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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Season’s Greetings from INA Market

The bakery in INA Market was feeling festive yesterday – I couldn’t have put it better myself. Marry Christmax from me too!

Mince Pies for Christmas

All this chasing around after turkeys, tracking down Brussels sprouts and and non-stop catering doesn’t leave much time for blogging but I can’t let the season pass without sharing a couple of recipes without which, for me, Christmas simply cannot proceed.

The first is for Mincemeat – the best way to whip up some festive cheer, filling the kitchen with heavenly spiced fruit smells that instantly bring on that Christmassy feeling. I use the mincemeat to make sinfully moreish mince pies for drinks parties or as a dessert (preferably with brandy butter). I bought all the ingredients except suet in INA Market. Suet, grated beef fat, is a throwback to pre-refrigeration times when mincemeat was a way of preserving meat. It’s not absolutely necessary and even without it you’ll make mincemeat that’s a hundred times better than the shop-bought variety.  Beef and vegetarian suet is available at Modern Bazaar in Vasant Lok – although don’t be tempted by their ready-made mincemeat, it’s way too spicy.
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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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Moving House, Going Back in Time

Vegetables by Horse and CartLife certainly gets in the way of blogging sometimes!  My excuse this time is an unscheduled house move which, because of relentlessly spiralling rents in Delhi is becoming a fact of life for us here.

This is our 4th house in 4 years – you’d think we’d be getting good at it – but as we all know, there’s no quick or pain-free way to uproot.

The past three weeks have been a blur of packing and unpacking, an endless parade of tradesmen (none of whom seem to manage to leave us with broadband), and the frazzling effects of a whole family feeling out of sorts. There’s been precious little cooking and absolutely no blogging (this is being cobbled together on my phone and I feel as if I’m going to go blind!).

There was a moment of cheer the other morning though when I spotted our new neighbourhood’s sabzi wallah (veg man).

It turns out our daily greens are delivered on a horse and cart – that’s what happens when you seek out Delhi’s more ‘interesting’ locales! It gets better – not only do I get to live out an olden days rustic fantasy, according to my Hindi teacher, ‘Gori-Gari’ vegetables usually come direct from the village rather than the wholesale market in Delhi. How about that – my very own farm delivery service – now I just need to get the kitchen up and running!

Pumpkin, Melon, Cucumber? Mystery Solved and a New Salad Recipe

Phut SaladIf you’re paying close attention you’ll know that at the moment thousands broke their fast at the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi the other night, a group of us were having a lively debate about what exactly these are. Pumpkins in Old DelhiI had already conceded that I had been way off in thinking they were pumpkins; some thought they were Kharbooza melons, which they certainly resemble in size and colour and they definitely have a musky melony whiff about them.  But the Kharbooza camp was shouted down by a few who insisted they were ‘Kachri’, a type of gourd.  That appeared to be the end of the matter – even the man we’d bought them from called them kachri.

Back home, though,  a bit of quality time with Google threw up some startling findings.  Continue reading

A Glut of Pumpkins in Old Delhi

Old Delhi Pumpkins

Old Delhi Pumpkins

Don’t you just love a glut, when a fruit or vegetable  is at it’s bursting-with-flavour best, begging to be bought in absurdly large quantities, chaining you to the kitchen until you’ve captured its essence in a hundred different ways? Reading that back it strikes me I may be in a minority with this! Continue reading

Happy Easter

Hot Cross Buns

I rustled up these  delicious hot cross buns this morning using Delia Smith’s recipe and currants from INA market, or ‘blackcurrants’  as the shopkeeper insisted on calling them.  I couldn’t find mixed peel but it’s a bit pointless  in this house as the kids pick it all out anyway. Delia says you can’t use easy-blend yeast here  and as I only make them once a year, I usually obey.


Delia Smith’s Hot Cross Buns


50g caster sugar plus 1 teaspoon

150 ml hand hot water

1 level tablespoon dried yeast

450g plain flour

1 level tsp salt

1 rounded teaspoon ground mixed spice

75g currants (or ‘blackcurrants’ if you’re shopping at INA)

50g  cut mixed peel

40-55 ml warm milk

1 egg, beaten

50g melted butter

For the glaze:

2 tbs granulated sugar

2 tbs water

First stir the teaspoon of caster sugar into (150 ml) hand-hot water, then sprinkle in the dried yeast and leave it until a good frothy ‘beer’ head forms.

Meanwhile sift the flour, salt and mixed spice into a mixing bowl and add the remaining (50 g) of sugar, the currants and mixed peel. Then make a well in the centre, pour in the yeast mixture plus  (40 ml) of milk (again hand-hot), the beaten egg and the melted butter. Now mix it to a dough, starting with a wooden spoon and finishing with your hands (add a spot more milk if it needs it).

Then transfer the dough on to a clean surface and knead it until it feels smooth and elastic – about 6 minutes. Now pop it back into the bowl, cover the bowl with a lightly oiled plastic bag, and leave it in a warm place to rise – it will take about an hour to double its original size. Then turn it out and knead it again, back down to its original size.

Divide the mixture into 12 round portions, arrange them on the greased baking sheet (allowing plenty of room for expansion), and make a deep cross on each one with a sharp knife. Leave them to rise once more, covering again with the oiled polythene bag, for about 25 minutes. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to gas mark 7, 425°F (220°C).

Bake the buns for about 15 minutes. Then, while they’re cooking, melt the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water for the glaze over a gentle heat and brush the buns with it as soon as they come out of the oven, to make them nice and sticky.


Worm-Free Rice


In the slew of cookbooks I got for my birthday, there was this gem, from ‘Parsi Kitchen’ by Jeani Mohindra:


To protect rice from worms, put a few

garlic flakes inthe container