Say it with Cardamom and Orange White Chocolate Truffles

 

Multi-hued: Truffles are quick to make and make for a beautiful gift. Photo by Priyanka Parashar/Mint

 

 

 

 

 

Priyanka Parashar/Mint.

For someone with a terrible sweet tooth, I’m unusually restrained when it comes to chocolate.  The previous two recipes, for choc chip cookies and chocolate éclairs, are pretty much how I like my chocolate baking, that is, as a highlight rather than a principal ingredient. If I’m honest, I usually find things like chocolate brownies and chocolate cake just too overpoweringly chocolatey.

Occasionally, though, nothing but a full-on chocolate hit will do and while I love all the artisan, high-percentage cocoa solid varieties, I also have a weakness for things like Mars and Snickers which are more sugar and fat than chocolate. I’m also particularly partial to white chocolate which, strictly speaking, is not really chocolate at all as it contains no cocoa solids, only cocoa butter and milk solids. It does, though, make beautiful truffles and these Cardamom and Orange White Chocolate Truffles would be a particularly gorgeous Valentine’s Day gesture.

There are two types of truffle—one made with egg yolks, another that only uses chocolate and cream. I decided to do the egg-free kind but this was the first time I’d made them and I quickly realized that you can’t substitute white chocolate in a dark chocolate truffle recipe. You need a lot less cream with white chocolate, otherwise the mixture won’t set enough to mould—and I have several bowls of Cardamom and Orange White Chocolate Sauce in my fridge to prove it.

Once you know that (and you do now, so no excuse) they’re quick to make, look beautiful boxed for a present and, most importantly, they taste wanton and voluptuous, just the right side of schmaltzy and sickly sweet. A bit like Valentine’s Day itself.

Valentine’s Day Cardamom and Orange White Chocolate Truffles

Makes 12-15

Ingredients

150g good-quality white chocolate (not cooking chocolate—this is for your loved one after all!)

85ml whipping cream

Zest of 1/2 orange, very finely grated

1/4 tsp cardamom seeds, freshly ground

Sieved icing sugar or cocoa powder to coat the truffles

Method

 Step by Step guide to making truffles

Chop the chocolate into small pieces, then blitz in a food processor.

Put the cream, cardamom and orange zest in a small pan and bring to a boil. Immediately pour the cream on to the chocolate and blitz the mixture until it’s smooth and all the chocolate has melted. Pour the truffle mixture into a shallow dish and chill for an hour or so.

Handling the truffles needs to be done as quickly and coolly as possible—this is definitely not a hot-weather job. Run your hands under the cold tap for a minute to cool them down. Dust your hands with either the cocoa powder or icing sugar, depending on which you’re using. Use a small teaspoon to take out a cape gooseberry-sized chunk of the mixture. If it’s too soft to handle, return to the fridge for another hour. Roll the mixture quickly (or it will melt) between your hands, then roll each truffle again in either the cocoa or icing sugar. You could also roll them in melted white chocolate but you have to work quickly and make sure the mixture is very cold. Finely chopped pistachios and desiccated coconut also make pretty coatings for truffles.

Place each truffle in a small paper case, then keep in the fridge till needed. Truffles will keep happily in the fridge for about three days.

 

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Easy Chocolate Eclairs

I always assumed it would be impossible to replicate chocolate éclairs at home and even if you could—well, imagine being able to conjure up éclairs whenever you felt like it—that way lies ruin. But having promised  a pro-chocolate drive, I decided to have a go. Selfless, I know.

Finger-licking: A perfect batch of home-made éclairs needs a bit of practice and lots of patience.

Priyanka Parashar/Mint

 

 

 

 

I started by consulting Raymond Blanc, a French chef, and Delia Smith, an English cook and television presenter, hoping that somewhere between the two extremes there would be a middle way to choux perfection. In the end, I had to make five batches and call on chef and author Rachel Allen and Larousse Gastronomique before I had anything approaching an éclair. The first, Delia-inspired batch was just downright flat and soggy inside and out, Allen’s and Blanc’s were like a pile of crazy paving, with deep cracks all over the surface but still soggy inside. It wasn’t until I consulted the Gallic aloofness ofLarousse and pastry chef friend Susan Jung (yes, she of the amazing curry puffs) that things started to look up.

Larousse specifies more water and eggs than other recipes, but it was the one that worked best for me so my recipe is loosely based on theirs. Susan pointed out that choux is unlike other types of pastry, in that it is made from a wet flour and water paste which has to be lightened with egg to make the pastry puff up in the oven. The most important stage, she advises, is the adding of eggs to the mixture—the paste has to be gently cooked first to dry out slightly to enable as much egg as possible to be incorporated.

Part of the problem, as always, had to do with the vagaries of my oven, which I suspect is a problem for many aspiring bakers in India, so I’m giving precise instructions for times and temperatures.

As I say, fifth-time lucky. My son and I managed to eat about 20 each and stash away 40 in the freezer. I leave it to you to decide how lucky that’s going to be.

Chocolate Éclairs

Makes about 20 finger-length éclairs

Ingredients

For the choux pastry

125ml water

35g butter, cut into cubes

1 tsp caster sugar

65g flour (maida)

2 eggs, well beaten

For the filling

Whipped double cream

For the icing

180g icing sugar

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

2-3 tbsp boiling water

Method

To make éclair shapes, you will need a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle. If you don’t have a piping bag, make little choux buns instead and use a tablespoon to pile the pastry on to the baking sheet.

Grease a large baking sheet and preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.

Put the water, sugar and butter into a large pan. Heat gently until the butter melts, then bring to a boil. Immediately take the pan off the heat to stop the water evaporating.

Quickly pour the flour into the liquid and mix well with a wooden spoon. Put the pan back on low heat and cook the paste for a minute or so until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan.

Take the pan off the heat and let it cool for a minute. Add a small amount of egg and beat until completely incorporated in the mixture. Continue to add and mix small amounts of egg, beating well each time until the mixture is soft and glossy. Don’t let the mixture become too runny—you may not need all the egg.

Spoon the paste into a piping bag (or use a tablespoon) and pipe 4cm strips, widely spaced (they will puff up in the oven) on to the greased baking sheet.

Place the baking sheet into the oven for 10 minutes. I use an electric stand-alone oven that has top and bottom heating elements. For the first 10 minutes, I baked the éclairs with both elements on. Then I reduced the temperature to 200 degrees Celsius for 5 minutes with both elements on. To finish, I switched off the top element for a further 5 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius to make sure the insides were cooked but the tops didn’t burn.

Take the by now beautifully puffed up and golden éclairs out of the oven and immediately split them down one side to let out the steam and leave to cool on a baking rack.

Make the icing by sifting together the icing sugar and cocoa powder, then adding enough boiling water to make a not-too-runny paste.

When the éclairs are cool, fill the centres with the whipped cream and either pipe or carefully spoon the icing on top. Neaten the icing by dipping a metal knife into a cup of boiling water and using it to smoothen the surface.

Choc Chip Cookies

 

Quick fix: Bake cookies for choco emergencies.

Priyanka Parashar/Mint

I’ve been depriving Lounge readers in the most heinous way and it’s time to make amends.

As part of the whole taking stock and moving forward process required at the turn of the year, I was looking back at the recipes I’ve done over the last year or so and to my astonishment discovered that only one of them is remotely in the chocolate category. Even then the Chocolate and Cherry Muffins were egg-free, so they hardly count as full-blown chocy wantonness.Inexcusable, I know, and I can’t really account for it except to acknowledge that my baking with fruit tendencies have got way out of hand. By way of an apology, and in the spirit of a fresh start, my New Year’s resolution is to step away from the cape gooseberries and lavish you with chocolate.

We’re going to limber up with everyone’s favourite, choc chip cookies. Like many bakers I’ve had my share of choc chip disappointment—too hard, too dry, too sweet. Trial and error brought me to this recipe, a simple one but so good it has been pinned to my fridge for years now. It’s what we make in our house when sweet/chocolate cravings have to be staunched quickly. They take about 5 minutes to make, 10 to bake before reaching biscuit perfection: crispy around the edges and chewy in the middle. Warm from the oven and savoured with a glass of cold milk, you’ll be in choc-chip heaven. Nothing you buy will ever come close.

The recipe, of course, is merely a template to be adapted at will. For emergencies, I keep a pack of chocolate chips to hand but it’s best to use a good-quality chocolate (anything with more than 70% cocoa content). My current passion is a milk chocolate bar (which ordinarily would be against the rules) containing chunks of almond brittle. Chewy, crispy, buttery, caramelized, nutty and above all CHOCOLATEY perfection. So good.

Here’s to a choc-tastic 2012!

A word about size: It isn’t everything. In the choc chip cookie stakes, less is definitely more. No one needs a 12-inch cookie—I guarantee you’ll be bored to death of it by the fifth bite, so don’t be tempted.

Choc chip cookies

Makes about 16-20

Ingredients

125g salted butter

75g Demerara sugar

75g caster sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

150g flour (maida)

1/2 tsp baking powder

100g chocolate (chips or a bar of good-quality chocolate chopped into small chunks)

Method

You will need a large, greased baking tray.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Begin by melting the butter in a small pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and two types of sugar. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat again.

Sift in the flour and baking powder and stir until all the ingredients are combined. Finally stir in the chocolate.

At this point, you could chill the cookie dough until ready to bake the cookies. Usually though, I’m responding to an urgent chocolate/cookie need so I make them straightaway. Spoon dessert-sized spoonfuls on to the baking tray. A little irregularity is no bad thing with home-made cookies but if you’re a neat freak, roll the dough into balls somewhere between the size of a walnut and a golf ball. Make sure they’re spaced well apart because the cookies spread a lot during baking.

Bake in the centre of the oven for about 10 minutes. If you like a crispy edge and chewy centre, take the tray out when the edges are lightly browned. If you like a crispier cookie, leave them in for a few more minutes. But watch them carefully, they burn quickly.

Note: I use a large stand-alone electric oven for most of my baking. For this recipe, I switched on both top and bottom elements and the cookies baked in about 7 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.

A Recipe for Cape Gooseberry Tarte Tatin

[first published in Mint Lounge on December 17th]

My love of the cape gooseberry, rasbhari, physalis or sometimes “Chinese lantern”, knows no bounds. Every year at this time I can never quite get over seeing in abundance a fruit which at home is bought by the handful rather than the kilo. As well as being the most cheerful-looking of fruits, cape gooseberries are perfect for baking and I always have more ideas for recipes than I have time to make.

French connection: Gooseberries lend a welcome piquancy to desserts. Divya Babu/Mint.

Divya Babu/Mint

Like old-fashioned varieties of apple and the green English gooseberry, they lend a welcome tartness to otherwise over-sweet desserts. They’re perfect for all sorts of puddings, pies, crumbles, fools and compotes. In fact one of my end-of-year rituals is making a batch of Cape Gooseberry jam as the ultimate topping for morning toast.

Today, though, we’re letting them loose on the tarte Tatin, named after the Tatin sisters, who ran a hotel-restaurant in Lamotte-Beuvron, France, at the beginning of the 20th century. The original was a tart of caramelized apples cooked under a pastry lid, then flipped over so that the pastry is on the bottom and fruit on top, then served with lashings of crème fraîche. For some reason, in our house, my husband holds the tarte Tatin portfolio—I’ve never actually made one.

I always assumed they were a major French faff (perhaps that’s what my husband would like me to think!); in fact nothing could be easier—the only thing that requires some effort is the pastry but you can even use a ready-made puff pastry for the least strenuous dessert imaginable.

Cape Gooseberry tarte Tatin

Serves 6

Ingredients

Pastry

170g cold unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces

250g flour (maida)

A pinch of salt

3 tbsp caster sugar

2 egg yolks

1 tbsp orange flower water or cold water

Cape gooseberries

400g cape gooseberries, paper casings removed and washed

100g caster sugar

60g unsalted butter

1 vanilla pod

Method

You will need a 20-23cm tin or dish that is happy both on the stove and in the oven.

To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour with fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, then add the egg yolks and orange flower water. Stir to bring the mixture together. If it is still dry and crumbly, add a little water, but don’t let the pastry get sticky. Knead the pastry gently to form a ball, cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

In the oven-proof and flameproof shallow tin, melt the butter and sugar. Split the vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape the seeds into the tin. Tip the cape gooseberries in and coat with the caramel. Make sure you use enough fruit so it’s tightly packed on the bottom of the tin—this will improve the appearance of the finished tart. Let the fruit cook for a few minutes to release some of its juice into the caramel. Then let the caramel bubble long enough to thicken, a couple of minutes—stop before the fruit darkens or gets soggy. Take off the heat and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the pastry to a little larger than the tin. Carefully lift the pastry and place on top of the fruit. Press the edges down to encase the fruit.

Bake the tart for about 30 minutes until the pastry is nice and brown.

Let the tart cool for a minute or two, then take a plate that is larger than the tin and place it face down over the tart. Carefully flip the tart on to the plate and remove the tin. The cape gooseberries should now have formed a wonderfully sunny, caramelized topping. If any of the cape gooseberries has rolled out of position, just push it back so that the fruit is evenly distributed over the pastry.

Serve warm with crème fraîche.


Previous Lounge columns

Ananda Mela or The Gorging Puja

The festival season is well under way here in Delhi and with so many celebrations overlapping and coinciding, it can be tough to keep up. I’m doing my best – for my book, I’m trying to make sure I  at least catch everything in the Old Delhi calendar – but sometimes it’s hard to know what’s happening when.

So if there’s anything you think I might miss, please drop me a line – for example I hadn’t realised that  the Bengali festival of Durga Puja was celebrated in Old Delhi until new Bengali friend Surya took me in hand.

delhi durga puja samiti

It turns out the Kashmere Gate Durga Puja (also known as the Delhi Durga Puja Samiti) is in fact Delhi’s oldest, dating back to the time many Bengalis came to Delhi to work for the British when the government moved from Calcutta.  In the early days, the Puja was held in the heart of Old Delhi in Nai Sarak, then Fatehpuri.

The Puja’s new home is the Bengali Secondary School on Alipur Road and last night Surya, her husband Sean and I met at Civil Lines metro to check it out. As I frequently find myself lost in Hindu traditions and rituals, Surya first of all sat me down to explain some of the Durga essentials, calling her Mum in Siliguri a couple of times for clarification.

Durga Puja coincides with Navratra, which began last Wednesday, and both are linked to the start of winter and harvest time.   Navratri, which literally means ‘nine nights’, a nine day fasting period for Hindus,  is observed several times a year but the most significant is the Maha Navratra (‘Great Navratra’)  at the beginning of autumn.

The Goddess arrives on an elephant, leaves on a palanquin

The dates of Bengali festivals and pujas are determined by the annual Panjika almanac, compiled by astrologers and priests; it also determines auspicious days for weddings, business ventures etc. according to the lunar cycle.  The Panjika also details how Durga, along with her children Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh, and Kartik will arrive,  by  horse, palanquin, boat etc.   If she arrives by elephant, as she did this time, it’s going to be a good year ahead. Although not such good news for her departure:  she’s leaving on a palanquin, signifying epidemic.

The Kashmere Gate Durga Puja is a traditional and low-key affair compared to many in Calcutta the Goddess was radiant without being too flashy and the music was ‘Rabindro Sangeet’, the beautiful music and words written by Rabindranath Tagore; songs of ‘love and revolution’ according to Surya. Today is the start of three days of religious rituals then Durga’s earthly visit will be over for another year and she’ll go back to heaven via an immersion  in the Yamuna river on Thursday.

Ananda mela: the gorging puja

But of course I was itching to get on with the food side of the things and I had already noticed lots of women pulling stoves, pressure cookers and platters out of bags.   Which could only mean one thing –  the Ananda Mela was about to start. The Ananda Mela is a wonderful tradition of local women sharing their family specialities on the evening before the puja begins (which this year is today).

We tried almost everything on offer: Luchi Chola (chick peas with puri), Jimikand (also known as ‘kochu’ or ‘taro’) Cutlets, Chicken Biryani, Chicken Korma ‘Rashmoni’ Kheer (‘kheer surprise’), Malpua (sweet, fried fritters), and Patishapta (a sweet pancake stuffed with coconut)  and the excitingly-named Bonanza Chilli Chicken with Lemon Rice.  Wonderful, lovingly-cooked homestyle dishes, a grand start to the glorious Delhi eating season.

Monsoon: Perfect Bread-Making Weather

Well, things have certainly been a bit quiet around here – I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.  

Not much blogging but a whole lot of kitchen and garden envy

It seems like every summer I head off to Scotland with the very best of blogging intentions and every summer Eat and Dust lapses into near-silence. We had a wonderful time at home catching up with family and friends though.  At my sister’s house I even contracted a severe case of garden and kitchen envy:  my brother-in-law has built an amazing outdoor kitchen in the woods behind their house, along with barbeque area and bunk house – how cool is that?

I want this kitchen

  

 I also want a garden that produces fruit like this

We also spent a week in Corfu where our friends Jane and Emilios have a house.  Jane and her daughter cooked up all sorts of Greek wonders ( I’ll blog about them soon) which I’ve been trying out since we got back. But first…

What’s a hot sticky  monsoon kitchen good for? 

Before I go off into an Ionian reverie, I need to give you a recipe to use right now, a recipe that is so utterly  perfect for our  humid, Monsoon Indian kitchens that you mustn’t waste another second before making it.  

It’s also something everyone is always telling me is impossible to make in India.

Good bread (loaf-style as opposed to flat), they say, can’t be done  here because we don’t get  strong bread flour. Well this recipe for ‘Whey Bread’ proves that you can make a loaf better than anything you can buy with the humble plain/all-purpose/maida  flour available in every corner shop.  

It must be true – Dan Lepard says so

I’ve been making bread, mostly variations on this recipe in fact, ever since I’ve been in Delhi – I use bread flour if I have it, plain if I don’t and I’ve not really noticed any difference.  

I was chatting to Dan Lepardbaker extraordinaire, one day on Twitter and he basically said – ‘you can make a respectable loaf out of pretty much any type of flour.’  He also said that Indian plain flour is perhaps less refined than western versions so innately better suited to bread making.  Well, how about that?

This recipe is as easy as can be and very adaptable.  Don’t have cream? Use milk.  No Whey?  Water will do just fine.  But the beauty of it right now is that the humid warmth of our kitchens is the perfect environment for yeast to do its work. You’ll have a full blown rise in no time.

Here’s what I wrote on the subject (followed by recipe) for Mint…..

Last month saw the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Chorleywood baking process.  I say celebrations, but you may well feel that commemorating the invention of pre-packaged, long-life, tasteless white sliced bread is not necessarily a reason to start popping champagne corks. Whatever your point of view, back in 1961 a revolution in bread making occurred and Britain led the way in replacing wholesome, nutritious, hand-baked bread with limp white sliced loaves tasting of cotton wool.

The Chorleywood baking process is named after the town in Hertfordshire where scientists at the British Baking Industries Research Association devised a means of turning cheap low-grade flour into mass-produced bread.  The means, of course, were a highly mechanised mixing process and a cocktail of additives.  Traditionally, a loaf of bread takes up to 20 minutes to knead – the Chorleywood chaps reduced this to three by radically speeding up the mixing process.  Proper bread, though, needs proper flour and the inferior variety used in sliced white has to be enhanced with salt, sugar, fats, flour improvers, emulsifiers and enzymes.

In India, the Chorleywood process is responsible for the ubiquitous Britannia loaf and a billion bread pakoras. In fact, it accounts for 80% of bread produced in India and the UK. But if a mouthful of cotton wool ‘enhanced’ with sugar, salt and chemicals isn’t to your taste, and you’re crying out for a pukka loaf, then you’re in tune with a new generation of  food revivalists urging a return to real bread making.

As there are very few artisan bread makers in India, making it at home is the only option. And turning out a loaf at home couldn’t be easier, especially at this Monsoon time of year when kitchens are hot and humid – ideal conditions for encouraging yeast to work. This recipe, as well as being a great way of using the whey left over in paneer making, uses a method introduced to me by British baker extraordinaire, Dan Lepard. Incidentally, if you’re at all interested in starting to bake bread at home, Dan’s book The Handmade Loaf is the only one you’ll ever need. Follow him on Twitter, too, for daily dough-y wisdom.

You will need to buy some imported Fast Action Yeast but it’s well worth the investment.  On the upside, there’s no need for expensive ‘Bread Flour’, the home grown maida makes a loaf far, far superior to anything you could buy in a packet.  Dan also introduced me to a new way of kneading: instead of the traditional long knead and long rest, the kneading and resting is broken up into short bursts over a few hours.  Having tried both methods, I can confirm that Dan’s produces a much better loaf. Try it – you’ll never look at Britannia again.

Whey Bread

Makes 1 large loaf

125ml cold cream (malai)

250ml whey

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1 sachet (7g) fast action yeast

550g plain flour  (maida)

A few drops of sunflower oil

  1. Heat the whey until hand hot (not boiling) then pour into a large bowl with the malai.  Add the sugar, salt and yeast.  Whisk gently to mix then add the flour.
  2. With your hands mix quickly until you have a soft, ragged slightly sticky mass – no need to knead a this point – then cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes.
  3. After 10 minutes, smear a few drops of oil on a clean work surface.  Tip the dough out and knead for 10 seconds. Put the dough back in a clean bowl and leave for 10 minutes.  You will notice that the dough has already changed structure – the yeast has already started to work on the flour, making it springier and more elastic.
  4. Again, knead for 10 seconds and leave for 10 minutes.  Give the dough a final knead, it will now be quite soft and pillowy.  This time leave the dough, covered, to rise for 1 hour, until it has doubled in size.
  5. Lightly oil the inside of a loaf tin.  If you don’t have a loaf tin, you could make a freeform loaf on a baking tray.
  6. Tip the bread dough onto the work surface and pat it into a shape that fits in the tin or an oval shape if you’re going freeform.  Put the bread into the  tin and leave to rise again for about one hour
  7. Heat the oven to 200­ºC and bake the loaf for about 45 minutes.  If you like a crustier loaf, take the bread out of the tin and bake for a further 5-10 minutes.

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.

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.

Laura leaving, the end of Uparwali Chai and a recipe for Boterkoek

Quick, grab the hankies, it’s going to be a weepie. Today marks the end of a particularly wonderful period of my life in India: After five years, my great friend Laura is leaving Delhi to return to her home in the Netherlands.

As well as a friend, Laura has also been a co-conspirator in a plan to convert Delhiites to the delights of pukka afternoon tea. Two years ago we launched Uparwali Chai and about once a month since then we’ve baked ourselves to a standstill, piled high the cakestands and popped up in restaurants, museums, rooftops and gardens all over Delhi.

As anyone who has attended any of our teas can testify, Laura has a huge talent for making food look and taste divine. She has an incredible eye for detail and a flair for combining precise and unusual baking techniques with an array of Indian ingredients. She transformed the humble aubergine bharta into a delicate paté and had the brilliant idea of serving it in cutting chai glasses. I’ll remember forever her Carrot Halwa Cups: a hearty Indian dessert transformed into dainty little pecan-crusted wonders. There are about 30 lucky people who came to an event last winter who will never think of her Amarena Cherry Macaroons without a lump in their throats.

We spent many happy hours planning the menus for our teas, especially relishing the challenge of theming our food for particular venues and occasions: Miniuttapams for a south Indian restaurant, Far East florentines for a pan-Asian one, Salted Caramel Macaroons for Mahatama Gandhi’s birth anniversary and cupcakes tied with rakhi bands for Raksha Bandhan.

Laura also encouraged me to finesse my own baking, ruthlessly banishing anything as uncouth as a muffin or cupcake from my repertoire and steering me gently towards daintier, more refined mouthfuls. And for that I’ll be eternally grateful.

When I asked Laura if I could have one of her recipes for today’s column, she chose Boterkoek, a traditional Dutch biscuit similar to our Scottish shortbread. It uses the same three ingredients, butter, flour and sugar, in slightly different proportions, giving the same rich butteriness but with a softer texture than the Scottish version. Usually it’s a fairly homely, rustic recipe but of course in Laura’s kitchen it becomes dinky and delicate.

Laura has decided to formally train as a chef back in the Netherlands and I’m sure she’ll be a star pupil. She’s a genius in the kitchen, her food is always inspired and she makes cooking look fun and glamorous. I’ve even had Twitter followers ask if she’d consider taking Uparwali Chai to Holland. I’m sure she’ll have a Michelin star and a book deal in no time.

I’m not quite sure how I’m going to fill the Laura and Uparwali Chai-shaped hole in my life but when I do figure it out you can be sure Boterkoek will always be on the menu.

Maybe one day I’ll even persuade Laura to come back as a guest chef.

Laura and husband Jeroen on our last night in Delhi which, of course, we spent at Gunpowder restaurant

Laura’s Dutch Boterkoek

Makes about 40 bite-sized biscuits

Ingredients

300g plain flour

190g vanilla sugar

200g cold unsalted butter

A good pinch of salt

2 tbsp milk

1 egg, beaten

Method

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the butter into small cubes and place in a bowl along with the flour and sugar. With your fingertips rub the butter into the flour and sugar until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the milk, then mix with your hands until the mixture starts to bind together. Although there is little milk, there is a large quantity of butter which holds the mixture together. Place the mixture on the baking tray and press until it is about 1 & 1/2 cm thick. Use a rolling pin to make the top completely flat but leave a gap around the edge of the tin to allow the Boterkoek to expand while it bakes. With a sharp knife, lightly score criss-cross lines all over the surface, then brush the surface with a little beaten egg. Bake for about 30 minutes until the top is lightly browned. About halfway through, put another tray on a lower shelf to stop the Boterkoek browning too quickly. Leave the Boterkoek to cool before cutting into shapes using a pastry cutter. Traditionally, the biscuits are small squares but you can use any shape—as long as it’s nice and dainty.


The only cake recipe you’ll need this summer

This was last week’s Mint recipe and I can’t stress enough just how useful it is.  It’s bailed me out of many a dessert fix – 5 minutes to make, half an hour in the oven – quite possibly the only summer cake recipe you’ll ever need…

I frequently get messages from readers pleading for recipes which don’t require scales—most Indian “andaaz”-based kitchens, they say, simply don’t possess a set. Although I recommend investing in scales if you’re at all keen to explore home baking—personally, I’m a slave to mine—I come from a long line of cooks who weren’t. My mother, an excellent baker, would have been completely at home in an Indian kitchen, using a tablespoon to measure everything—at least until she went through a weird midlife crisis Cordon Bleu phase in the 1970s.

I have inherited her beautiful, but now rather thin and worn, old spoon and use it most days—it makes me feel as if I’m stirring some magic into a cake or biscuit mixture. Today, I have used it as the base measure for a gorgeous, fruity sponge cake which is a perfect showcase for every glorious soft fruit about to make its way down from the Himalayas: I’ve used the fragrant little peaches which are in season briefly now, but you could substitute apricots, plums, cherries and later the apples and pears.

It’s inspired by a wonderful recipe in Jane Grigson’s 1982 masterpiece Fruit Book,given to the author by the owner of the village store near her French home. This, along with its companion volume on vegetables, is a book I refer to constantly—in fact, my copy falls open at this recipe’s page. Grigson named it Tarte de Cambraibut it’s really more of a cake. It requires minimal time in the kitchen—ideal for the next few months—about 5 minutes if you use fresh chopped fruit. I decided to use some peaches I had poached in a vanilla syrup first, again with imprecise measurements. I think it takes the cake up to new (Himalayan) heights.

Vive l’Andaaz.

Vanilla Peach Andaaz Cake

Serves 6

A word about the tablespoon measure: My mother’s spoon, heaped with flour or slightly rounded with caster sugar, measures one ounce (approximately 25g) but as long as you use the same spoon throughout, it doesn’t really matter, your cake will just be larger or smaller according to your spoon size—the main thing is to keep the ratios the same.

Ingredients

For the fruit

1/2 kg of just-ripe (not squishy) Himalayan peaches

1 cup granulated sugar

2 cups water

2 vanilla pods

For the cake

10 level tbsp plain flour (maida)

1 tsp baking powder

6 level tbsp vanilla sugar (caster sugar which has been kept in a jar with vanilla pods)

4 tbsp sunflower oil

8 tbsp milk

2 whole eggs

Finely grated zest of a lemon

A pinch of salt

A little extra butter and sugar for the topping

Method

First prepare the fruit: Dissolve the sugar and water in a pan large enough to hold all the peaches and bring to a boil. Place the peaches in the syrup and let them simmer for 3 minutes, no longer. Lift the peaches out of the syrup and when cool enough to handle, remove the skins. Slit the vanilla pods and remove the seeds. Add both pods and seeds to the sugar syrup, then put the peaches back in and leave to cool to soak up some of the vanilla flavour.

When you’re ready to make the cake, preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Grease something to bake the cake in. This also can be flexible. I used my beautiful Assamese earthenware dish but it works equally well in Pyrex or a metal cake or pie tin. Just make sure to grease it well.

Remove the stones from the peaches and lay them in the baking dish to form a single layer—you might not need them all but whatever’s left is delicious with a dollop of cream.

Measure all the ingredients into a bowl with your trusty tablespoon, then whisk to mix, or use a mixer. Pour the mixture, which will be like a batter, over the peaches. Put small dabs of butter over the surface along with a sprinkling of caster sugar.

Bake for about 35-45 minutes until a skewer prodded into the centre comes out clean.

Eat straight from the oven with thick cream or cold later.