I just ate the most wonderful lunch of comfort Indian food at Darjeeling Express. I made the reservation for the day I arrived in London. The only time available for a lunch for two was at 2:00, 2:15 or 2:30. That suited me because I was arriving at 10:30 at Heathrow and would need to drop my bags in Soho. Fortunately my hotel was just an 8 minute walk from the restaurant (plus a few minutes for finding Kingly Ct–Google maps got me there but the entrance to the courtyard feels positively secretive.) I selected 2:30 and subsequently learned that this is the last seating for lunch service. The reservation form didn’t give an option for solo diners so I hoped they’d forgive me for saying I was two people!
I came in out of the rain and shed my coat and umbrella at the door. The restaurant was still mostly full when I arrived. It is more casual dining and very comfortable. Within a few minutes the three tables for two closest to the kitchen were full and I was at the middle table. I sat facing the kitchen so I could watch the women preparing food. I have not eaten Indian food often and when I have it has been mostly at the type of place where there is a buffet or a more limited menu. The beverage was an easy decision as the Tamarind Spritz sounded so refreshing. As I studied the menu and the specials of the day I noticed that the young couple next to me were enjoying an easy banter and as they were Indian might have some helpful suggestions.
I asked them if they have eaten here before? Yes! Did they have any favorites? Yes! They were eating vegetarian but I was open to mixing it up. I accepted their suggestion for Bihari Phulki as a starter. A generous portion arrived with two sauces–I loved the tamarind sauce best, the other was a bit spicy for me and still delicious. They explained that this is the kind of food they would eat at home on a day like today. I wasn’t sure if they meant eat at home as in home-cooking or if they were from India. They did both grow up in New Delhi but met in London. They meant it was the kind of comforting food that ticks lots of boxes on a cold, blustery day.
While I waited for my main, they were served Puchkas. I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of it. It looks like a circle of eggs shells broken at the top around a small ceramic pot of sauce. You pour the liquid into the shell of pastry and pop it into your mouth. The flavors crash in a series of delicious waves. I know because this lovely couple offered me the seventh one, assuring me that I would keep them from fighting over it.
For my main I chose the Calcutta Chicken Chaap that comes with bread or rice. My dining friends suggested the bread as it is the kind of bread your mother would make at home or you could get on the street in New Delhi, albeit the street version is greasier. It was amazing: light and fluffy and a great compliment to the chicken. So good that I broke my rule of taking a “doggy bag” when I am on the road. I wished I had taken the chicken too as I ended up giving it to a homeless man outside Hatchard’s bookstore. The number of homeless people in London on this visit surprised and saddened me.
I planned my trip to London around Harry Pottering with my friend UK Sarah at the end of November when I got a screaming deal on Air New Zealand. Then a few weeks ago season 6 of the Chef’s Table debuted on Netflix. I was intrigued by the episode featuring chef Asma Khan and her London restaurant Darjeeling Express. And thrilled when I discovered I could afford to eat there and a reservation was possible.
One of the other reasons to dine at Darjeeling Express is Chef Khan’s commitment to hiring mostly women and supporting charities that lift up women. On my table was an appeal to give to The Lotus Flower Cafe. And on the website there is information on Second Daughters Fund the charity also featured in Chef’s Table, Volume Six, Episode Three.
My first plan for today was to read Beth M. Howard’s book Making Piece and then to reflect on the roles pie has played in my own life. I am as my mother reminds me “from a long line of pie-baking women.”
I bought the book (it’s on my TBR shelf) and then I realized I’d be in London on Pi(e) Day.
I am in London in the middle of two glorious days Harry Pottering. I did scope out a shop, Pieminister, where I could try some British meat pies. Alas our schedule is so full it may not happen today. I may have to wait for Ian Leavitt’s pie in the butcher shop in Tollesbury, Essex.
I recently began watching the Great British Bake Off on Netflix. I am late to the party. I went back to watch from the early seasons and someone in there they gave the amateur bakers the challenge to bake an American pie. I was appalled by how they interpreted our pies. First they all used butter only crust. While there are Americans who use butter only crust, it is more common to use half-butter, half-shortening in the crust. Or as the women in my family do–all shortening, preferably Crisco. (I’m sure Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry are shuddering if they read this.) Second, American pie is served from it’s pie “pan” which is most commonly a ceramic dish especially for pie. The bakers did get right that it is almost always very sweet and can be a cream pie or a fruit pie or a combination.
Watching the show has also reminded me of some of the very delicious meat pies I have enjoyed in England. I hope to eat some today, perhaps at Warner Brothers Studios.
Pick up a fork and celebrate Pi(e) Day with your choice of savory or sweet!
Update: I did get some absolutely fabulous chicken pot pie from Ian the butcher in Tollesbury, Essex. He makes his with a puff pastry top.
This December I have been baking my way through Christina Tosi’s All About Cake cookbook. I first discovered Christina Tosi’s cake magic on Netflix in the dessert season (Vol. 4) of The Chef’s Table. Then when I was in Washington, DC my buddy Carole went with me to try her new Milk Bar (see earlier post). Carole gifted me the cookbook for my birthday. I sat down immediately upon opening the package and saw about a dozen recipes I wanted to try. Starting with the pistachio bundt cake above. Yes it really is Shrek green. It’s also uses about $20 worth of pistachios!
Next was the apple cider donut crock pot pudding. It required a slight substitution of delicious cinnamon sugar donuts from Marie’s Do-Nuts (Sacramento, CA). They have to be “day-old” so buy extra as you there will be some attrition. I shared the finished donut pudding around and everyone found it comforting and delicious. My neighbors and friends are definitely the early beneficiaries of this baking program. I couldn’t possibly eat all of this cake myself.
Any family gathering also provided an opportunity to try another recipe. This is the cherry cola bundt cake that I took to the Pieper Christmas at Auntie J’s. My version came out darker because the cola extract I ordered on Amazon gave everything a dark cola tint. The molasses and half dozen eggs made it rich and dark and yummy.
I nearly wore myself out with the 3 cake sprint over Christmas. I baked 2 cakes on the day before Christmas Eve. Then I made one more cake on Christmas morning to take to a family dinner. Having no elves to clean up or even a dishwasher, I found myself really tired of bundt pan scrubbing.
I also had to run to the grocery store twice–once to buy more butter, and once to buy more eggs. These recipes require a lot of both. Other than a few more exotic ingredients such as lemon extract. I now know how relatively simple it is to make an interesting and delicious cake, and I don’t know why I’d ever use a cake mix again.
My aunt gave me this sort of loaf shaped bundt cake pan that she doesn’t use. It was perfect for the Mint Julep bundt cake. I forgot to dress with mint leaves (still in my crisper drawer). My mom really enjoyed this cake for Jesus’ birthday.
My final cake was the raspberry bundt with grapefruit glaze. I also made homemade whip cream. This cake was a big hit also. The grapefruit glaze offers a little zing. Always the texture of the cakes is dense and delicious.
I’m taking a break now (until 2019) and having fruit for dessert for awhile! There are more recipes I want to try. In the winter when the weather makes it challenging to get outdoors as much for adventure or travel, it can be fun to watch a baking challenge from Britain on television and then try our own hand at a new recipe.
I freely admit that my travel choices are influenced by Netflix shows, especially Chef’s Table. Season 4 the episodes focus on dessert. I somehow missed the hoopla about Christina Tosi’s Milk in New York City. This June she opened a flagship store with lab in Washington, DC.
Carole and I headed there on a hot and muggy day. We didn’t get the cereal milk softserve. Instead we bought a slice of chocolate malt cake, a slice of birthday cake, and some crack pie to share. Sugar shock in the best way!
This store at 1525 15th Street NW near Logan Circle doesn’t have a lot of indoor seating (as in, air conditioned), and there is limited outdoor seating. There are parking spaces though! And they are offering baking classes here.
We browsed her cookbooks and are seriously exploring taking the chocolate malt cake in the near future. Meanwhile I crumbled my remaining crack pie in my oatmeal this morning and it was very, very good.
I have followed professional cycling for decades or since Greg LeMond won his first Tour de France. I have spent much of my precious time and resources as an avid fan in Italy, France, England California and Australia. When the UCI ejected Peter Sagan from the Tour de France last July, my fan heart was broken.
I never thought Lance Armstrong was clean because I saw an interview with Greg LeMond talking about getting dropped by riders who the year before were middling racers. Then he knew the drugs were winning. Lance was up among the elite riders who were winning and they were getting caught doping. My assumption was that he was better at not getting caught. So I left some room for being wrong and cheered Columbia High Road and other riders on. Besides he was a bully, that was clear without a urine sample.
Somehow I survived those wretched years when the press broke a new drug scandal every year. I remember once I was traveling in Africa and spent some time with a German couple. He was a sports writer and the German press had just made a big deal about not televising or covering the Tour de France because of the drugs. I couldn’t understand how you could just stop caring. I was still in the throes of attraction to cycling.
Now I understand. Sometimes the corruption of the officials and the lack of fair play doesn’t just knock the wind out of you, it hits you with such a punch you just don’t give a flying fig anymore. I have huge respect for Peter Sagan. His cycling skills are unparalleled today. And his attitude is super fun and eccentric. He brings excitement to the sport. Oh, and he’s won the world championship 3 years in a row. He was on track to win the green jersey again, when his crash with Mark Cavendish drew the ire of race officials. They didn’t just relegate him for that stage (like they did Mark Cavendish when he had a similar crash back in the day), but ejected him from the race. Later the UCI dropped the disqualification, as if that does anything to erase the stupidity of the first decision.
The rest of the season I followed the Australian team and their excellent videos on social media. Orica Bike Exchange’s Backstage Pass was awesome. I stopped using my NBC Gold Pass to watch races. Still I wondered if I’d go back to feeling good as a fan after a break.
Then I received this email about Peter Sagan’s Fondos in California. Nope. I have a precedence. After many years as a USC football fan, I read about the concussions, then I took my family to a home game and the pre-game videos of greatest “hits” made me sick. Haven’t watched a game since. The Olympics, well who hasn’t lost faith in the Olympics? The latest in scandals is the Russians’ systematic doping. But that has been going my whole life. See the documentary Icarus on Netflix for a refresher.
I am sad to announce my heart break was finally irrevocable. I am a former cycling fan.
I learned about the new waste management facility with the ski slope on the roof from watching the Bjarke Ingels episode of Abstract: the Art of Design on Netflix. He’s a Danish wunderkind architect with a firm BIG. More cool than the rooftop ski run is the technology that takes household waste and makes clean energy. This technology is also used in Sweden. (Why aren’t we doing this in the USA??) You know it’s clean because they just built expensive homes next to it.
P.S. It was exciting to make this connection to an episode of one of my favorite original programs on Netflix:
Oh my gosh. I was prepared for several hours watching Norwegian women in a circle knitting. It is so much more dynamic and fun. If we watched live we could have checked in on facebook (Norge Rundt). It is all super quirky fun. Thank goodness for subtitles. Available for streaming on Netflix.
The television host is Rebecca Nedregotten Strand and her enthusiasm is infectious.She and her crew assembled an interesting variety of knitters and projects–from a group knitting a sweater suit for a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and a fashion show of traditional and modern knitwear. As she says in the introduction, “A thread can contain so much. All you need is two needles to create warmth, love and care.”
There are instructional videos scattered through the four hours if you want to learn how to cast on and start knitting. The method is continental style, which I’ve always suspected is more efficient than the American style that I learned.
I heard about Slow TV on a podcast about going slower. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I realize as I watch 4 or more hours of cycling in a morning during one of the three grand tours, I am not completely new to the charms of slow television. If you are remotely interested in knitting you’ll find this entertaining. Other episodes feature train trips.
I dare you to not be charmed by the Norwegians sharing their beautiful country and enthusiasm for traditional crafts. As one knitter said if you are wearing mittens you can only give it a thumbs up.