Oh, brother (and sister) – Devnaa has done it again. As co-founders of an East-meets-West chocolate company, sibling duo Jay and Roopa Rawal are no strangers to fusion food, and now they’ve tackled afternoon tea. Or, as it should perhaps be re-named, high chai.
‘Devnaa’s Afternoon Tea’ is not the pair’s first cookbook. Previous volumes have been devoted to the marvellous world of mithai (Indian sweets and desserts, for those not in the know) and authentic Gujarati veggie cuisine, the latter copyedited by yours truly. Both are truly treats to treasure. Can the same be said for Devnaa’s latest endeavour?
Unlike its predecessors, this one’s a digital edition, meaning you won’t mess it up in the kitchen and you can peruse the paisley-laden pages of this bright Bollywood jewel box of a book wherever you fancy. Although each of the ten featured fancies are illustrated with an accompaniying photograph, there’s no satisfaction in simply eating with your eyes. You really should get stuck straight in.
Especially if you’re plotting a #CurryForChange fundraiser. Roopa’s recipes will help you Find Your Feet where both sweets and savouries are concerned; the author’s analogies between authentic Indian items and classic Brit bits most useful to the uninitiated. Vada Pav, for instance, is described as a Desi-cated chip butty; and the legendary Mumbai Sandwich as the ultimate grilled cheese.
Savoury Desi Scones share their enticing spicing with biscuits served as classic teatime treats in India, and are best taken with a slathering of sweet-yet-spicy Chilli Tomato Jam. Cardamom and pistachios add pizazz to Sweet Desi Scones designed to be dolloped with Strawberry & Rose Jam – and, of course, the obligatory clotted cream.
Bread-heads will be mad not only for the aforementioned veg-packed, chutney-laced toasted Mumbai Sandwiches and the decadent double carb affair that is Vada Pav, but also Sandwich Pakoras (see recipe below) – battered paneer-stuffed bread slices whose ‘Tiranga’ Indian flag colours make them the perfect items for Indian Independence Day.
Or pledge allegiance to India’s ‘national fruit’ with Roopa’s beautiful Eggless Mango & Passionfruit Cupcakes. Not only are eggless recipes useful when your cupboard is barer than Old Mother Hubbard’s, unlike their Western ‘free from’ counterparts, Indian ‘eggless’ recipes tend to eschew esoteric ingredient replacements with straightforward stuff like condensed milk – making them pretty damn practical.
The condensed milk crazy with also adore Saffron & Pistachio Panna Cotta, inspired by the Rawal sibling’s mum’s basundi. The traditional Gujarati dessert is as rich and finely fragranced as the recipe that riffs off it, but Roopa’s rework is a little less liquidy – using vegetarian ‘gelatine’ to set the milky mixture into ultra-elegant tea party treats.
Afternoon tea (both the occasion and the eponymous book) are unashamedly indulgent, and rightfully so. So it’s somewhat of a surprise to see a gajar halwa-inspired Carrot Tart recipe that’s really rather healthy. The gluten-free, low-fat crust is made with a mix of almond meal and cornstarch; barely-sweetened with date paste and brought together with just a bit of butter. After a blind bake, in goes a thin disc of marzipan, a simple cardamom custard, pistachio nuts, and hand-rolled carrot ‘roses’ which unfurl beautifully as the tart bakes.
They say ‘everything stops for tea’. It certainly does when Devnaa‘s involved.
An alternative take on the Mumbai sandwich, these pakoras are a delight for everyone. Slices of bread filled with red and green chutney, and a generous piece of paneer that melts when cooked, these sandwiches are easy to make and taste amazing when dusted with chaat masala and eaten hot. Cut open, the alternating colours surrounded by the golden batter make for beautiful looking sandwiches.
For the filling:
- 6 slices of bread
- 1 x ready-made block of paneer, sliced
- tomato and garlic chutney
- spicy coriander and mint chutney
For the batter:
- 150g gram flour
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tbsp natural yoghurt
- 100ml water
- large pinch of finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
- sunflower oil, for deep-frying
- chaat masala and date and tamarind chutney, to serve
Start by laying three slices of bread down in front of you and spreading each with a spoon or two of tomato and garlic chutney.
Layer the paneer on top of the chutney – be as generous as you like.
Spread the coriander chutney on the remaining three slices of bread and press these on top of the paneer, chutney side down.
Carefully cut each sandwich into quarters and leave aside while you prepare the batter.
Mix the gram flour, salt, chilli powder, yoghurt, water, and coriander leaves together in a mixing bowl until smooth and with the consistency of thick cream.
Heat up oil for deep frying in a pan placed over a medium-high setting.
When the oil is suitably hot (drop in a breadcrumb and if it rises instantly you are good to go), slightly press down one of the sandwich triangles and dip it into the batter – be quick or the bread will turn soggy, but be thorough and ensure the sandwich is fully coated.
Carefully place the sandwich into the hot oil and fry until golden on all sides. Fry as many sandwiches at a time as you feel comfortable with, or as many as will fit in your pan.
Drain and transfer onto kitchen paper towels, sprinkle generously with chaat masala while the sandwich is still piping hot – this will ensure the masala sticks to the sandwich. Repeat until all of the sandwiches are fried, you can then cut each triangle in half again if you like so that the alternating colours on the inside are displayed.
Serve hot with date and tamarind chutney.
- Recipe extracted from ‘Devnaa’s Afternoon Tea’ by Jay and Roopa Rawal. To download a copy, click here.
3 Indian Afternoon Teas in London
Each afternoon, the spectacular Mayfair ‘thieves’ market’ turns ‘Chai Bazaar’ to serve Indian teas and a range of teatime tidbits on silver thalis.
Alongside the quintessential British fancies, spice-fanciers can sample savoury, spiced shortbreads, Indian-style sliders and cardamom chai.
Pop-up host Sadia’s afternoon tea affairs celebrate the custom across the globe. The Indian incarnation includes chai, sweets, savouries and parlour games.
- To read a review of Devnaa’s India, click here
- To read a review of Devnaa’s Indian Desserts, click here
- To read more about Devnaa’s Indian-inspired chocolates, click here
- To read more about Find Your Feet and how to get involved with #CurryForChange, click here
- To get the recipe for afternoon tea-apt Bombay Bad Boy chocolate cheesecake, click here