We’ve somehow tumbled into 2016 and I’ve been away from the keyboard for a little longer than usual, giving me ample time to reflect on the year that’s whizzed by rather too speedily for my liking. In what seemed like such little time, a lot happened; so in the customary manner I thought it apt to round up 2015’s hottest happenings in a single ponderous post.
In January, it gave me great pleasure to introduce a handful of my favourite Indian bloggers, and reveal that Cyrus Todiwala was celebrating a brand-new venue: The River Restaurant over in Goa. On a foodie front, along with almost every individual in the big wide blogosphere, I chatted coconut oil – albeit from a delicious Desi perspective as opposed to the green-juice-yoga-and-self-denial manner of most posts – and offered up advice on eating out whilst shedding those post-Christmas pounds.
As we flitted into February, I professed my love not for a handsome Bollywood hero but those Indian condiments which can make almost any foodstuff more attractive. In March, I enticed more of you to spice up your daily diets by advising on Indian foods that share key characteristics with some of our favourite Brit bits, then curating a collection of colourful recipes for the annual Holi post. The Todiwala’s Goan canteen, Assado, celebrated its first birthday by launching a host of new roasts, and I commemorated my own milestone – a year of writing for (now editing) Good Things magazine, rounding up all the spicy scribing I’d penned for its pages.
A two-part post in April revealed how late foolish hipsters have been in cottoning on to so many of the ingredients that canny Indian cooks have used for absolute aeons; understanding their physical properties and body benefits long before the big-bearded, too-tattooed, short-trousered food fiends of Shoreditch started stuffing them into the panniers on their pushbikes.
Sunny spells in May meant alfresco meals held appeal; and accordingly, so did a post on Desi-style barbecue basics, and the prospect of London’s Southbank being transformed into Indian food heaven for a fortnight as part of the annual Alchemy festival. I don’t always cook from books, but Maunika Gowardhan’s flawless ‘Indian Kitchen’ rarely left my own culinary salon this month – a review revealing just how heartily I approved. Also in my good books was Pratap Chahal, That Hungry Chef who gave great interview in the first profile of my ‘Chaat Room‘ occasional series.
Bright June mornings call for long, lazy brunches, especially when the likes of masala omelettes, dosas and idlis are on the menu. Accordingly, I offered up two options: one post focused on where to eat an Indian brunch out and about, and one on how to make your very own at home. As midsummer approached, temperatures soared and so did the popularity of Find Your Feet’s annual Curry For Change campaign as some of the capital’s best restaurants got on board with the raising cash for the cause.
After a fun foray around Taste of London with Alfred Prasad, I joined the chef at his own cookery class in July to try my hand at rustling up the sort of stylish street food that helped Alfred achieve his Michelin star – think blueberry-studded chaat and idlis three ways. And there were yet more treats to eat courtesy of recipes in the Indian-accented ‘Devnaa’s Afternoon Tea’ cookbook I reviewed, penned by brother and sister duo, Jay and Roopa Rawal.
In August there I placed far less emphasis on getting bikini body ready than filling my face with delicious food – sharing fast-fix Indian recipes from top chefs for when summer heat had you beating a hasty retreat from the kitchen, and penning a great big garden party guide. I also joined forces with Ashanti Omkar, Momtaz Begum Hossain, and what would become an ever-expanding group of foodie friends to form a culinary collective which we dubbed the #EatUpCrew; with no noble aim except exploring London’s South Indian eateries.
Thiru Ananthapuram was the #EatUpCrew’s first outing, and both a delicious dinner and a jolly good time was had by all in attendance. We didn’t slack of in September; enjoying an Onam feast at Udaya before 21 of us warded off the earliest autumnal chills with the fiery food at Anjappar – the East Ham branch of a well-loved Chettinad chain. Cheeky Food Co.’s Swati Biswal both joined our ranks and shared her story in my Chaat Room interview. The nation was gripped by Great British Bake Off fever this month, and I hopped on the bandwagon with a delicious digest of Desi cakes’n’bakes.
October’s National Curry Week saw us welcome a quartet of spice girls to Good Things magazine in an Indian food feature called ‘Keep Calm & Curry On‘; running regional recipes by Asma Khan, Meera Sodha, Maunika Gowardhan and Mallika Basu. On the blog, meanwhile, the focus was thrown on Calcutta cuisine, specifically the stuff from pop-up artists Raastawala, whose leading lady, Rinku Dutt, I invited into the Chaat Room.
November nights were brightened by thoughts of Diwali and all of that festival’s essential edibles. For those in possession of as many sweet teeth as me, that means mostly mithai, so I saw it as the perfect time to introduce Dipesh Patel, whose company Delhish produces superb, small-batch Indian sweetmeats in Oxfordshire. Far further afield in Mumbai, the lovely Anjali Pathak had more than a festival to celebrate – marking the opening of her long-awaited Flavour Diaries cookery school.
And suddenly, it was December. And suddenly and surreally, I found myself on stage at the British Street Food Awards, clutching a Lifetime Achievement Award. No, it wasn’t mine. The accolade actually belonged to Angus Denoon – a dear friend most of you will know better as Jhalmuri Express, purveyor of the most authentic Kolkata street food a non-Kolkatan could every create. Only, as I called out upon hearing his name, he was in Ireland, and so I was called up to accept it in his absence – which I did, with a small, sentimental speech, a few tiny tears, and a heart bursting with pride for the marvellous man.
What a year. It’s hard to imagine how 2016 could top it, but let’s wait and see what the year brings…