Tag Archives: Goa

A Bombay bombardment of Damn Good Curry, supperclub-style

Standard

Damn Good Curry Bombay Meri Jaan

The rain streaming down the windows may say Maharashtrian monsoon, but the motley diners trickling in to take their places around the nattily attired tables speak firmly of East London. The accent you catch snatches of from the kitchen, meanwhile, blends the both as perfectly as the masala in the steaming hot chai that’s the essential elixir for such foul weather.

Happily, there’s nothing foul about the Damn Good Curry to be served shortly, whether you’re from Bombay or Blighty. Tonight’s menu is a melange of the myriad influences that render the culinary culture of that Indian city so rich; a banquet which demands a pre-feast fast in order to savour every dish with due relish.

At the Damn Good Curry supperclub, you can always guarantee relish both figurative and literal. This time around, the latter is delivered as a triple-threat – in the form of a herbal, tangy green chutney; a deceptively virginal, snow-white coconut stuff that packs a killer chilli kick, and a nicely roasty-toasty number made with ground gram.

Damn God Curry Methu vada

I’d be happy enough to play Little Jack Horner, hudged up in a kitchen corner with just a pot of each plus spoon for my own staff meal, but then I’d miss the chance to play Little Miss Muffet with the curds that will later come my way in the form of Nilanjani’s Gujarati-style kadhi – a treat from her extensive recipe repertoire I’m yet to eat.

 In the meantime, I’m green with envy watching guests swooshing samosas through the verdant chutney and dolloping the besan and coconut condiments onto vada so light they threaten to float off my serving plate when I take round seconds, thirds, and finally fourths. This bunch know how to go forth and munch – and why not, when the food is this fine? Ragra pattice is a chaat that stops conversation as tongues are wrapped around its many textures and tastes.

Damn Good Curry Bombay ragra pattice

With eating engines well oiled, it’s time to parade round the pav. The buttered bread rolls are a Bombay mainstay, used to sandwich potato fritters in the classic vada pav and, as these diners are discovering, sop up deeply flavoured keem peas and pav bhaji , the innocent vegetable mush that you can’t believe contains almost its own weight of butter in a single serving. The dish gives a whole new meaning to ‘well-lubricated guests’.

‘Riceless’ is not a happy state to be in when you’re lapping up diverse delicacies of the state of Maharashtra. And a carb excess is a price diners are obviously willing to pay. Along with those plenitudinous piles of pav already demolished, the mountains of fluffy white Basmati are soon molehills once the main course arrives.

Most people have dabbled with a dhansak, albeit of the ‘curryhouse’ kind.  But the authentic Parsi preparation that lends its name to that menu mainstay bears little relation to the one you get delivered to your door. Tonight’s version cloaks chunks of mutton in a silky gravy made with slow-cooked lentils and veggies including aubergine – the inclusion of which betrays the dish’s Persian roots.

BffmE_UIMAApoAy

As you hope and expect, the meat falls from the bone. And, as you hope and expect, it’s served on said bone – the sucking of which is undoubtedly the best part of this particular Damn Good Curry. Sai bhaji is slurped with the same vigour by the vegetarians – the Sindhi dish’s sinful buttery taste derived from the dill added by the bunch to this hearty, wholesome hotchpotch.

If sai bhaji wasn’t soothing enough, the kadhi is enough to sweeten even the most sour of temperaments. The simple sour yogurt soup is tempered with spices and a good jigger of jaggery which imparts that subtle sweetness the Gujarati palate finds so pleasing. The East End one is similarly fond of the flavour, too, judging by the bottom-scraped bowls I carry back to the kitchen.

Damn Good Curry Bombay pau bhaji

Time for Baath. Not because the guests are in a mess, but because the tables have been cleared to make way for the dessert Nilanjani can’t resist serving even though it’s slipped up from the more Southerly state of Goa. Good job it’s made the journey to tonight’s menu – because this irresistible rose-imbued semolina-and-coconut cake doesn’t even leave a telltale trail of crumbs in its wake.

No-one wants to wake from this brilliant Bombay dream and head back into the wet, wild Walthamstow night. But like all good things, sublime supperclubs must eventually come to an end – in spite of one overhead diner’s wish to the contrary as belts are loosened and coats are donned and buttoned up tight.

Just like the innumerable dishes of the vibrant city she’s celebrating tonight, Nilanjani’s own remit is pretty endless – as, it seems, is the appetite for Damn Good Curry. Be it a blinding Bombay banquet you can’t stop banging on about, or a Goa glut that gets gluttons going, this is one supperclub that delivers exactly what it says on the tin every single time.

Baath Damn Good Curry cake

An inimitable Indian Christmas, Part 4 – Nice little nibbles and rocking recipes

Standard

Indian Rose biscuits

You really shouldn’t read recipes on an empty stomach. I’m sure medical experts would agree it’s simply not good for you. Christmas is a time for healthy appetites and less-than-healthy treaty eats – the one season where you can decadently declare ‘a chocolate orange a day keeps the doctor away’.

So, then, if I care to share this supreme selection of festive recipes, I felt I also better bring you some ready-made gourmet goodies to crunch, munch and relish as you chew over which of the discussed dishes will maketh the most marvellous menus for festive feasting. Ready…Set…Scoff!

bombay-mix-2-365_l

Nice little nibbles

Whatever culture you come from, at Christmas it’s important to have enough snacks around to sate the appetite of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the three kings, the shepherds, their flocks, and whoever else should happen to flock through your door.

My best suggestion? Get in a selection of these snacks for times when you lack just that precious commodity; or have simply lost the will to play Desi Domestic Goddess (or God, for that matter). Chill out and chow down; these munchables are much too good to miss.

fortnum_pies

Fortnum & Mason 3 Kings Petit Fours mince pies

Fortnum’s is a purveyor of the sort of princely pastry that crumbles in a heart-melting manner the moment you tuck in. And these 3 Kings mince pies are a right royal treat. Caspar’s pie includes Indian-inspired ingredients, spiced with garam masala and cardamom, warm with myrrh and chilli. Melchior’s and Balthazar’s, meanwhile, feature flavours equally at home on the subcontinent – Persian rose, pistachio and varak; and frankinscence; mint and Arabic spices.

Rani's Quality Mixture

Rani’s Quality Mixture

It’s Bombay Mix, Jim, but not as you may know it. Rani’s marvellous Mixture is made with a not-so-secret seven ingredients that come together in a cracking collision of flavours and textures that’ll have you scoffing the South-Indian-style snack by the handful ‘til the tree comes down and the ‘New Year, New You’ regime kicks in. It’s a Great Taste Award winner, and gets a gold star from me, too. Quality by name, it does what it says on the tin – and is more welcome than the tired tin of Quality Street.

sweet-karma-dessert-samosa

Sweet Karma samosas

Forget the matter of a frozen party platter and fill your freezer and your folks with Neeta Mehta’s sweet samosas instead. These tricky little triangles conceal fillings with real appeal for the sweet of tooth – Belgian dark chocolate ganache or cinnamon-spiked apple. At less than 100 calories apiece, you can merrily chomp away with relative peace of mind. If you’re catering for a crowd, ask about super-sized sacks, also available in mango and raspberry renditions.

1474628_677791505575805_1013100167_n

Howdah Food’s savoury snacks

Howdah’s superior snacks are stocked in Harrods – howzat for a testament to taste? A cut above the standard mass-produced munchies, the six-strong selection comprises Bombay puris, masala-ed or peppered banana chips, peanut pakora, onion bhaji, and ‘Bakerwadi bites’- crisp pinwheels with a spicy swirl. Pays your money, takes your choice;  and rest assured that everything from this British-based bijou family business is made with local ingredients and is as authentic as can be.

Indian Rose barfi

Indian Rose sweets and biscuits

I’m certain you’ll be a fan of Sonia Chandsure’s brilliant biscuits and burfi. It’s lush stuff. The almost-juicy coconut burfi is made to her Granny’s recipe; evidently a lady of great taste, as she adds almonds and apricots to the heavenly hash. For a munch with more crunch, Sonia’s heart-shaped shortbreads are heart-stoppingly buttery, sweetly spicy, and prettily patterned with henna-inspired designs which illustrate this post so perfectly. Next time, my designs are set firmly on her chai custard tarts…

biogreen lychee lassi

Bio Green’s Lychee Lassi

Lychees are luscious, and a bowl full of the spiky-shelled fruits makes Christmas even more cracking.  True fact. Another truism is that lassi is lovely for troubled tums over-stretched with festive feasts. But the two together? Sounds like a tall story, and one I wasn’t sure I’d be happy to swallow. However, I ended up eating my words washed down with a long glass of this low-fat loveliness.  A sweet surprise to be kept firmly out of Santa’s greedy gaze.

Duke of Delhi festive mix

Duke of Delhi Limited Edition Festive Delhi Mix

The Queen’s guards might have been berated for liberating standard-issue Bombay mix, but they’ve evidently not tried this tasty treat. Because one is a little more discerning once one has dined on Delhi Mix. In my palace, if the snacks are out, it’s a safe bet the Duke’s about.

This year, my Christmas has been cheered no end by the news that Asif Walli’s fine-tuned a festive blend featuring cloves, cinnamon, pistachios and candied orange peel. Now that’s a snack worth snatching – get yours exclusively from Fortnum & Mason’s foodhall.

And to take care of the turkey…

?????????

Green Saffron’s ‘Turkey Delight

Turkey will happen, no matter how much you flap about trying something new. And then you’ll inevitably need to gobble the plentiful remains. Nothing new there, either. But you can liven up the leftovers no end with Green Saffron’s magical masala. As a product particularly manufactured to minimise festive food waste, ‘Turkey Delight‘ won a Sial D’or retail award. The irony is, it makes turkey so darn tasty, you might just need a bigger bird…

Huge food selection

Rocking Recipes

Fear not, for this festive collection is free from forcemeat, and there’s not a cocktail sausage in sight. It won’t tell you how to boil a Brussel; but it will inspire you to add a little India to your season’s eatings. And surely getting to grips with subcontinental Christmas cooking is a prospect far tastier than trussing yet another tired turkey?

Damn Good Curry's Baath

Damn Good Curry’s Baath

Goa

Goa’s the place to go if you feel Christmas should be, quite literally a sweet celebration. The Portuguese left a lovely legacy in the form of cakes, bakes and other festive treats collectively known as ‘kuswar’. Of course, there are meaty main meals to balance the blood sugar, but as a mithai addict I choose to send my own through the roof with eggy, coconutty confections.

Starting, perhaps, with baath. Not a good clean before I cook – rather, the super-soaked semolina and coconut cake in which Damn Good Curry supperclub diners delight. Recipes from My Diverse Kitchen or A Brown Table will see you right.

Primed for a project? Getting stuck into the  custard-y. multi-layered Goan favourite, bibinca, will keep you busy for a bit. It might well be a white Christmas after you’ve used all those yolks, so this coconut cake is a tasty place to use up any remaining egg whites.

Like coconut ice? Cocada’s every bit as nice, with the added substance of semolina. Try Hilda’s, or this from Goan Food Recipes. If you’re more of a fudge fanatic, make this melt-in-the-mouth milk cream, or chew on chonya doce – a sweetmeat made with Bengal gram and the ubiquitous coconut. Hilda and Goan Food Recipes have the gyaan on how to stir (and stir, and stir) up something sublime.

Forget munching mince pies – I say out with the old, in with the neureos. These little fried pastry turnovers are filled with a moreish mixture of semolina, seeds, coconut and dryfruits. Although a big part of the Christian Christmas kitchen, neureos have Hindu influence, as do kulkuls – sugary little treats sweet enough to make your dentist’s toes curl.

No matter – sample these little shells from Goan Food Recipes, Anglo-Indian Recipes, or Cook in a Curry, and you’ll be flashing a toothy grin. Favour your pastry shapes a little more floral? Hilda’s kormolas are named for the flower buds they resemble.

 Is Goa’s godshe named for the female goddess who first created this sweet treat? The porridge-like payasam is made with rice, coconut milk and moong dal, and derives its handsome hue from local pyramid jaggery. Heavenly indeed.

My Diverse Kitchen's Achappams

My Diverse Kitchen’s Achappams

Kerala

Talking of heaven, Kerala is the state known as ‘God’s Own Country’. It’s also a place with a sizeable and significant Christian population, and some darn fine festive fare.  For a full day’s Christmas menu to keep you full ‘til New Year’s Day, Kitchen Mish Mash’s bumper collection has a good spread of recipes like this duck roast to replace the traditional turkey.

Plum cake is the state’s own answer to the British fruitcake – try recipes from My Diverse Kitchen, Kitchen Mish Mash, Zesty South Indian Kitchen, Swapna, Cooking and Me, or this eggless version from Veg Recipes of India. If you like your slice served up with a good dollop of food for thought, peruse food anthropologist Ammini Ramachandran’s plum cake piece.

Fertile Kerala’s rice is really rather nice, and the flour adds a wonderfully crispness to all manner of crunchy snacks. It’s apt that My Diverse Kitchen and Zesty South Indian Kitchen tell us that Christmas achappams are also known as ‘rosette cookies’, because these babies are sure to be a winner with all your festive guests.

Just as moreish but rather more savoury are the kuzhalappams that Zesty South Indian kitchen makes in the same fancy moulds or rolls into brandy-snap shapesMy Diverse Kitchen’s avalose is similarly versatile – the rice-coconut-jaggery mixture served as a dry podi or rolled into little laddoos.

The wine’s also fine in Kerala – although people prefer to start with grapes rather than the water Jesus transformed. Catholics toast His birthday with a glass of homemade sweet wine – Kitchen Mish Mash shares a story and a recipe, whilst the awesome Ammini Ramachandran talks tradition.  Thirsty for more? Swapna swaps grapes for jackfruit, guava, and mango. Cheers!

Pukka Paki's Mince pies

Pukka Paki’s Mince pies

Pakistan

Pakistan’s Christian community may be small, but Christmas is still big business. As the big day coincides with country founder Jinnah’s birthday, it’s also a wonderfully unifying time for folks of all religious persuasions. ‘Pukka Paki’ Sumayya Jamil and Mehrunnisa Yusuf, aka Come Con Ella, have some lipsmacking recipes built on their festive recollections.

Badam ka Sharbut might be a beverage imbibed on most high days and holidays, but only Mehrunnisa’s slips down with a super story which presents the drink as a cracking Christmas gift idea. Sumayya’s citrus-imbued nankhatai biscuits would be similarly well-received.

If you’re receiving festive guests, it’s traditional to treat them to a mince pie – even more of a treat when they’re Sumayya’s star-anise-and-saffon specimens. If you’re tired of turkey, her sweetly fragrant Kashmiri-style leg of lamb makes a fine feast.

Sri Lanka Food's Christmas cake

Sri Lanka Food’s Christmas cake

Sri Lanka

Should Santa slip a few Amazon vouchers in your stocking, spend them on Serendip – Peter Kuruvita’s delectable cookbook-cum-memoir. This was the book that first introduced me to the sumptuous Sri Lankan Christmas cake – a concept that captured my imagination and I’ve yet to try.

If you fancy trying your hand at the fruity beauty, crammed with chow chow preserves, rose, cashews, semolina , spice, and oh-so-much more, these recipes from Budh Kuddeh and Sri Lanka Food are worth a go.  Three Little Halves’ version is served with a story on the history of this tasty bake.

Sadly, Peter’s own isn’t online, but his take on the country’s classic Portuguese-influenced Love Cake is. This cake might not classically cry ‘Christmas’, but I for one would love a piece on my festive table to mark peace on earth.

Kamala's Christmas kolam - click for more

Kamala’s Christmas kolam – click for more

South India

My Diverse Kitchen divulges that South Indians are as partial to a savoury snack as the police officers who pinched the Queen’s Bombay Mix in Britain. For Christians, Christmas means chakli; these crunchy, spicy spirals popular from Maharastra to Mangalore, known as ‘murukkus’ in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Kamala’s Corner suggests more celebratory sweet and savoury snacks scoffed throughout the South at Christmas, along with a few festive ‘kolams’ (rangoli). These designs are displayed daily during the Tamil month ‘Margazhi’, traditionally given a Christmas theme for the big day itself across all religions.

Dodol

Dodol

Anglo-Indian

When it comes to documenting the edible history of the Anglo-Indian community, Bridget White-Kumar is the lady with the learnings. When it comes to Christmas, she shares a super selection of suggestions. Dodol is a divine, pitch black halwa popular in both Goa and Kerala, whose treacly taste calls to mind Christmas pud and all things good.

A good breakfast sets you up for a big day, and there’s no bigger day than Christmas. Almorth – a mixed meat stew – is a must for the Anglo-Indian festive morning meal. For lunch, Ox tongue roast is merrily munched, often accompanied by mustard sauce, of course.

All that savoury got you craving sweet? This jalebi caramel custard is syrupy enough to kill any craving; a triple-threat pud combining bitter-sweet caramel sauce with softly quivering custard studded with broken leftover jalebis… although in my house, the notion of ‘leftover jalebis’ is considered an apocryphal tale.

KO Rasoi's Cardamom wreath

KO Rasoi’s Cardamom wreath

Indian fusion

And then, of course, we have Indian-influenced recipes. Just as Elton John invites you to ‘step into Christmas’, I invite you to step away from tradition and give these a whirl. Fusion’s a funny old thing; equally likely to be inspired or insane. Rest assured; I might be a little crazy, but these festive feasts are all foods plucked firmly from the former category.

Chintal Kakaya’s choc-nut-berry clusters look very merry, the fruity flavours zipped up with a hint of lime. That lady evidently has a taste for the tangy – her chilli and beetroot chutney has a twangy tamarind twist.

Deena Kakaya’s also been inspired to put a new twist on chutney, basing her butternut version on happy halwa memories. For something a little fruitier and just as festive, her tomato, pineapple and cucumber chutney is the perfect preserve. Looking for a gift someone will receive with real relish? Present them with Deena’s superbly-spiced fruit and nut mix.

Mix things up still further with Angela Malik’s Bollywood yule log and KO Rasoi’s incredible and very edible cardamom wreath. Cardamom also features in the creative lass’ cherry-studded seeroh, whilst her eggless custard creams are redolent of rose, taking their Christmas cue from two essential gourmet goodies: Turkish Delight, and the non-negotiable biscuit box.

There are more biscuits to be made from Uma’s Kitchen Experiments, where semolina cookies come in rainbow coloursManju Malhi’s, meanwhile, are somewhat spicier. Rinku Bhattacharya swaps semolina for roasty, toasty almond meal in her festive nankhatai.

Cakes must be baked at Christmas. Steer clear of the classic, roll up your sleeves, and get stuck in to Vegan Richa’s version. It might be eggless, boozeless, and wholesome, but it’s also wholly, jolly good. Rinku Bhattacharya adds a little Anglo-Indian exotica with her coconut-laced fruitcake, while Dassana deviates with fresh plums. Catholic-raised Bombay Chowparty was less of a fan of the Christmas plum cake she grew up with – until she renovated the recipe with a zingy citrus makeover to make it sing.

Something smaller more suitable? Indiaphile suggests spicing classic cupcakes softly with saffron and getting them sloshed on red wine caramel (perhaps made using the dregs of a loved batch of Angela Malik’s festive mulled wine); or lacing the batter with ginger before stuffing the baked cakes with chai cream. And, when dessert inspiration has deserted you and the pressure is on, Cooking and Me has the answer – an innovative eggless cake ‘baked’ in a pressure cooker. A nifty gift I’m happy to bestow upon you.

Deena Kakaya's Tomato chutney

Deena Kakaya’s Tomato, pineapple & cucumber chutney

This year’s BBC series ‘The Incredible Spicemen’ was undoubtedly one of the best gifts Auntie’s bestowed upon our tiny isle. We all ate up Tony Singh and Cyrus Todiwala’s entertaining banter, so it’s only fit we should feast in fittingly festive recipes from the show. Those in the know understand that Sir Singh likes a wee dram, used to dramatic effect in his creamy cranachan.

The Spicemen’s super cardamom and chocolate torte is the perfect retort to any pitiable fool who doubts the ambrosial alchemy of a sprinkle of spice with something sweet. The treacle pud is good for families who would happily forgo the conventional Christmas cannonball but still want a sweet, sticky festive finale.

Before the big day proper comes the parties, and ‘Miss Masala‘ Mallika Basu is a big fan of peshwari naan to feed revellers with rumbly tums. When they get too rowdy, bring out Angela Malik’s Maharaja red velvet cheesecake - guaranteed to render the crowd completely speechless. Prefer something savoury? These pastry puffs from Uma’s Kitchen Experiments are shaped like pinwheels and enclose a whole egg – ideal Christmas canapés.

You’ll need something suitably celebratory to sip whilst you nibble and make merry. If you’re not excited by eggnog, a glass of A Brown Table’s almond-milk thandai is gloriously gluggable – but, refreshingly, a little less likely to contribute to that ‘Christmas padding’ than that fatty festive favourite.

A wise word on the Big Feast:  You might be sick of soggy sprouts, but no Christmas table can be truly complete without the critters. So try Nisha Katona’s. There’s not many veggies that aren’t vastly improved with a pinch of Bengali paanch phoron, y’see. Brave enough to stuff the trad turkey? Serve Angela Malik’s majestic masala-roasted cauliflower as your Christmas centrepiece instead.

And finally… if you’re so ahead of that yourself you’re planning the party menu for New Year’s Eve, add Indiaphile’s rhubarb jalebis to the festive repast.

So the restaurants have been recommended, the halls decked with these decorations, the gift buying guided by this super selection, and the Christmas cooking is cracked. Now all that remains is for me to simply wish you all a very very Merry Christmas.

Or…

‘Bade din ki badhai ho’ (Hindi)

‘Krismas Mubarak’ (Urdu)

‘Sāl Mūbārak’ (Gujarati)

‘Krismasasya shubhkaamnaa’ (Sanskrit)

‘Shubho bôṛodin’ (Bengali)

‘Christmas matrum puthaandu vaazthukkal’ (Tamil)

 ‘Karisama te nawāṃ sāla khušayāṃwālā hewe’ (Punjabi)

‘Khushal Borit Natala’ (Konkani)

‘Christmas inte mangalaashamsakal’ (Malayalam)

However you say it, have a good ‘un. Just like the lovely Arun & Olive Kapil of Green Saffron in this pic…

Arun & Olive

A few more tasty festive delights to gobble up like your Christmas dinner:

Mr Todiwala’s brand new book: Bombay, or bust?

Standard

BOMBAY JACKET

I couldn’t bear to be let down by the big warm bear that is Cyrus Todiwala. As well as being one of Britain’s best-known Indian chefs, forming half of those Incredible Spice Men, and earning a reputation as an outspoken advocate for British produce; he, his wife Pervin, and the whole Cafe Spice family are great friends of mine.

So I wouldn’t let him get away with short-changing me in sharing his vision of his beloved Bombay with his latest cookbook. But as soon as I pull my copy of ‘Mr Todiwala’s Bombay‘ from its cardboard sleeve I know I, and he, can breathe a sigh of relief; me because it’s a beauty, Cyrus because he won’t have me on his back.

Both the back and front covers are adorned with the images that imbue the whole tome so richly with a sense of place.  Bombay is one of those places it’s possible to be nostalgic for without even ever having visited, that hazy, polluted fug rendering it more romantically than any Instagram filter could. Photographer Helen Cathcart boasts the sort of talent that makes you tingle, whether capturing a shining shoal of fish or the chef reclining in a rickety Irani cafe.

Londoners will know a little of the latter if they’ve discovered Dishoom; a restaurant whose studious efforts to effortlessly capture the essence of a Bombay hangout have expats eulogising about its power to transport. ‘Mr Todiwala’s Bombay’ has trapped just the same feeling between its covers . Forget the airfare and the Visa – try taking a copy onto Dishoom’s verandah to browse over a bun maska.

BOMBAY 2

Just like that restaurant, the book is one I can’t wait to share with Bombay buddies. I’d love to send a copy to Kalyan Karmakar, aka award-wining blogger Finely Chopped, who has taken the city into his heart as his adopted home. There’s a little piece of his heart at Dishoom, too – he inscribed his fondest cafe memory onto one of the dishes in the restaurant’s ‘Plate Wallah’ project.

As did Urvashi Roe, fellow Blog Tour reviewer and another fine friend. Sharing food and friendship with folks like this pair, plus Damn Good Curry’s Nilanjani Pai; cricket fanatic and all-round good egg Eklavya Gupte; Bombaywalla Blog’s Simin Patel; the Bawi Bride, Parsi cook Perzen Patel; and the Todiwalas already brings a little of Bombay to Britain for me. This book does just the same.

Mr Todiwala’s Bombay’ reeks of India in her finest fragrance – exuding exotic perfume as if it’s chewed a whole box of sweet supari before breathing its sweet nothings into your senses. Cyrus writes as he speaks; you feel he’s confiding his love for the city to you alone, persuading you to visit through the pitter-patter of his prose and the relating of his fond recollections.

Not to mention the recipes. When ‘Mr Todiwala’s Bombay’ arrives, I flip through – slowly at first, then faster as I excitedly discover dishes I already know and love from eating Nilanjani’s ‘Damn Good Curry‘ – foogath, paneer bhurji, sol kadhi.  At the book’s launch, she’s just the same; perusing each page with a smile, a nod, a nostalgic tilt of her head. I’ve been moved to make something from the book as a good luck gift for Cyrus.

Patrani Macchi

It might seem crazy of me to prepare patrani macchi for his party – but there’s nothing fishy about this dishy. I appeal to Cyrus to peel back the leaves to reveal a sleek silver specimen; but this fellow is carved from chocolate, not born of the ocean.  He declares it to be an especially auspicious present to present and I’m duly delighted by his delight – but, to be honest, the need for luck is lacking.

Because ‘Mr Todiwala’s Bombay’ is brilliant. It’s rare that a chef is so completely bound within a book, but this one absolutely abounds with Cyrus’ character. It’s warm, informative, eye-opening and, I sincerely suspect, eye-moistening for anyone who knows and loves the city whose cuisine it celebrates.  It’s more than just a cookbook – it’s a travelogue with tales that truly transport.

All that’s all well and good, but do the recipes live up to the rest? After a trio of lick-the-plate-clean-experiments, I’d say so.  Despite a ‘Magic Bullet’ that fails to conjure a silky-smooth masala, xit ani nishtya chi kodi  – Goan fish curry – sizzles and sings; sweet onion, creamy coconut, sour-smoky kokum. Yum.

Growing up on my late, great Nanny Win’s savoury mince and coddled eggs, kheema pur eeda sends me straight back to the nursery (actually, back to the kitchen for a slice of well-buttered white toast to mop up). My Mumbai no frankie frankly has no egg roti; but the spiced, diced lamb filling is resplendent in its nudity nonetheless.

BOMBAY 3

Dishes are replicated faithfully and authentically, no matter how esoteric the edible, recipes are always straightforward and from-scratch. I can’t claim quite the same, having taken a slight shortcut with dhania-jeera powder from my shiny new @SpiceKitchenUK masala dabba – but the lively, oven-roasted, hand-ground blend works a treat.

All the treats I’ve tried at Cafe Spice Namaste are pleasantly present and correct, including the whole meal we ate there the year Dad’s birthday coincided with Parsi New Year. Having the recipes for jardaloo ma murghi and langan nu custarr to replicate this feast means a time-tested tradition can create new traditions for my British family, Bombay-ing up birthdays for the foreseeable future.

If I have one niggle, it’s that the wriggly, superfine font waifishly whispers, whilst Cyrus’ big boom needs boldness. When everything else about ‘Mr Todiwala’s Bombay’ hits the nail resoundingly on the head, this seems a slight oversight. But it’s perfectly pretty, and certainly won’t deter me from dipping in on a frighteningly frequent basis – there’s many a masala to master!

So the city has a new and unexpected outpost. It’s not a regional restaurant or official embassy. Rather, a tiny kitchen in an Essex country cottage; garlanded with stands of plastic flowers, adorned with picture postcards purloined from Dishoom, cupboards straining at the seams with spices. Mr Todiwala is here, and I’m in Bombay; feet on the cold tile floor, head and heart in the foreign land I feel I know.

My Dad/the birthday boy/Best-Built Parsi 1960

My Dad/the birthday boy/Best-Built Parsi 1960

To read the other reviews on the week-long ‘Mr Todiwala’s Bombay’ blog tour, click on the links below:

 

 

An Indian Summer wonderfully well spent

Standard

Indian collage

Summer time is a happy time for busy bees, and accordingly, saw me buzzing all over London; having a thoroughly capital time indulged and involved with all sorts of edible Indian excitement. There was street food, there were sweets, there were cocktails…

And there was, of course, a certain degree of curry. In fact, summer got off to a saucy start with a delicious duo of the spicy stews – one Yasmin Choudhury’s pioneering Lovedesh Woodfired Curry, the other a truly Damn Good Curry. The former was cooked one lazy, hazy afternoon in the unlikely environs of South Norwood.

We scraped, we chopped, we pounded, just like the women in rural Bangladeshi villages, as Yasmin trialled one of her innovative ideas designed to enlighten Westerners to the artisan skills of underexplored third world countries. It might have been the exertion, it might have been knowing the story of our supper, but it slipped down a treat.

And the Lovedesh Woodfired concept also curried favour with food bloggers at the Food Blogger Connect conference, enticed by the dancing flames caressing the pot, and the burning passion for the cause that gets Yasmin so hot under the collar. Scorchio! And the heat stayed on for me, getting to grips with serving Nilanjani Pai’s Damn Good Curry to a whole hot mess of spice-lovers.

Meen pappas at Cinnamon Culture

Meen pappas at Cinnamon Culture

Luckily, they loved it – and continue to lap it up at each and every event. Lately, Nilanjani’s cajoling her guests to go and try Goan. Having scoffed my fair share of kitchen scraps, I would very much suggest the same… As would my dear old Dad, who Nilanjani treated to a feast as a birthday gift. He had a pretty spicy summer, in fact – we’d shared a delectable dinner at Cinnamon Culture just days before.

Taking a beloved birthday bloke out for a meal is always risky business, and so I travelled with trepidation. But as Dad dolloped the last morsels of Syrian Christian buffalo curry onto his plate and declared it his best experience of Indian fine dining to date, I knew I’d picked a winner. Actually, I knew as soon as I bit into the tender, mixed-nut-packed Peshwari naan, but I needed to hear it from the horse’s mouth too.

Speaking of horses, Camden Stables market saw some new Indian additions over the summer. Stumbling over the cobbles, I stumbled upon a tiny Nepali cafe, dwarfed in decor by the splendiferous Gilgamesh but far more bewitching when it came to the menu. Up towards the roundhouse, I sniffed out pretty kickin’ kachoris at the Radhe stall. My friend Poornima relished more Radhe as she roved around the neighbourhood on her unending Biryani Quest.

I love setting more Indian food lovers off on their own quests, so I was thrilled to be involved with drafting in charity champions for Find Your Feet’s Curry for Change launch at Cinnamon Kitchen – and extra-specially thrilled to have Vivek Singh, Dhruv Baker and Anjum Anand cook me dinner. I co-ordinated a pretty tasty fieldtrip to the wilds of West London, too, where Potli opened its Indian market kitchen to serve us up a selection of esoteric regional street eats.

Indie Ices tuktuk Asha

Some Indian foodies spent summer on the streets. That’s not to say they’re on their uppers; rather, on the up and up! Street food purveyors Rola Wala and Manjit’s Kitchen were shortlisted for the Young British Foodie awards along with brilliant Brindian baker Pistachio Rose. Indie Ices’  Mike Tattershall was simply on fire, with his custom tuk tuk Asha up for the British Street Food Best Looking Mobiler award and a flurry of media coverage. Lucky, then, he has his kulfi to help him keep his cool.

Ivor Peters, Indunil Sanchi and I could all have done with some of that kulfi as we sweated it out in the kitchen at Ivor’s launch party for ‘The Urban Rajah’s Curry Memoirs‘. Indi was undoubtedly the coolest customer, showing us why he’s achieved the accolade of Pub Curry Chef of the Year for three years on the trot as he banged out bhajis to hold back the hungry hoards.

They say if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. But at Dishoom, it was more a case of ‘get out of the restaurant’. So on a super-sultry Sunday, we obeyed the adage, decamping to the wonderfully rickety, shabby and oh-so-chic verandah for bottomless chai, cocktails and spicy chat both on the plate and in the air.

A couple of weeks later, it was celebration that was in the air at that old Bombay cafe. The promise of Eid festivities lured folks from all walks of life, united in their love for terrific tales, juicy fresh paan, some rather marvellous mendhi, mithai galor. Eid at Dishoom was no washout – all the action washed down with enough chai to sink a tea clipper.

Janmashtami

At the tail end of summer I clip-clopped right out of town, making my first pilgrimage to the legendary Bhaktivedanta Manor, near Watford, for the legendary Janmashtami celebrations. This annual Hindu festival marks Krishna’s earthy arrival – and Bhaktivedanta Manor’s festivities marked the arrival of a mind-boggling 70,000 revellers. With singing, dancing, the chance to view ones’ icons, and quite literally divine food, it was rather like attending a music festival; only far more enjoyable.

Know what else was enjoyable, and continues to make the seasonal transition not-so-sour? The Incredible Spicemen, that’s what. After widespread disillusionment with recent Indian food programming, Cyrus Todiwala and Tony Singh burst onto the BBC in a breath of fresh air scented liberally with spice. Their unique brand of Brindian fusion means this is one dynamic duo I’m always happy to make a date with.

Keep it under your dhoti, but I’m also dotty about another dynamic duo, and planning to two-time those first two in October. But when you clock the Great Indian Food Feast my old comrades Ivor Peters and Indiunil Sanchi are planning to cook up at the Bermondsey Square Hotel, I know you’ll forgive me my infidelity.  Who could resist?

So that was my summer. And I couldn’t resist immortalising it in the crazy collage that captures the cracking edible Indian adventures that crammed the season and crowns this blogpost. Happily, the fun doesn’t stop – I’m currently salivating over Duke of Delhi’s divine Delhi-mix-dotted chocolate and anticipating Devnaa’s new book of Gujarati vegetarian family recipes. Then there’s the Halal Food Festival…  Heck, I’m already hungry for harvest-time.

The Incredible Spicemen

Gourmet Goa – How Damn Good Curry put the state on London’s plate

Standard

Damn Good Curry

In Britain, Goa lures the masses to its sunshine coastline by whispering exotic paradise promises of palm-fringed beaches. But it really rather rarely bellows about its cuisine. In fact, the most that most folks can ascribe to the area is the curryhouse classic that puts many in a right state, but never fails to fail to transport one to the diminutive state – the vindaloo.

And they’re not wrong to do so – But the Brindian restaurant rendition, typified by a few lumps of potato and excessive use of chilli powder, is a world away from the pungent garlic, vinegar and fresh red chilli stew derived from the Portuguese vino d’alhos, left as a legacy of 400 years of occupation. This is no tarted–up take on a basic curry gravy – rather, a fresh, vibrant, hot-spicy thing of splendour.

It’s also something you’ll find primarily prepared by Goa’s Christian population. Damn Good Curry supperclub host, Nilanjani Pai, says that, if you detect vinegar in a dish, it’s likely to belong to this community. But a taste for a ‘tang’ isn’t limited to Goan Christians – it’s much-loved by every faith, achieved variously through use of tamarind, lime and the intriguingly sour-smoky kokum.

Nilanjani’s personal expression of Goan food draws more heavily from the Hindu table, featuring dishes like prawns in a coconut gravy – celebrating both the bounty of the Arabian sea and the fruits of the highly-revered coconut palm. But this lady’s also developed a taste for choris, a vinegar-spiked, spiced pork sausage which evolved from the original Portuguese chorizo to suit local palates.

Fiona Barrows DGC table

And it’s fair to say that Nilanjani’s take on Goan fare certainly seems to have curried favour amongst the local population this evening, although we’re in East London, not Western India. The weather might be cooler, but the menu is, in the host’s own words, ‘hot hot hot’ – and the 27 Damn Good Curry supperclub guests are unanimous in a committed culinary quest to spice up their lives.

And if whole gram-battered chillies won’t heat up the evening, nothing will. The group is game, and Nilanjani can barely fry fast enough to keep up with the merry mirchi-munchers. Lucky, then, they’re not the sole starter. Heaps of batata bhajjiya disappear just as swiftly, though, the crunchy jacket of each potato slice yielding to a pleasingly fluffy middle.

No doubt Vasco de Gama himself would appreciate the choris pav which comes next. Those sausages have been used in a saucy preparation which is stuffed into the slightly sweet, rich leavened baps known as ‘pav’ – another Portuguese introduction. These particular choris are the real deal, handmade by Alex Santos of Dos Santos Foods, albeit made in Croydon, not Curtorim.

Then it’s time to take pause in preparation for the main event – a meaty melange absolutely not appropriate for the less-than-enthusiastic carnivore. Tonight, though, everyone’s game for a proteinous plateful – especially after an inter-course sip of chilled sol kadi provides the perfect palate cleanse, the sour-salt savour of the kokum beverage leaving one refreshed and raring to go.

Goa landscape

There’s more of that pav passed round with mains – a surprising sponge for the guests, perhaps, but a common way to soak up tasty gravies in Goa. There’s rice, too – rounds upon rounds roar out of the kitchen to provide a bed for pungent mutton xacuti, the herbal, verdantly-sauced chicken cafreal, and that prawn-and-coconut concoction. In addition, there’s a soupy, spectacularly subtle potato dish Nilanjani deems the perfect hangover cure (or, indeed, prevention), ‘Cafe Bhosle Bhaji’.

A bit of argy-bargy over the last morsels would be a certainty, were Nilanjani not such a generous caterer. Seconds, thirds, and even fourths are both proffered and lapped up, totally spoiling the opportunity to roll out the ‘Oh, go on, go on, Goan’ line. Although the comedians in the ranks do at least get the chance to exclaim over the ‘lovely melons’ served for dessert.

But Nilanjani would never desert her diners with such a parsimonious pud, especially after such a spread. Once again, Goa’s showcased on the plate with syrup-soaked squares of baath – a semolina and coconut cake that’s a typical Christmas preparation. The inclusion of eggs may exclude this baked cake from being offered to the Hindu deities, but the consensus says it’s certainly rather heavenly.

The numerous requests for the recipe suggest that tonight’s diners will be going Goan when it comes to preparing festive fare this year. And not a moment too soon. Goa’s culinary melting pot has yielded a fiery, feisty fiesta of flavours, one that’s thus far been woefully under-represented in the UK. Nilanjani’s select snapshot has succeeded not only in putting Goa’s cuisine on the plate, but also firmly – and irrevocably – into the hearts and minds of her guests.

Fiona Barrows Baath


Read more about Goa on your Plate! on Edible Experiences