In, out, shaking it all about? Good on you. It’s far too hot this week to wade through worthy, weighty blog posts, so I won’t ask you to indulge me on this occasion. Instead, I’ll just implore you keep all fingers and toes crossed that the lovely weather continues long enough to truly constitute the term ‘Indian Summer’.
But even if the sun decides a hat is not the most flattering attire, there are enough enticing, spicy Indian food happenings to make one feel totally and utterly tropical right here in the English capital. And, if and when it invariably tips down, just nod sagely and deem it all part of your authentic Indian summer experience; ‘Monsoon season, innit?!’
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London…
…And I will feed you something that is sure to blow your mind. The streets are the place to eat to the beat and rhythm of local life; to take a whirlwind world tour without leaving Whitechapel. London’s food markets are breeding rampantly and triumphantly, and they’re where to seek the sort of food that eludes eateries. You’ll find the new; the niche; and the very, very nice.
Some of these guys’ food falls into the first category; some the second – but it all earns the last compliment. In fact ‘nice’ is far too much of a blandishment to describe this spicy stuff. To get things rolling, get all wrapped up in @RolaWala’s naan rolls, crammed to bursting with vibrant fillings like beetroot dal. Festival goers might be familiar with filling their muddy boots with @DosaDeli’s stuffed dosas, featuring innovative stuff like Goan paneer or Singaporean veggies.
If a dosa is just the stuff you like to stuff, try @Horn_Please, too – where you’ll find the pancakes smaller and softer, made of rava rather than the Deli’s urid’n’rice batter version. Make some noise, too, for @Horn_Please’s Mumbai munchies – trays of one-more is never-enough pani puri and cones heaped with some very special bhel puri indeed.
I might feel disloyal to the awesome Angus of @jhalmuriexpress for pledging allegiance to their bhel. The similar signature snack he pedals from a shopping trolley might fool you into thinking he, too, brings brilliant bhel to Britain. But this spectacular stuff goes by the name of jhalmuri, and is a Calcutta institution – meaning ample room for both in my heart and on my plate. Phew.
The folks pop up everywhere and anywhere – @DosaDeli will be feeding festivals as well as their market masses. Follow their social media movements. Prime your senses for serious subcontinental satiation. Learn to recognise the telltale trail so you can sniff them out when you’re out and about – a stray petal from a flower garland; the tang of perfectly-fermented dosa batter in the air; the squeak of Angus’ shopping trolley wheel. I love the smell of chaat masala in the morning.
Cool snacks to heat up your household
Freeze! When you could scream for an ice cream, go for the Indian version instead and opt to enjoy a dense, creamy kulfi. You could make your own, but friends in the North would do well to seek out shops that stock Mike Tattershall’s sublime ‘Indie Ices’. The 9-strong, Great-Taste-Award-laden kulfi collection comprises classics like Cardamom alongside more contemporary contrivances – anyone for Champagne? But to my mind and in my mouth, it’s Mango that makes me melt.
Talking of melting, heatwaves aint great for chocoholics, or mithai addicts. And I am both. I solve the sticky-fingered problem by storing my sweetmeats in the freezer. A box of Devnaa’s Indian-inspired confectionary is transformed; chocolate-smothered burfis serve as diminutive, superior choc ices; spice-infused caramels become frozen pearls of pleasure. But sometimes even I need something to savour – and nothing goes down as well with a sundowner as happily as a handful of chevdo.
Those awesome Indian snack mixes comprise cereal, chickpea-flour strands, fruits and nuts. They sound like superworthy superfood, ‘til you realise they’re heavily salted, fried, and greasily gorgeous. Shove aside guilt as you dig in deep to superior sorts such as Duke of Delhi’s Delhi Mixes – culinary collisions combining traditional ingredients with innovative additions like chocolate or honeycomb, and Anjula Devi’s insanely more-ish Bombay Mix, made according to her father’s recipe. Merry munching with an icy Thums Up that’s been livened up with lime’n’kala namak.
Retreat to a restaurant
Take a butchers’ at what’s going on the slab at Anise this August. Cinnamon Kitchen’s City bar is putting meat on your bones with the pop-up ‘Butcher’s Bar’, featuring bacon-infused beverages and carnivorous collations of the seasonal game chef Vivek Singh loves to hunt down.
There’s more meat on the menu at Manpreet and Margaret Dhingra’s Cinnamon Culture, where the restaurant’s Kentish country garden will host ‘Street Food BBQs‘ every summer weekend. With heaping tandoori platters at £9.50, you can afford a few of their clever cocktails, too.
Cocktails are a necessary evil on hot weekday evenings – naughty but oh-so-nice. In these temperatures, a Naughty Chai should really be on ice, but hot or cold, I never can resist Dishoom’s. Especially on a visit to the Shoreditch Verandah for a well-earned sundowner, although I may be swayed by a Bombay Pimms.
For yet more exotic cocktails, head West to Potli, where I predict the pickle’n’cocktail period will shortly become the new Aperitivo hour. Particularly after word gets out on Potli’s unique Pickle Bar, featuring a splendiferous spread of home-made relishes worthy of savour.
Reason enough in itself to drop in, but once you’ve sampled nibbles like Shakarkand ki Chaat and chased them with a few seasonal ‘#IndianSummer’ specials from the main menu, you may as well stay put for the entire evening. And ‘pppick up’ a pot of pickle to take home when you finally take your leave.
Soak up a summer supperclub
Craving home-cooked khana but can’t stand the heat in your own kitchen? Let a supperclub bring the subcontinent to the table, then. If there’s no time like the present for a Damn Good Curry, book a place at Nilanjani Pai’s Walthamstow wonder on Wednesday 17th July. Once you’ve had your fill of chaat, coconut chutney, and chicken curry, I think you’ll find it deserves the grandiose moniker.
The next date to try Asma Khan’s Calcutta greats is the Darjeeling Express ‘Summer Supperclub’ on 20th July, guest-starring Bihari and Hyderabadi specials. Joginder’s Supperclub brings piquant Punjabi to Tufnell Park a week later, on 27th July. For future feasting, keep an eagle eye out for tropical Mauritian delights from Yummy Choo Eats – featuring sunshine food and Selina Perimpillai’s sunny brand of hospitality.
Stay classy, learn skills
Summer school’s not just for dunces. And cooking classes are surely the tastiest way to learn. For starters, learn to make all manner of ‘Indian Street Starters‘ with Angela Malik on 20th July. Can’t make the date? Anjula Devi offers intimate, bespoke ‘Indian Street Food‘ lessons for four foodies. On 31st August, spend a late summer evening with Sumayya Jamil, learning the nuances and history of the Pakistani food about which she’s so passionate.
Inspiring Indian experiences
Walking and talking; meeting and eating – what nicer way to spend a day? Get over to Southall on 18th August for a food walk led by local expert and author of so-many an Indian cookbook, Monisha Bharadwaj. You’ll learn how to shop, where to eat, and how to best enjoy London’s lovely, lively Punjabi neighbourhood, and finish the day with both brain and belly well-filled.
But before that, cinematic culture comes in the form of the 4th annual London Indian Film Festival, showcasing the best of subcontinental screenings. Opening night kicks off on 18th July with a showing of the action-packed ‘Monsoon Shootout’, and a night of ‘Bombay Talkies‘ on 25th July serves as the festival’s wrap party. In the interim, ogle everything from ‘metaphysical movies’ to cop thrillers.
If you like your cinema altogether more edible, get your gut to ‘Cinn-ema in the City’, where Cinnamon Kitchen celebrates the centenary of the Indian film industry with a duo of pop-up film screenings. Get things popping with a ‘Little Bit Corny’ cocktail and the gentle comedy of ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ on 25th July; or visit a day later to be bowled over by both ‘bowl food’ and the mind-blowing on-screen visuals of ‘Life of Pi’.
- For all the info on all the eateries, events and general excellence discussed, click the hyperlinks in the post.
- I’ve made this post part of @fionamaclean of London Unattached‘s new blogger initiative, Fabulous First Fridays. Please check out some of the other blogs and posts involved – Look for this symbol:
And don’t forget to wield that hashtag on Twitter! #FabFirstFriday