Missing You Already!

So this is it, after 10 amazing years, time to say goodbye
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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.


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