A few days ago I hit rock-bottom with the recipe ideas. Every new thought that struck me either seemed too second-hand, old, or not exciting enough to get me out of bed and into the kitchen. I have a rule- if it doesn’t excite me, it’s not worth my bloody time or yours. To get myself through this slump, I decided to pack my bags and leave my very wet Bombay in favour of London, a city where creativity ferments in every nook and cranny.
My relationship with London is a rather odd one- it always feels like I’m coming home after a long year of work. There is an unspoken sense of ease in the loud rumble of the underground, toes curled on grass that doesn’t escape the erratic English sun, and a Thames of ideas to wade through that inspires me to get a head start on what’s thrown my way next.
It’s stone fruit season both in London and in Bombay. Peaches, Apricots, Plums and Cherries crowd the markets, their juicy flesh, comfortably ensconced around little stones that must be pitted before you work with them. The ripe fruit is undeniably delicious and sweet and if not by themselves, will always benefit from a hint of citrus, which really uplifts it. Put those baby apricots in a clafoutis with lemon, pair together peach and kafir lime or make a galette, an open-faced pastry with corners tucked in with ripe plums, sugar and a dizzying amount of lemon zest. Trust me, it’s enough to perfume your entire house.
For this feature, I’ve chosen to go with simple but incredibly delicious recipes with each. Plums in the market are still quite small at the moment, so I’ve decided to steep them in vodka to make an aperitif- there’s a run-on recipe for that below. I’ve given apricots the caprese treatment with tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella and basil. Only the freshest ingredients will do here! Cherries and chocolate, that almost whorish pairing is a no-brainer, but I tilt in a generous amount of rich booze to turn an already great molten-centre torte into a rather decadent one. Finally, lovely soft peaches and aam ka chunda come together in a coronation chicken recipe that’s a great sandwich filler, canapé idea, as well as a standalone salad. Super British, super delicious.
Pitting the Fruit
For peaches, plums and apricots, run a sharp knife cleanly around the periphery of the fruit. Gently using cupped hands or your fingers, twist the fruit to pry it apart. Pick the stone from the centre and leave it for another use.
Use ripe apricots for this recipe with the most delicious tomatoes you can find. Spoon tomatoes, sweet cherry tomatoes, and other round tomatoes are better than using the oval-shaped ones. You could also get in touch with Vrindavan Farms’ Gayatri Bhatia and she will advise you about the kind of tomatoes that would sit well in a caprese. Use good quality mozzarella for the caprese. I have used bocconcini balls which come immersed in whey. The processed stretchy mozzarella of Satan that sits on supermarket shelves will not do.
Apricots 4-5, small ripe ones, de-stoned
Tomatoes 2 large taut, or 3 medium-sized/ cherry or spoon tomatoes, quartered if large
Basil one packet
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Toast for serving
In a bowl, add the apricots and quartered tomatoes. Drain the balls of bocconcini from their liquid and drop them into the bowl. Chop the basil and sprinkle it on top. Season this with salt and pepper and drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil. Keep chilled till ready to serve. Serve with a slice of toast.
Peachy Coronation Chicken
Peachy Coronation Chicken
Yield 4 as a salad
One of my favourite sandwich fillers, this recipe swaps out the raisins/sultanas of regular coronation chicken for a fresher, juicier touch. Serve them on open-faced toasties or just by themselves. You’d rather wait to have leftover chicken than specially cook a whole chicken just for this recipe.
Whole chicken 1, cooked and pulled from the bone
Cumin powder 1 tsp
Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
Madras Curry powder 1 heaped tbsp
Yoghurt 200ml (homemade yoghurt makes a lighter version, you can use greek for a creamier result, or just swap for cream)
Mayonnaise 150ml (use a sweeter mayonnaise, if possible. Fun Foods’ eggless mayo is a good option)
Lime 1, zested and juiced
Chunda pickle 1 1/2 tbsp, or more to adjust
Peach 1, ripe, peeled, pitted and chopped into thick strips
Almonds 2 tbsp, chopped
Fresh herbs like coriander, parsley, even dill a small bunch optional
In a flat pan, add all the ground masalas and toast them over low heat till they are fragrant. Add the spices directly off the pan to the pulled chicken in a bowl. Stir in the yoghurt and mayonnaise. Spoon in the chunda pickle and stir again. Add the lime zest, the peaches and season if necessary. Keep chilled till ready to serve. Serve with chopped or flaked almonds and fresh herbs on top.
Boozy Cherry and Chocolate Torte
Boozy Cherry and Chocolate Torte
This is an eggless recipe. Dark, good quality cocoa and sweet-tart pitted cherries are crucial. Under-baking this torte is essential to yield a gooey, slightly loose centre. A cheesecake wobble test works perfectly for this. Watch the centre of the tin as it bakes. If you shake it and just the centre has a slight wobble to it, it’s done. It will continue to cook just slightly as it cools in the pan.
Cocoa 85g, plus more for dusting
Brown sugar 200g
Baking powder 1 tsp
Soda bicarbonate 1 tsp
Vegetable Oil 150ml
Brandy 5 tbsp (use a Hennessy VSOP if possible)
Cherries 200g, pitted
Icing sugar for dusting
Heat the oven to 160 degrees celsius and line a deep round loose bottomed 20cm springform tin with baking paper and cover the outside with aluminium foil to make it leak-proof.
Run a whisk through the flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Keep this aside.
Whisk together the milk, honey, vegetable oil together then add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir using a spatula or a wooden spoon till just combined. Don't overmix.
Splash in the brandy, add the pitted cherries and give it a few more stirs to combine, then scrape the mixture into the springform tin and let it bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, checking after 30 minutes for a crisp top but a light wobble in the centre. Let the cake cool in the tin. It will collapse on itself a bit, and that’s fine.
When cool, open the lock of the springform tin, lift out the cake, and dust with more cocoa powder and icing sugar. Serve with ice cream.
(from Bon Appetit)
*This is an ongoing experiment, and I shall be updating the results here about how well the fermentation process is coming along.
In a medium-sized mason jar, combine 500g of small but taut plums with 1 cup of sugar. Ensure that they’re not overly ripe. Empty half a 750ml bottle of vodka into the bottle and shake a few times over the course of the next few days to dissolve the sugar. Let this jar rest undisturbed in a cool dark place for 3 months, checking on it after the first and second month.