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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
Flickr Photoset: My Weekend with the Botanical Baker