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.


Uparwali Chai 23rd January

The winter 2011 Uparwali Chai season starts this Sunday  23rd with a sumptuous High Tea feast.

Laura and I will be making smoked trout, little leek pies, Bombay chutney sandwiches, tomato and basil tarts, cheese choux buns, scones with homemade strawberry jam and cream, green tea macaroons, lemon petticoat tails, chocolate pecan cups, carrot halwa muffins, cape gooseberry galettes.  All served with lashings of fresh leaf tea or masala chai.

Probably no need for lunch or dinner!

As always, places are very limited – to book phone Pamela: 9871927320, Laura 9899987367

Uparwali Chai Christmas Tea Party

Get  Christmassy with Uparwali Chai

Laura and I  had so many festive  favourites we wanted to make for our Christmas high tea, it took a whole afternoon to whittle down the list.

We finally came up with Mince pies with brandy butter; Dutch spice biscuits (‘Speculaas‘); Cape Gooseberry Macaroons; Gingerbread ‘Candles’; scones with cream and homemade strawberry jam;  Dutch and Scottish Christmas sweets (our childhood favourites); smoked salmon and sour cream  choux buns, three-cheese pastries, little leek pies….we’re even going to be having a go at that Bombay favourite, the chutney sandwich. There might be some surprises too – Laura’s off to Holland tomorrow and I’ve given her a long shopping list!

Yes, you won’t need lunch or dinner that day!

It’s the last tea of the year and definitely not to be missed.  It will be on 12th December at 3pm in Laura’s garden.  Seats are very limited, so book early.

This event is likely to be very popular so  we will be asking for payment (rs 1200 per person) in advance.  We don’t really like to do this this but last time we had a few guests not turn up.  We hope you understand – it’s particularly annoying when that happens because we always have a waiting list of people we’ve had to turn away!

Hope to see you there

Bookings: email: uparwalichai@gmail.com or call me on 9871927320

 

Pamela and Laura

Apricot and Jaggery Upside Down Cake

For this week’s Mint column, I made a  gooey Jaggery and Apricot Upside Down Cake using the gorgeous Himachal apricots that are in the Delhi markets at the moment.

I got to sneakily take a few pictures while  (Mint photographer) Priyanka had her lights out – love these oranges and greens.

Here’s the Mint column – click on the link in the text to see a step-by-step guide to making the cake:

A Loved-Up Upside-Down Cake

Pamela Timms tells us the recipe of apricot jaggery cake

Piece of cake | Pamela Timms

// My book group is the social highlight of every month: The company is great, the wine flows, the food is always gorgeous and sometimes we even get round to discussing the book. This month we’ve been reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett; a gripping tale of racial discrimination and kitchen drama set in 1960s Mississippi. Of course, I was moved by the plight of the black maids in the story and swept along by the struggle for equality, but for me the real hero of the book is the food. The pies, puddings and roasts of the Deep South are so vividly depicted that you can almost taste Minny’s Caramel Cake, one bite of which, we learn, can “make you feel loved”.

Click here for a slideshow on how to bake caramel cake

Also Read | Pamela’s previous Lounge columns

Almost, but not quite, so I decided to try and recreate some of that magic in my own kitchen by “caramelizing” an old favourite from my childhood. The “Upside-Down Cake” is a classic from the 1970s where fruit, sugar and butter are put into a cake tin and a cake mixture is then spread on top. When cooked, the cake is inverted and the sticky toffee fruit is on top.

Season’s special: Jaggery drenches the apricots and makes them  soft. Priyanka Parashan/Mint

Season’s special: Jaggery drenches the apricots and makes them soft. Priyanka Parashan/Mint

In the very un-exotic Britain of the time we had to make do with tinned pineapple but one of the great compensations of an Indian summer is that we’re spoilt for choice with all the magnificent soft fruit from Himachal: cherries, apricots, peaches and soon, plums. I chose apricots as they’re particularly plump and flavoursome this year.I also had a hunch that jaggery might provide a more intense caramel hit than the traditional white sugar and butter. The jaggery didn’t disappoint (how could it?), turning this old faithful into a real heart-stopper, drenching the apricots and almondy sponge in what can only be described as a loving spoonful. I’ll never know how it would rate alongside Minny’s Caramel Cake but the look on my daughter’s face when she took her first bite told me she wasn’t thinking about civil rights. And that’s good enough for me.

Apricot Jaggery Cake

Ingredients

650g apricots, the plumpest, ripest you can find

Caramel

175g powdered jaggery

6 tbsp water

Syrup

300g caster sugar

600ml water

Cake

2 large eggs

100g caster sugar

125g unsalted butter, softened

125g plain flour (maida)

2 level tsp baking powder

1 heaped tbsp of peeled and ground almonds

Method

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Line a 25cm round cake tin with aluminium foil—this is important especially if you’re using a loose-bottomed tin, to stop the caramel sauce from seeping out.

Cut all the apricots in half and take out the kernels.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the jaggery and 6 tablespoons of water until the jaggery is completely dissolved. Bring to the boil and let it bubble for a couple of minutes until it starts to get syrupy. With jaggery this happens much faster than with white sugar, so keep watching. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes, then pour into the cake tin.

In a pan large enough to hold all the apricots in a single layer, heat 300g caster sugar and 600ml water until the sugar has dissolved completely, then bring to the boil. Working quickly, slide the apricots into the pan, cut side down. Boil for 1 minute, then turn the apricots over and boil for 1 more minute (don’t poach the apricots for more than 2 minutes in all because you need them to hold their shape). Quickly remove the apricots from the pan and arrange, cut side down, on top of the jaggery caramel.

To make the cake, put the eggs, 100g caster sugar, butter, flour, baking powder and ground almonds into a bowl. Using either a food mixer, hand-held blender or good old wooden spoon, beat until the mixture falls off a spoon tapped on the side of the bowl. If it isn’t soft enough, add a tablespoon or two of the apricot poaching liquid.

Spread the cake mixture on top of the apricots and jaggery. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for a couple of minutes, loosen the sides by running a knife around the edge, then place a serving plate on top of the tin. Carefully flip the tin over to let the cake rest, jaggery and apricot side up. Serve warm with a huge dollop of cream.

Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. She blogs at https://eatanddust.wordpress.com

Write to Pamela at pieceofcake@livemint.com

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!

Uparwali Chai* at Sanskriti Kendra

Photo by Tom Pietrasik

Well, Laura and I are practically hyperventilating with excitement about our next Uparwali Chai* event.  On the 28th March, we’re hosting an afternoon tea-party in the gorgeous grounds of Sanskriti Kendra, one of Delhi’s best kept secrets.

It promises to be a really special afternoon: as well as the stunning garden setting, Sanskriti staff will be on hand to give guided tours of the Foundation’s lovingly-curated collection of terracotta, textiles and ‘everyday art’.

Photo by Tom Pietrasik

We’re already hard at work planning the menu – as before, it’ll be a feast (probably best to skip lunch!), ranging from curry puffs, smoked trout pate, cucumber sandwiches, tomato and basil tart and cheese pastries to rich coconut chocolate cake, macaroons, florentines, strawberry cupcakes and dropped scones.  All loving home-baked and served with the finest leaf and iced teas. We’ll be serving tea from 4pm but come earlier to enjoy the Sanskriti museums and grounds.

Tables are already going fast so book early! Either email me: uparwalichai@gmail.com or phone 9871927320.  Look forward to seeing you there.

The price will be  Rs 800 per person (Rs 400 for children)

Photo by Tom Pietrasik


*Uparwali Chai:  tea-time treats served with no restraint whatsoever

Behind the Scenes at Uparwali Chai: A Recipe for Curry Puffs

So the baking is well underway for Sunday’s Uparwali Chai (High Tea!). Although most of the things we make have to be made fresh on the day I like to get a headstart with the Curry Puffs, which we love for their Anglo Indian reference but mostly for their crispy, moreish deliciousness. It’s by far the most time-consuming item on the menu but worth it for all the oohs and aahs when we serve them.

Now I’m a bit of an obsessive when it comes to baking – I like to make everything from scratch – which is just as well because the Curry Puff recipe is from a fellow fundamentalist. Susan Jung is a friend who writes about food for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has never knowingly taken a shortcut in the kitchen. I’ve followed her Curry Puff recipe for every Uparwali Chai so far and they’ve always worked perfectly, mostly thanks to Susan’s detailed and precise instructions. She specifies lard or shortening which is tricky to come by in India (I usually get visiting friends to bring it over) but white butter makes a good substitute.

Here’s the link to the Curry Puff article and recipe Susan wrote for the South China Morning Post. I follow it almost to the letter – I add some salt to the dough and I make the pastry discs smaller to fit in my lovely gujjia moulds.

Susan Jung’s Curry Puff Recipe

Photo: Tom Pietrasik

Time for Tea: Upar-Wali Chai is Back!

Upar Wali Chai is back with two pop-up tea parties for spring. Early in December, we held our unforgettable first event at Gunpowder restaurant in Haus Khaz Village.  This time round, Laura and I are hosting at home.  On the 7th March the tables groaning with our home made goodies will be set on my roof terrace, on 14th March we’ll be crooking our pinkies at a top secret location!

MENU

Savoury

Cheese Pastries, Smoked Fish Pate/Aubergine Barta with Melba Toast, Curry Puffs, Cucumber Sandwiches (of course!), Mini Uttapam

Sweet

Scones with Home Made Lemon Curd, Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Icing, Cape Gooseberry Tarts, Fresh Raspberry Cupcakes, Pistachio Macaroons, Orange Tea Bread, Florentines

A Choice of Organic Leaf Teas

Time: 4pm

Price: 800 Rupees per person

Phone Pamela to reserve a table at either event: 9871927320

Book early – our last event was fully-booked in minutes!

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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