bridget has written on the subject.

http://anglo-indianfood.blogspot.com/

I also confess to my own shameful, Memsahib-like attempts to foist Scottish food traditions on unsuspecting locals. On holiday in the hills last year, we urged the cook at a local restaurant to expand his pakora repertoire. Now if you visit the Hotel Ragini in the village of Naggar, you might find something suspiciously like a deep fried mars bar.

We tend to think the influence is one-way, that Brits can’t get enough Chicken Tikka Masala but that no self-respecting Indian would be caught dead eating our peely-wally fare. Initial findings indicate there may be a huge Scottish/British culinary legacy. As my new best friend in Bangalore says, there is a whole community here which believes in a ‘more judicial use of seasoning.’