Mawa Madeleines


This is my version of the much-loved Mumbai Mawa Cakes, first appeared in Mint Lounge on Saturday 22nd November…

I haven’t spent nearly enough time in Mumbai, a fact that was brought home to me yet again this week when I visited the kitschy-cute “Bombay food” restaurant SodaBottleOpener-Wala in Khan Market in New Delhi and cursed the fact that I have never visited a real Irani café. I probably need to get my skates on—Mumbai’s Irani cafés, complete with Victorian tiled flooring, eccentric signage and evocatively named dishes are fast disappearing. The most recent, much lamented closure was of B Merwan and Co., the 100-year-old bakery that claims to have invented the mawa cake back in the early 20th century. Mawa cake: two words which, I gather, can reduce a homesick Mumbaikar to tears, and I’m not surprised, if the SodaBottleOpenerWala’s version is anything to go by. I’ve heard that B Merwan’s mawa cakes were so popular that the shop in Mumbai regularly sold out before 7.30am every day. It looks like the plainest of sponge cakes but looks, as we know, can be deceiving. Beyond that unprepossessing exterior, thanks to the addition of mawa, or khoya, lies a rich, milky, buttery heart as well as a hint of cardamom. Extraordinary how the smallest changes to a basic recipe (in this case a classic sponge cake, presumably brought to India by the British) can transform it into something completely different. Mawa is one of those Indian ingredients that is a complete mystery to most foreigners, and I was relieved I only had to pop round to the local dairy to buy some. Or so I thought. The dairy had run out so I was obliged to make my own and stand over a simmering pan of milk for about 2 hours. I’ve tinkered slightly with the look of the cakes by baking them in a madeleine mould (although the sponge is very different from that of a madeleine). I make no claims to authenticity here, I’ve just retraced what I assume was the mawa cake’s own journey—an Indianized British sponge cake. With or without the madeleine makeover, though, memories of every milky treat you’ve ever loved will come flooding back with every bite—burfi, Milkybar, Old Delhi’s extraordinary winter treat, daulat ki chaat, or a puddle of evaporated milk on childhood fruit salad.

Mawa Madeleines

Makes 24


For the ‘mawa’:

1 litre full-cream milk

For the madeleines:

150g all-purpose flour (maida)

1 tsp baking powder

Seeds of 4 green cardamoms, finely ground

100g mawa

100g butter

100g caster sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

75-100ml milk


Grease a madeleine mould with melted butter or line a muffin tray with small cake cases. If you need to make the mawa, you will need to think ahead as the process takes up to 2 hours. Put the milk into a large, heavy bottomed pan and slowly bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and let the milk simmer gently. Stir regularly to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan and burn. Eventually the milk will darken slightly in colour and thicken. Once it resembles the thickness of porridge, don’t take your eye off it—stir continuously until all the liquid has evaporated and you’re left with about 150g mawa. This can then be stored for a few days in the fridge or months in the freezer. Bring it to room temperature before you use it to make mawa cakes.

When you are ready to make the cakes, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Sift together the flour, baking powder and ground cardamom in a large bowl. Put the mawa, butter and caster sugar in another bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating well to incorporate them into the mixture. Mix in the flour mixture and enough milk to make a mixture that drops off a spoon banged on the side of the bowl. Divide the mixture into madeleine moulds or cake cases. Bake the cakes for about 10-15 minutes, until they are lightly browned on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. They are perfect fresh and warm from the oven with, what else—a glass of milk.


Some (non-election) snaps of Old Delhi this morning



The world’s biggest ever democratic election got underway here  this week and, as always in India, the numbers are staggering. Over 800 million people are eligible to vote in 9 phases between now and 12th May (there will be 6 days of voting in UP and Bihar alone); 543 seats will be contested; there are 930,000 polling stations equipped  with 1.4 million electronic voting machines and 11 million personnel have been deployed to keep the whole show on the road.  The Indian media and Twitter, needless to say, are in a frenzy trying to predict the outcome. Will Congress and the Gandhi dynasty cling onto power or will the right wing BJP sweep in? In most Delhi neighbourhoods the last few weeks of campaigning ahead of voting on Thursday have been, to put it mildly, boisterous. We happen to live right next to one of the  Aam Admi (‘common man’) Party’s offices and getting any peace and quiet to work has been virtually impossible.

In comparison, Old Delhi at dawn today was blissfully quiet. I arrived with a  friend just as it was getting light and the city was starting to come to life. I think this might be my favourite time, in my favourite place, when the craziness of the day is still to come and people are taking a little time for themselves. We wandered mainly around the Jama Masjid area where many were waking up on the pavement, the seat of a rickshaw or at one of the many open air charpoy (rope bed) ‘guest houses.’ The chai and  omelette sandwich-wallahs were doing a roaring trade.  Some early birds were already out selling fruit, vegetables and buckets of meat.  

We probably saw more men in their baggy underwear than was strictly necessary but watching a young barber set up his stall in the shadow of the Jama Masjid was sight for sore eyes.  We climbed onto the roof of the Haji Hotel and marvelled at the (rare) blue sky behind the mosque. We had a quiet cuppa in Haveli Azam Khan, stocked up on rusks and biscuits at the Diamond Bakery and were back home in time for breakfast and a full  day of campaigning.

 Anyway here are a few non-election snaps…



















The Truest Sign of Winter in Delhi? The Daulat ki Chaat Wallahs are back in town!



Winter has arrived here in Delhi.  I know this not just because we’re all starting to cough and splutter with the dreaded ‘Change of Season’ ailments.  Or because my feet are starting to get cold in bed at night and I can’t quite remember where I stashed our quilts last spring.  

No, I know the cooler days are here again because a few days ago I got a call from Babu Ram Kumar to let me know he and his brothers are back in town.  The Kumars are from Uttar Pradesh but every winter they’re based in Old Delhi where they continue a family tradition of making Daulat ki Chaat, that ethereally magical dessert that’s like a cross between a soufflé and a cloud.



The lore that surrounds daulat ki chaat is every bit as amazing as the taste.  Food writer Madhur Jaffrey remembers it from her childhood in Delhi when a mysterious ‘Lady in White’  brought it in little pots to her family every morning.  It is said that Daulat ki Chaat must be made, by hand,  by the light of a full moon then left to set in the morning dew. It can only be made in the winter and has to be served and eaten quickly before the sun reduces the vendors’ snowy platters to a milky puddle. I’d been intrigued by these tales for years but for my book on Old Delhi I was determined to get to the bottom of the stories.  I pestered every Daulat ki Chaat maker I could find to let me watch them at work but it was the Kumar brothers who  eventually buckled under the pressure.   And so, last winter I spent several  unforgettable hours in the middle of a freezing cold  night watching pails of milk  being transformed into the food of the Gods. Were angels involved? Or the morning dew?  I couldn’t possibly say – at least not until my book, Korma, Kheer and Kismet, comes out in April!

For now, though, don’t miss the brief season.  Once almost extinct, for the past few seasons the daulat ki chaat stalls have been multiplying and from now until about Holi you’ll find them at various spots in Old Delhi including Dariba Kalan, Kinari Bazaar and outside the Chawri Bazaar metro station.  


My book has a name!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to help decide on a name for my book about Old Delhi.

The clear favourite both here and on Facebook/Twitter was ‘Korma, Kheer and Kismet: Five Seasons in Old Delhi’ and I’m delighted to say that’s exactly what the book will be called.

It should be out by the end of the year… In the meantime, here are some lovely Old Delhi sweets to celebrate


Help Name My Book!


I thought the agony of doing the first draft of my book on Old Delhi was bad enough! Now I have to decide on a title.

The working title has been ‘Mutton Korma at Shokkys’: Five Seasons in Old Delhi’ but a few months ago I took against it.  However, coming up with something that I love more has so far escaped  me.

What do you think?  I want the title to convey what my book is about – the street food of Old Delhi, the families who make it and their stories.

Here are some of the options, sort of in order of preference… As you can see they all have the same strap line – ‘Five Seasons in Old Delhi’


All input greatly appreciated!


1. Mutton Korma at Shokkys’:

       Five Seasons in Old Delhi

 2. The Kheer Wallah’s Kismet:

       Five Seasons in Old Delhi

3. Korma, Kheer and Kismet:

       Five Seasons in Old Delhi

 4. Kheer and Kismet:

       Five Seasons in Old Delhi

 5. Mutton Korma and the Kismet of Kheer: (husband thinks this one sounds like ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’!)

       Five Seasons in Old Delhi 

6. Mutton Korma and Kulfi Wallahs:

       Five Seasons in Old Delhi

7. Tandoori Days:

       Five Seasons in Old Delhi

8. Aloo Tikki Times:

       Five Seasons in Old Delhi



Gingery Plum Crumble Traybake


I noticed two things at home over the summer. First, the London Olympics have brought about an optimism (some would say misplaced) not seen since Tony Blair won the general election in 1997, and a level of national pride not seen since, well, let’s just say, not in my lifetime. For the first time in ages we have something to feel good about and it’s been difficult to keep the lip entirely stiff. From Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony reminder that we’re a strange little nation that does some things incredibly well, to the sight of Jessie J. standing in for Freddie Mercury, not to mention our astonishing athletes, I’ve been on the verge of tears the best part of a month.

The second thing I noticed, and this too could be a sign of a country with nothing much to feel cheerful about, is a wave of wanton cake-eating. Of course, long before we realized we were capable of 29 gold medals, we knew we were champion cake-makers, but recently it seems as if every other shop is a tea room, stuffed full of people seeking brief, sugary respite from joblessness and a crumbling welfare state with a plate of scones and a tray bake.

A tray bake, of course, is good for whatever ails you, as we say in Scotland; a hugely comforting category of goodie that covers everything from chocolate brownies to millionaire’s shortbread. They are usually baked in a rectangular tin and sliced into squares; they can be chocolatey, fruity, nutty, they’re infinitely sliceable and shareable, and cheerfully appear at village fêtes, school fund-raisers and family gatherings.

And so it was that I found myself eating this particular tray bake at 4.30 in the morning on 13 August, at the end of the closing ceremony when I had to face the painful truth: No. More. Olympics. With its almond sponge base layered with gingery Himalayan plums and topped with a buttery crumble, it provided some consolation. It won’t replace Bradley Wiggins and Jessica Ennis but it might keep our chins up for a little while longer; it might just keep us going until the Paralympics.

Gingery Plum Crumble Tray Bake

Serves at least 8-10



200g unsalted butter, softened

200g caster sugar

3 eggs

150g plain flour (maida), sifted with 1 tsp of baking powder and 2 level tsp ground ginger powder

50g ground almonds

2 pieces preserved ginger, finely chopped

2-3 tbsp milk

Gingery Plums

500g plums, stoned and quartered

4 tbsp ginger syrup (from the preserved ginger)

2-3 tbsp caster sugar

2 tsp cornflour

Crumble topping

100g plain flour

75g cold unsalted butter

75g demerara sugar


Line a rectangular baking tray about 20x30cm. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

First prepare the fruit. Put the plums in a pan with the sugar and heat gently. In a bowl, mix together the syrup and cornflour, then add to the plums. Let the fruit bubble away for a few minutes until the plums are soft. Leave to cool.

For the crumble topping, rub together the flour and butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar. Set aside.

For the cake, beat together the soft butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, either with a mixer or a wooden spoon. Gradually beat in the eggs along with a little flour. Stir in the flour/baking powder/ginger mixture. Lastly, add the chopped preserved ginger, almonds and milk. Mix well, then spread half of the cake mixture evenly at the bottom of the lined tin. Cover with half of the plums, then another layer of cake mixture and the rest of the plums. Finish by sprinkling with the crumble topping and splash the top with a few drops of water.

Bake for about 30-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean and the crumble topping is nice and brown. Serve warm or cold.

Delhi: Colder Than Dumfries

Our son has just returned to college in Dumfries where it’s generally bloody freezing, even in summer so we were surprised to compare notes with him yesterday to find he’s enjoying temperatures about 10 degrees higher than Delhi.

I took these pictures this morning  as Dean and I shivered our way round Lodhi Gardens with the dogs – atmospheric but decidedly nippy.

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.

Continue reading

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!