It might be Christmas but if you’re into all things India you’re surely asking Santa for summat somewhat subcontinental. And if you like me have the magpie eye, that list is likely to be long and packed full of products you couldn’t justify buying for yourself but wouldn’t mind someone else giving to you as a gift.
I thought I’d share my own objects of desire with the whole interweb, because, hey, I’ve been a very good girl this year and those who don’t ask don’t get. There’s a lorra lorra choc in this enticing edit, but then I am a noted Cocoa Nut and there are few who eschew chocolate come Christmas.
I don’t believe I’m in line for a lump of coal – but if for some reason I AM on the naughty list, Santa, at least make it khol.
Otherwise, please see below…
I loved it so much the first time that I’m going again in a couple of weeks – but I’d happily make it a hat trick. Ayub Khan Din’s screenplay was always intended for the stage, and it’s easy to see why. Part comedic caper, part socio-political commentary, wholly engaging. East Is East might be set in the 1970s, but the themes still hit home.
For more on the excellence of East Is East, click here
Chocolate and Indian spices. Considering my other avatar is The Cocoa Nut, it’s little surprise that I’m a fan of those two things combined. Jaz & Jul’s is proppa hot chocolate; real grated flakes infused with aromatics, not poor-quality powders and fake flavours. It works as well in the mixing bowl as in the mug – try making a mousse, a cocoa-y custard, or simply melting it and pouring the molten mixture over ice cream.
For The Cocoa Nut’s guide to London’s best hot chocolate, click here
Jameel Lalani doesn’t sell tea to the sort of chimps who can’t see the difference between PG Tips and the sort of specialist, single-batch stuff he sources globally. The case contains three variously-aged expressions of white tea from the LaKyrsiew Garden in the highlands of the Indian province of Meghalaya. Each jar contains a precious portion of the annual yield of just 5kg; so ensure this beautiful brew is sipped slowly.
I’m not as marshmallow-mad as many, but these are just too lovely-looking to resist. These have a bit more guts than the usual floopy foamy things, with a central seam of pistachio praline enveloped by rose-scented mallow that can actually withstand being bitten without collapsing. Forget that dreadful dress Molly Ringwald donned in the film – these are the actual definition of ‘Pretty in Pink’.
Devnaa’s wares are the divine offspring offered up when mithai met chocolate and procreated. This nice big bundle includes two cookbooks; ‘Indian-inspired Desserts‘ and ‘Devnaa’s India: Delicious Vegetarian Home Cooking & Street Food‘. I reviewed the former, copy edited the latter, and love them both. I have just as much affection for the signature tiffin box which also appears here, rammed with a range of thoroughly modern mithai.
I have’nae tried the red version of Pratap Chahal’s hot stuff yet, but having consumed a jar of its milder green avatar, I reckon I’m ready to graduate to the three-alarm. That Hungry Chef gives his word that this delivers flavour as well as fire, using fruity Scotch Bonnets in conjunction with a secret blend of spices to yield something that c an be sloshed, spread or smeared on anything that needs invigorating (as long as it’s edible).
Aneesh Popat doesn’t do faint flavours. And he’s nuts about infusing India into many of his chocolate creations. These chai tea almonds are a cracking example of his craft; each treat featuring a smooth spiced chocolate coating cloaking a roasty, toasty almond. They might be inspired by the drink that fuels the Indian railway network, but the warm spices make them feel fully festive, too.
More on Mr Popat? Click here
If you or yours are new to this Indian cooking malarkey and don’t know quite where to start when it comes to stocking a spiced-up storecupboard, you could do far worse than Sous Chef’s set. Ghee, a couple of packs of pulses, tamarind concentrate, rosewater, gram flour, a selection of spices and, hurrah, a copy of Miss Meera Sodha’s ‘Made in India’ to get you making in Britain.
More tips on essential Indian ingredients? Click here
These sweets are absolutely not inspired by India, but the flavours will find favour with anyone who craves that country’s cuisine. The spices in these sugar-shelled sweeties are those sourced along the old Roman routes, including saffron, cinnamon, chilli and aniseed, variously combined or entwined with all sorts of fine fruits and nuts. Eye candy in appearance, triffic in taste.
If the above doesn’t tickle your funny bone you either don’t have one or you haven’t fathomed that ‘anda’ means egg in Hindi. Sketchy Desi’s Christmas card range incorporates jingle bhel (as in puri), Auntie-Jis a-comin’ to town, and a full complement of worse-for-wear, whiskied-up Punjabi reindeer. Plus, as you’d expect, a Santa sated not with milk and cookies but chai’n’biskoots.
These cute little cuplets couldn’t even hold a cutting chai, but my – the smooth caramel contained in the centre of these chocolates is super stuff. Each vessel is lustre-dusted with gold or silver, making them fit for any Maharajah’s mouth. The milk chocolate coffee caramel cup gets spiced up with cardamom. cinnamon and star anise; the dark chocolate tea-flavoured treat with chilli, citrus, spice… and, quite frankly. all things nice.
A beaut bottle and some banging botanicals made Opihr’s gin the thing to tip in your tonic or slip into the stocking of someone special. The spirit’s fine flavours are sourced from the Spice Route; black and cubeb peppers, coriander, cardamom, cumin and citrus amongst providing the perfume. Its softly sweet, camphorous character makes Opihr an alcohol whose acquaintance you’ll be only too pleased to make.
If a garam garam glass of masala chai were to manifest itself in solid form, Cocoa Hernando’s spiced milk chocolate would be its avatar. This chocolate even manages to perfectly emulate the boiled milk flavour of the drink one thinks of as soon as it touches the tastebuds. Cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and surely some kind of magic are the ingredients that go into making this milk choc a serious knockout.
Spice Kitchen’s storage system looks nifty and is useful to boot: comprising 10 spice-stuffed jars with glinting gold lids that conceal the
magic magnets. There’s no set shape – stick ’em on your fridge front and the hexagonal jars fit snugly together in a honeycomb arrangement or can by shoved around to suit one’s whim. You can both specify the spice selection according to personal preference and order refills as soon as stocks deplete.
If you like chocolate to taste of honey and warm earth with a whisper of smoky cardamom, you are in for a treat. Zotter’s 16-hour conched Labooko bar is nothing short of majestic, and offers the eater a rare chance to sample Kerala-grown cocoa. After a sputtering start, cocoa cultivation in the Southwestern state is finally finding its feet. This deep, dark offering from God’s Own Country is nothing short of heavenly.
Goldsmith’s graduate Banita often references her Indian heritage in her jewellery collections, the ‘Surf’ edit a case in point. In spite of the range’s name, the initial idea for the forms came from the rippling folds of a traditional sari. Available in sterling silver, 18-ct yellow gold and black rhodium, each hand-formed piece is created in celebration of the oceans of power and beauty seen in the sea and in womankind.
You might have thought Fortnum’s was the only place to purchase Asid Walli’s sweet’n’spicy treats, but the bars are now available through indie food hub Yumbles. Of the six-strong range, I feel the Duke’s Delhi mix blends best with cool cardamom and mildly musky vanilla; the creamy milk chocolate providing a platform that flatters the crunch and allows the three key flavours to sing in a manner that’s both crazy and catchy.
To read The Cocoa Nut’s review of Duke of Delhi’s choc range, click here
As many millions of Mumbaikars are only too aware, there’s no better way to transport lunch or any other meal on the move than in a tiffin tin. The multi-tiered tins might be functional but that doesn’t mean their form shouldn’t be easy on the eye. You should steer clear of dull food, but even the most mundane meal will be bearable if eaten from something bearing jolly designs hand-painted by Kashmiri craftspeople.
This is not only in the list because the food was styled so stupendously by mate Nik ‘Spice Monkey’ Gulhane, who, incidentally, delivers marvellous Maharashtrian cookery classes in North London (Hi Nik!). Just like the other tomes in Phaidon’s collection, Pushpeth Pant’s India edition is pretty comprehensive. Before you even contemplate calling yourself an expert, I challenge you to cook your way through the 1000+ recipes.
Those who crave creativity as much as they do chocolate will go gaga for Mitzi Blue. The dark chocolate disc resembles a record, housed within a beautifully illustrated sleeve. Zotter’s incredible Indian 62% dark chocolate is spiked with chilli that prickles pleasantly in the throat, studded with nuggets of ginger, and inset with a diminutive disc of similarly-spiced caramel chocolate. An elegant, eccentric eat.
Like the sound of chocolate and spice? Get my Bombay Bad Boy cheesecake recipe here
Which of these is top of YOUR Christmas list? (I’m only asking, I’m not buying!)
Main image credit: Dishoom