The Desi Digest: Hot Indian happenings for July

In, out, shake it all about – thanks to Brexit, big changes are afoot in the UK, and by far the biggest one I’d like to see is an improvement in how we treat our fellow humans.

Although ostensibly concerned with politics and economics, the referendum result has revealed – indeed almost endorsed – some vile attitudes and behaviours. And since it occurred, a fair few of those who call Britain home and claim it’s ‘theirs’ have been making life miserable for others who also reside on this tiny isle.

A little cultural understanding can go a long way in making small minds a bit bigger. On Facebook, a friend suggested sharing traditional food with neighbours you don’t know as a means of opening conversations and eyes. Pakoras are her proposed weapon of choice, but you could do the same with pierogi, pide, or even pie’n’mash.

Financial economics might be uncertain, but diversity is one thing in which Britain will always be rich. So go ahead and gorge yourself on our country’s culture – starting, perhaps, with something of a South Asian persuasion…

The gossip: #MyLondonSupperclubs

Asma Khan Darjeeling Express seated

My London is your London, and we can make it that little bit more welcoming to all-comers by banding together to share our stories, our lives, and our food traditions. That was the thinking that inspired Asma Khan to start the ball rolling with the #MyLondonSupperclubs series featuring chefs of all cultures, from born’n’bred Brits to European emigres and Indian immigrants.

Events will occur at Soho’s 68 & Boston from July to (so far) September, and anyone with cooking skills and something to share is encouraged to get in touch to see how they can be involved.

The performance: Mens Rea: The Shifter’s Intent

Richmix Mens rea Raghav Handa dance performance Ramayana Indian Australian

Using the Hindu epic, Ramayana, as its focal point, Raghav Handa’s compelling, ‘shape shifting’ dance performance weaves together influences from indigenous Australian and Indian cultures. Princess Sita, deity-vulture Jatayu, and multi-faced demon-king Ravana are Handa’s three key protagonists, their movements  informed by Aboriginal ceremonies whereby dancers adopt the form of a specific animal combined with Indian traditions from the choreographer’s own heritage.

  • Mens Rea takes place on 16 July, priced from £8-10, at Richmix in Shoreditch. For more information and to book, click here

The experience: Tour & Thali in London’s Little India

Tour and Thali London's Little India Gujarati Shared City experience

It’s London, Jim, but not as you know it. Shared City revels in our capital’s multiculturalism, revealing vibrant communities through guided tours. This one is a joyful jaunt around the Ealing Road area of Northwest London, during which you’ll have your breath taken away by an ornate Hindu temple and your tastebuds tickled by Gujarati street snacks and a traditional thali – cheap eats guaranteed to make you very cheerful. Shopaholics beware: sari emporiums, bangle bazaars and spice shops abound, and you’re bound to return with a fair few finds.

  • Tour & Thali takes place on 16 July from 12-2pm and costs £25 (or £45 for 2). For more information and to book, click here

The new venue: Calcutta Street

Macher paturi fish steamed in banana leaves Bengali Calcutta Street Shrimoyee Chakraborthy

Through pop-ups, street stalls, and Youtube videos, tiny-yet-mighty Shrimoyee Chakraborty has built a real buzz for her homestyle Bengali cuisine, served with a healthy helping of cheeky banter from the now-restaurateur. Her debut venue brings desi-cated spice and style to Fitzrovia, promising to be a place where feel like a member of the family – and are fed like one. Calcutta Street’s decor promises to be as offbeat as the founder; with statement fixtures including chandeliers made from Bengali hand fans.

Whet your appetite

The final menu is as yet unreleased, but think…

SNACKS LIKE…puchka – One-bite crisp flavour bombs filled with potatoes, chickpeas, imli chutney and yogurt

MAINS LIKE… Macher Paturi – Fish steamed with mustard paste in banana leaves

DESSERTS LIKE… Pithe – rice flour pancakes stuffed with coconut and jaggery

PSST…

Descend the stairs to a communal dining den where you can join in one of two nightly sittings where up to 20 diners eat, drink and make very merry over an authentic Bengali sharing menu rounded out with free-flowing breads, rice, and condiments.

  • Calcutta Street opens its doors on 18 July at 29 Tottenham Street, London W1T 1RU. For more information, follow @calcuttast on Twitter and visit the website here

The product: Selfridges Selection Sweet & Spicy Savours

Selfridges Selection Sweet & Spicy Savours biscuits £4.99

It’s all about swavoury sensations this year, and these button-sized biscuits are terribly moreish. For the store’s signature collection, Hillside Foods adds relish to its recipe with chilli, cumin, caraway, fennel and turmeric.

Why not try…

Sandwiching pairs of biscuits together with cream cheese and a slick of chilli jam

The supperclub: Bidisha’s Kitchen ‘Make Finger-Licking Cool’

Bidisha's Kitchen Make Finger Licking Cool supperclub Grub Club Indian Bengali

Before we had forks we had fingers, and an Indian belief has it that unless you touch your food with all five fingers it won’t touch all five of your senses. Better to be safe than sorry, then – and where better to indulge in a hand-to-mouth meal than a supperclub which celebrates cutlery-free consumption?

What’s on the menu?

Ghugni – Chickpeas with minced meat

Loochi – Deep-fried, unleavened bread

*****

Kosha mangsho – Slow-cooked chicken & potatoes

Pea pulao

 Tomato chutney

*****

Channar payesh – Cottage cheese dumplings in jaggery-sweetened milk

  • Bidisha’s ‘Make Finger-Licking Cool’ supperclub takes place on 9 July and costs £27.50. For more information and to book tickets, click here 

The cookbook: Mr. Todiwala’s Spice Box

Cyrus Todiwala Mr Todiwala's Spice Box Cookbook Indian Octopus Mitchell Beazley recipes

Clever Cyrus unleashes yet another winner that’s sure to be a bit of a hit. Using just 10 spices, the well-loved chef dispels the notion that desi food need be overcomplex; and, indeed, the idea that he’s solely skilled in Indian cuisine.

Like a magpie with a big appetite, Mr Todiwala has borrowed inspiration from all over the globe, from the Philippines to the Middle East. The result? A book that takes you on a delicious journey around both the world and the mind of a master, then delivers you back to your own home, raring to get in the kitchen.

Three to try

Cyrus’s Brined belly of pork with cashew nuts & spinach

Spiced pecan pie (Mrs. Todiwala’s favourite)

Twisted Pimms – masterminded with Jamsheed Todiwala

  • To read more about Bengali food, click here
  • To read more about Asma Khan, click here
  • To read a review of ‘My Todiwala’s Bombay’, click here
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One response to “The Desi Digest: Hot Indian happenings for July

  1. Pingback: Dream duos: My fantasy culinary collaborations, Part 2 | Culinary Adventures of The Spice Scribe·

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