The Desi Digest: Hot Indian food finds for February

This month’s hottest Indian food happenings and objects of desire.

THE RESTAURANT Darbaar by Abdul

Abdul Yaseen Darbaar restaurant London Indian

Formerly one of The Cinnamon Group’s greatest assets, chef Abdul Yaseen’s gone it alone with this smart city venture which opened just ahead of the festive rush last year; and which has fast earned itself a reputation as THE go-to venue for food that’s both inspired by and fit for royalty. Tidbits from the tandoor join rich stews and brilliant biryani, cocktails are quality, and loos are of the ‘puts the ‘fun’ in ‘functional’ Japanese robotic variety. Full review coming soon, but you need not wait – it’s great.

Darbaar by Abdul, 1 Snowden St, Broadgate West, London EC2A 2DQ darbaarrestaurants.com

THE ON-THE-GO EAT: Curry Leaf Cafe’s Kiosk

Curry Leaf Cafe Kiosk Brighton Station Indian street food Kanthi Thamma

Expect your nostrils to twitch the next time you enter Brighton Station – because London-by-Sea’s main terminal just got its very own CLC concession. If you’re already aware of chef Kanthi Thamma’s award-winning fare, you’ll already know what to expect: bold flavours, authentic ingredients and a good dose of the ingenuity Indians like to call ‘jugaad’. Sup chai and Monsoon Malabar coffee dawn ’til dusk, and fill up on desi breakfasts, street eats, roadside snacks and more besides – all guaranteed to take you on a journey somewhere much more exotic than your train will.

A day’s desi dining

Breakfast on a vindaloo bacon roll and Monsoon Malabar coffee

P-p-pick up a peanut chikki bar for elevenses

Munch a grilled Bombay potato sarnie and a side of spicy chevda for lunch

Chai and coconut & cardamom cake makes a mighty fine afternoon tea

Dinner in a hurry? Usilampatti mutton curry with rice and dal du jour

Curry Leaf Cafe’s Kiosk is open from 6am on weekdays, 7am Saturdays & 8am Sundays until late at Brighton Station, Queens Rd, Brighton BN1 3XP curryleafcafe.com

THE SUPPER(WELL, ACTUALLY AFTERNOON TEA) CLUB: My Little Cake Tin

Tarunima My Little Cake Tin cakes desserts afternoon tea Indian North London

Indian afternoon tea’s quite The Thing. Not everyone succeeds in pulling off a fine fusion feast, but cake maker extraordinare Tarunima’s comes with a cast-iron quality guarantee and a hearty endorsement by Darjeeling Express founder Asma Khan; a woman who definitely knows her nankhatai and chai, as well as the Brindian savouries and sweets that make up the menu for this event.

A few menu morsels to get the mouth watering…

Spiced crab tartlets with green mango chutney

Paneer bread pakora

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Scones with fruit compotes and Darjeeling tea

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Apricot, rose and pistachio mini cake

Chocolate and hazelnut mini fudge cake

My Little Cake Tin’s Pop-up Tea takes place from 3-5.30pm on 20 February and costs £25 per person. The Sun & 13 Cantons, 21 Great Pultney Street, London W1F 9NG mylittlecaketin.co.uk

THE PRODUCT: Holy Lama Naturals’ Rose Spice Drops

Holy Lama Naturals Gouri Kubair Rose-Spice-Drops-with-dropper-image-great-taste-award

Spice Drops make all kinds of food taste good, and using the nifty, highly-concentrated extracts will give you the feelgood factor, too. The family company’s Kerala factory operates as a women’s co-operative, providing local ladies with incomes, opportunities and empowerment. From an ever-growing product range, romantic Rose is perfect for a month which heralds Valentine’s Day – use to infuse a floral flavour into flutes of bubbly, heart-shaped panna cottas, or a chocolate fondue for two.

Holy Lama Naturals Rose Spice Drops, £3,50 holylamaspicedrops.com

THE GIFT: Black Heart Creative’s ‘Fried Egg’ necklace

Black heart creatives perspex laser cut necklace

A fun bit of bling for lovers of Parsi cuisine – a food culture whose food philosophy is perhaps best summed up thus: ‘it’s a rare dish that can’t be improved through the addition of an egg’.

‘Fried Egg’ laser-cut perspex necklace, £18.50 blackheartcreative.com

THE HERO: Aneesh Popat

Aneesh Popat The Chocolatier

You’d have a hard time finding a finer Valentine’s gift for anyone delighted by Desi delectables than Aneesh’s Indian-inspired chocolates – especially when we’re talking about the bespoke box The Chocolatier has created for Chocs For Chance – an online auction raising money for Galvin’s Chance, which helps people into quality careers in the hospitality industry and supports them whilst there. He told the charity, ‘I am taking part as education is the keystone to our future. Galvin’s Chance is all about education, dignity and the chance for self-development – three things which every individual should have.’

You have until 8 February to try your luck in placing the winning bid for Aneesh’s rose & raspberry water ganaches and super-sized, Piedmont hazelnut praline, rice crisp, caramelized hazelnut crumble and popping candy love heart; so don’t dilly dally.

The Chocs For Chance online auction runs until 8th February. For bidding information, visit chocsforchance.org

THE RECIPE: Holy Lama’s Rose & cardamom biscuits

Holy Lama Naturals Spice Drops rose and cardamom biscuits cookies nankhatai

Make these gluten-free, melt-in-the-mouth morsels for your intended amour on Valentine’s Day. Or just bake a batch of the nankhatai-inspired cookies and eat ’em all up to ease the pain of being at home alone…

Makes about 25

INGREDIENTS

  • 125 g caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 6-8 drops of Rose Spice Drops
  • 2 small egg yolks
  • 100 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 60ml vegetable oil
  • 10 drops of Cardamom Spice Drops
  • 250g rice flour
  • 1 ½ tsp blue poppy seeds

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan set over medium heat, stir just until the sugar dissolves, then set aside to cool. Once cooled, add the Rose Spice Drops.
  3. Place the egg yolks, butter, oil, Cardamom Spice Drops and rice flour in a large bowl and beat until evenly blended. Gradually add the rose-infused sugar syrup and beat until combined.
  4. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1 cm nozzle and pipe 5cm spirals on the baking paper-lined trays, leaving 2cm between each biscuit.
  5. Sprinkle evenly with the poppy seeds and bake the biscuits the bottom shelf of the oven for 12-14 minutes or until pale golden-brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely
    Serve as a snack, part of an afternoon tea, or to accompany dessert.

For more delicious recipes using Holy Lama Spice Drops, visit holylamaspicedrops.com

  • To read more about Aneesh Popat, click here
  • For Indian afternoon tea inspiration, click here
  • To read Holy Lama Naturals’ story, click here and here
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