The Kismet of Jamaluddin and a Recipe for Kheer


So finally Korma, Kheer and Kismet – the product of years of joy (in Old Delhi) and heartbreak (at my desk) – is here. Although I still can’t quite believe it and do a double take every time I see it in a shop – my little book out there trying to make its way in the world.


The response to the book so far has been incredibly cheering, particularly in Old Delhi itself.  As soon as I got back from my holiday in Scotland I went straight there to give copies to the vendors who feature in it.

First stop was Bade Mian’s shop in Lal Kuan.

The Siddique family’s kheer shop is a stone’s throw from the Chawri Bazaar metro and I always start any Old Delhi jaunt there – sitting at one of the tables at the back with a cup of chai and a tiny square metal plate of kheer. Jamaluddin is a wonderful character who is always ready with a colourful story – many of which I can’t understand because he seems to speak in Urdu rhyming couplets.

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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

May Your Year Be Filled With Jalebis

Old and Famous Jalebi Wala, Chandni Chowk

It’s time to right a terrible wrong.

For the past two years or so I’ve been a regular in Old Delhi, delighting in the wonderful street food – most weeks I’m  either checking up on a new dish,  gorging on an old favourite, begging for recipes or stocking up on crockery for our Uparwali Chai tea parties. We always take visitors for a quick spin and recently  I’ve been doing a few  food tours too.

Whatever the excuse (and I need very little excuse to jump on the Metro to Chawri Bazaar), there are a couple of places I always visit.  At Bade Mian in Lal Kuan I scoop up a week’s supply of the best kheer (rice pudding) in town;  I never miss  korma at Ashok and Ashok; I gorge on Daulat ki Chaat whenever it’s in season and I always, always come back with a big bag of  sticky, sweet, still-warm jalebis from Old and Famous Jalebiwala.

All of these I have written about droolingly, except one.  Amazingly, I have never mentioned Old and Famous. Time to make amends.

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Milk Cake in Kucha Ghasi Ram

Milk Cake steaming over a kettle

Chai with Milk Cake is my Old Delhi equivalent of Espresso and Biscotti; a fast, sugary shot in the arm when energy levels are low.   If I’m ever at the Fatehpuri  end of Chandni Chowk and in need of a quick pick-me-up, I dive straight into Kucha Ghasi Ram and head for Hemchand Ladli Prashad’s lovely little tea stall.

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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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Making Street Food at Home: A Recipe for Shakarkandi (spicy sweet potato)

One of Delhi’s signature winter street foods is Shakarkandi.  We all breathe a sigh of relief in the autumn when the spicy sweet potato vendors appear: we know the cooler weather is truly on its way.

As with much Indian street food, a plate of Shakarkandi is a tapas-sized portion and ideal for those between meals  dilemmas.  I particularly love ordering a plate late afternoon when dinner seems a long way off.  I ordered up this plate outside Lodhi Gardens after a Republic Day walk last Tuesday. I love watching the ritual of assembling the Shakarkandi – the sweet potato is first plucked from the small pile warming on a pile of coal, slowly peeled, cubed and tumbled into a plate.  The cubes are then liberally sprinkled with masala and lemon juice before being mixed with an expert flick of the wrist.

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New Year, New Look, New Challenge

Tea-Time in Kinari Bazaar

A bit slow out of the blogging blocks this year – I blame the weather – this cold snap has almost brought me to a standstill. I’m spending way too much time under the covers wearing umpteen unflattering layers and clutching a hot water bottle. I may not have been tapping away furiously yet – maybe I should try, it might warm me up a bit – but I have been tinkering and mulling.

First, I decided we needed a new, 2010-friendly look – what do you think so far? Also, I realised things were getting a little tame around here and a new adrenalin-fuelled direction was required! Something to get the pulse-rate up a notch, a kind of culinary triathlon.

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Daulat ki Chaat: God’s Own Street Food

This time of year is bliss in Delhi.  After prolonged, air-conditioned  hibernation, it feels like the start of  the long summer school holidays, with every day a potential outdoor adventure until we’re chased back indoors in Spring.  The parks are full of power-walkers, tourists are taking their time at India Gate and al-fresco eating is the order of the day; happy family groups are out picknicking and we suddenly see the point of restaurants with gardens.

I always know winter is well and truly on its way when I spot the Shakakandi seller in Khan Market with his piping hot pile of roasted sweet potato – just say the word and he’ll load up a plate with scooped out flesh and douse the lot with masala and lemon juice – with optional kamrakh (star-fruit) garnish:  a mini feast to ease you through those awkward times when your next meal just seems a little too far off.

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Chana Bhatura at Sita Ram Diwan Chand


When conniving Mughal upstart Aurangzeb imprisoned his father, Emperor Shah Jehan, in Agra Fort in 1657, he told him he could choose just one thing to eat every day for the rest of his life. The old man chose chick peas because the prison cook told him he would be able to make something different every day of the year.

Until recently, I would have snorted in disbelief in this  – chick peas?  Synonymous with hairy hippies in bedsits and tubs of slimy supermarket hummous?  Then came ‘Chana  Bhatura’ and I discovered  I could actively crave something involving chick peas.

There are very few deep-fried foods I can resist and I admit what first attracted me to this dish, in places like Evergreen in Green Park and Nathus in Bengali Market, were the magnificent balloon-sized puffed-up ‘bhatura’.  In the early days the  accompanying chana was just a sloppy, sludge-coloured distraction.  I used to dip the bread but I’m ashamed to admit the chick peas often went back to the kitchen barely touched.

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Chickoo Milkshake

chickoo milkshake

chickoo milkshake

Spare a thought for  the late, great Jane Grigson – she never knew the wonder of  chickoo, or ‘Sapodilla’ as it is recorded in her 1982 ‘Fruit Book’, where she declares the imported variety ‘disappointing’ and ‘losing more than most fruit on its journey to Europe.’ She was forced to give  wistful second hand descriptions –  ‘The taste reminds people of brown sugar’. According to eighteenth century  traveller and botanist Descourtilz, ‘an over-ripe sapodilla is melting, and has the sweet perfumes of honey, jasmine and lily of the valley.’

Alas poor Jane never made it to this part of the world to see if what she wrote was true. I did, although I’ve taken my time with  chickoo – perhaps because of its unappealing potato-like appearance which always seems to mutter ‘don’t buy me’. Well, more fool me,  I now know what I’ve been missing.  With its unassuming,  nothing-to-prove manners, and malty, caramelly, demerara graininess, the chickoo has won me over completely.

the world's least inviting fruit?

the world's least inviting fruit?

I first discovered it during a recent trip to Old Delhi to chronicle ‘Fruit Sandwiches’, (more of this soon).   Along with our mango and paneer sarnies, we were given chickoo milkshake.  I was completely distracted from the job in hand – pure decadence from first sip to last.

When you get beyond the dull brown skin, the chickoo flesh is  the most beautiful pinkish-beige and contains 4 shiny black seeds.  It’s the kind of  sweetness you can’t believe exists in nature.  Now, Chickoo Milkshake is a new component  of my mid-afternoon meltdown routine which  includes, on an ideal day,  a cool shower and 10 minutes drifting off to ‘The Archers’ on my ipod.

Mrs Grigson recommends  this,

‘To get at the fruit, slice it down or across, according to whether you wish to cut it in wedges or to scoop out the inside with a spoon.  Be careful to temove the pips. The softness of flavour needs lime juice, or lemon but preferably lime.  Sprinkle the slices and serve them as they are, or with some coconut cream sauce, or in a fruit salad.  The softest unsliceable fruit should be mashed and used in creams, fools and other puddings.’

All of which I intend to try, if I ever tire of the milkshake.

Chickoo Milkshake

2 ripe chickoo

250mls full-cream milk

sugar to taste

Blend the ingredients till smooth.  If temperatures get beyond 43, add ice cream.