My Weekend with the Botanical Baker

IMG_1129

Last weekend reminded me what being a foodie is all about.

I spent Saturday and Sunday with Urvashi Roe, who some of you might know from the Great British Bake Off. Urvashi also has a blog, The Botanical Baker, where she writes about all things food, including baking, restaurants and dishes from her Gujerati heritage.

On Saturday, Urvashi hosted a pop-up “Afternoon Tea” with Pipe Dream UK at Maze Inn in North London. When Urvashi invited me to come along to photograph and partake of the food, I jumped at the chance.

Orange polenta cake with warm cardamom drizzle. @botanicalbaker style.

The theme was citrus and all of the dishes – both sweet and savoury – included some element of lemon, lime or orange. I knew Urvashi was a good cook, but the inventive menu revealed that Urvashi’s skills go way beyond “Great British Baking”:

  • Lemon Rolls with Grilled Halloumi and Rocket in Womersley Dressing
  • Rye and Caraway Bruschetta with Lime Guacamole
  • Orange Polenta Cake with Warm Cardamom Drizzle
  • Lime Fizz Cupcake, Lemon Meringue Tart, Citrus Macaroons

The lemon rolls were a total surprise – I don’t think I’ve ever had bread infused with citrus, and I was surprised by how well it went with the halloumi. But I absolutely adored the rye and caraway bread with guacamole.

Rye and Caraway Bruschetta with Lime Guacamole

I’m definitely going to try making the caraway rye bread at home. And I can do that because Urvashi is awesome: included with the tea were little booklets containing recipes for all of the dishes. I love chefs who actually share the whole process of how food comes together – to me, half the joy of eating is knowing where the food comes from and how it was made.

Recipe Booklet

As this was “afternoon tea”, each course was paired with tea from Comins Tea House – a recent discovery of mine after receiving some of their tea and china as a Christmas present. I never liked Darjeeling tea until I tried theirs. (It also helps that they have fantastic customer service and a very friendly Twitter presence.)

White tea and macaroons

The Last Course

The pop-up was epic, but Sunday brought this foodie weekend to a whole new level. When I first met Urvashi at the Foodie Bugle lunch last year, we spoke at length of her Gujarati heritage and our mutual love of Indian food. So on Sunday, Urvashi introduced me to the cuisine of Gujarat and, as I kept repeating to her throughout the day, I was totally in my bliss.

It began with breakfast. Urvashi made patra, a Gujarati snack made with chickpea flour rolled in taro leaf with spices, then sliced and fried. We also had puri, an Indian flatbread, with a sweet lemon pickle. The combination was like having a love affair in breakfast form. I will take any excuse I can to eat that pickle again.

Yum: Gor Lemon Pickle

Later, Urvashi took me to Sakonis in Wembley for their lunch buffet, which is basically the Indian buffet to end all Indian buffets as far as I’m concerned. Not only is it fantastically EPIC, but the dishes are fresh and entirely vegetarian. Better still, I discovered a few new dishes to add my forever-growing list of Indian favourites.

Lunching with @botanicalbaker. Spectacular Indian buffet.

First was Dahi Wada, spiced lentil balls in a yogurt sauce, and Bhel Puri, a puffed rice dish with chickpeas, both popular North Indian street foods (aka chaat).

Dahi Wada and Bhel Puri

I also loved the simple Khadi, a spicy soup made with chickpea flour and sour yogurt which I wouldn’t my trying at home. Same goes for the Sambharo, a very simple Gujarati-style cabbage salad with carrot and chilli – a cabbage lover’s wet dream. The urid dal also grabbed me – a nice, hearty change from the red lentil and toor dals I’m used to:

Urid Dal

The day culminated with a trip to VB & Sons Indian supermarket, where I went a little crazy. I stocked up on spices and urid dal, then hit the help-your-self pickle station hardcore.

Pickles!

Add to that some fresh curry leaves and a big bag of almonds for almond butter, I took home an impressive amount of goodies for only £13.91. And now I’m well-poised to try recreating some of these delicious dishes at home.

We finished the afternoon with a drive-by Neasdon Temple on the way to Paddington, where my weekend with Urvashi came to an end. But there are plenty of reasons to go back. I’d love to introduce my family – Indian buffet aficionados – to Sakonis. (Says my dad: “Indian food is the closest I’ve ever been to heaven”, and that’s saying a lot given he used to be a Catholic priest.) Also, a proper visit to Neasdon Temple has been on my hit-list for years.

Temples and food extravaganzas aside, Urvashi and her family are some of the most generous, well-natured people I’ve ever met – a joy to be around and really fun to hang out with.

IMG_1165

Thanks is in order to Urvashi for showing me a fabulous weekend. Like I said, this is what being a foodie is all about: meeting like-minded people, learning new things, enjoying delicious food and most importantly, sharing it with others over good conversation (and maybe a bit of Prosecco and Sloe gin).

I’m really loving my foodie life at the moment.

Check out Urvashi’s The Botanical Baker to see some of her wonderful stories and recipes, including this dhal which I can’t wait to try with my urid.

Flickr Photoset: My Weekend with the Botanical Baker

4 thoughts on “My Weekend with the Botanical Baker

  1. Dottie Shaw

    What an incredible weekend. Urvashi seems like a very generous, gifted person who cooks/bakes with lots of heart and passion, which comes through in her food. Lucky you, to be so lavishly introduced to these amazing dishes… and she shares her recipes! You are SO right, seeing the recipe deepens the experience… you get a sense of the TIME it takes, the HISTORY behind it, the mingling of quality ingredients… the process is part of the WOW.

    Reply
    1. Monica Post author

      You pretty much described Urvashi perfectly. And it’s not only the time it takes to make the individual recipes, but the time it takes (years) to develop that kind of skill.

      Reply
  2. Jes

    Urvashi’s pop-up sounds amazing! I love the citrus theme, especially given how cold I’ve heard it is in England right now. Nothing like citrus to brighten an afternoon. And your weekend sounds incredibly fun–I’d kill for that buffet!

    Reply
    1. Monica Post author

      Well, if Indian buffets are your thing, there is certainly no shortage of them in London. Too bad Sakonis is waaaaay off the beaten path. But Govinda’s isn’t: http://www.iskcon-london.org/govindas-london.html

      One of my favourite cheap and cheerful lunch stops. Oh but now my mind is racing with all kinds of amazing lunch stops in London. Too many. So hard to choose! (You’re going to love it here.)

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>