Between the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Summer Olympics, London is spicing up tourism.
Arriving at Victoria Station, my first view in London was of The Shakespeare, which is actually a pub — with a menu that offered what I assumed to be typical London fare of fish and chips or bangers and mash. After spending five days talking with locals and exploring many sights, including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee display windows at Harrods, Westminster Bridge to Westminster Abby and the Christian Louboutin store in the Mayfair area, and experiencing many Tube stops and train rides in between, I discovered a culinary clarification: Fish and chips are for tourists, while Indian cuisine is today’s typical London cuisine.
From the Grosvenor House Apartments on Park Lane, one morning was spent walking through Green Park to the Queen’s Gallery to view the “Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist” exhibit, which happens to be located just past Buckingham Palace. Preparations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee were in process, and a crowd was building to witness the 11:30 a.m. Changing of the Guard, a grand event not to be missed.
Fully amazed with the DaVinci exhibit, where I learned how this left-handed genius felt most comfortable writing in the mirrored view, I needed fuel, so a walk to Browns Bar & Brasserie for a cappuccino was in order before continuing on my explorations throughout Mayfair and Hyde Park.
Using my Oyster card, a train to Watford Junction took me to The Making of Harry Potter — which thoroughly amazed. You won’t be disappointed, even if you’re not a diehard fan. Grand doors open to the Great Hall, where you’re instantly in the scene of any Harry Potter film. The magnitude of the actual sets and outdoor area where Privet Lane lies stunned me almost as much as the taste of Butter Beer, which proved magical in its sweet, buttery deliciousness.
The Summer Olympics will be held on the east side of London from July 27 through Aug. 12, on the other side of Harrods, St. Martin’s Courtyard and the Westminster Bridge. To plan a visit during the Olympic games, you can opt to stay in the west end of London and plan to take the Tube to view the games in between sightseeing and culinary adventures. My suggestion is to begin at Oxford Circus to shop among the crowds and enjoy lunch at Cinnamon Soho, where you can order a Bangla Scotch Egg for a starter. Shop some more before your clothes get too tight. You can arrange time with a personal shopper who will take you through many of the spectacular shops of St. Martin’s Courtyard before ducking into the courtyard of Covent Garden, where Dalla Terra awaits with tapas of house-cured prosciutto and assorted cheeses and olives that pair well with a glass or two of Prosecco.
Page 2 of 3 - Also on the menu in Covent Garden is Jaime Oliver’s restaurant, right next door to Dishoom, a Bombay paradise. It is here where I indulge in dishes unbeknownst to me, and my experience has prompted me to find similar Indian food in my own area. The fried okra was a nice surprise, as was the Chole-Chawal, which was quite spicy and sure to cure whatever ails you. This dish of spiced chickpeas with steamed rice was almost unbearable, but it was really tasty. Plus, when you dip your spoon in the yogurt before taking in the Chole-Chawal, all is manageable.
For those who like it hot, here’s a taste of London cuisine, below. And if you’re looking for more information on a visit to London, check out the website: VisitLondon.com
- Courtesy of Dishoom
1 cup Kabuli chana (dried chickpeas)
1 Tea bag, ideally Indian spiced tea
1/3 cup onion & tomato masala*
Pinch of red chili powder
2 pinches salt
6 oz. can tomato paste
2 teaspoons chana masala
2/3 tablespoon gram flour
Pinch of Garam masala
2 pinches cumin powder
4 teaspoons oil
1 bay leaf
1 pod black cardamom
Pinch of cinnamon
1. Soak the chickpeas overnight, then boil for 1.5 hours with salt and tea bag (if using).
2. Heat oil; add whole spices, sauté for 1 minute and then add tomato paste, chana masala and red chili powder. Sauté for 5 minutes and add the gram flour.
3. Add onion tomato masala and sauté.
4. Add boiled chana with water, remove tea bags. Cook until sauce thickens, and then add Garam masala and cumin powder.
To serve: spoon over boiled rice, garnish with half a fresh lime, finely chopped red onions and slivers of fresh ginger and a little plain yogurt on the side.
* Onion tomato masala (for chole)
1/2 cup red onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup tomatoes, chopped
3/4 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil
Heat the oil in a heavy bottom pan and fry onion for 7-8 minutes until golden brown. Add the ginger and garlic paste and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the finely chopped tomatoes and sauté again for 5 minutes.
Add all the dry spices, cook until oil separates, and then cool.
Bangla Scotch Egg
The Bengalis like cakes – they make them with potatoes and with fish but call them “shops.” At Cinnamon Soho, they have given the same treatment to a mixture of vegetables where the color of the beetroot gives this dish a distinctive look.
Page 3 of 3 - Serves 6
1/8 cup ghee/clarified butter
1/4 teaspoon black onion seeds
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 bay leaf
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 finely chopped carrot
1/8 of a medium sized cauliflower, finely chopped
1/4 cup French beans, finely chopped
1 beetroot - boiled, peeled and finely chopped
2/3 tablespoon raisins
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 medium sized potato, boiled and grated
For the spice mix
1/2 teaspoon roasted coriander seeds
2 green cardamom seeds
Pound the above ingredients coarsely in a mortar and pestle or a processor.
2 whisked eggs
2/3 cup dried breadcrumbs
18 quail eggs or 6 regular free-range eggs, boiled retaining soft yolks
If using quails eggs, start with salted tap water in a saucepan, just enough to cover the eggs, and bring to a boil. As soon as liquid comes to a boil, keep on heat for 45 seconds, drain, chill using cold water, allow to cool and peel. Keep aside.
When using regular eggs, drop the eggs in boiling salted water and cook for 6 minutes, remove from heat, drain and chill using cold water.
Heat the ghee in a thick-bottomed deep wok. When hot, add the onion seeds, fennel, cumin and the bay leaf. When they begin to crackle, add the onions and sauté until golden. Now add the vegetables as per the order of ingredients, except the beetroot, and sauté on a medium heat for 4 minutes. Then add the red chlli powder, spice mix and the ground cumin and stir for 2-3 minutes.
Add the raisins and diced beetroot and cook further for a minute. Add the salt and sugar and stir well, then add in the grated potatoes and cook well until the mixture is evenly mixed and the color turns reddish and the mixture becomes shiny due to the ghee. This should take 3-4 minutes.
Cool the mixture, and when cold divide the mixture into 18 equal parts and roll it around the boiled egg, dip the balls in the egg batter and roll it into the dried bread crumbs and cool it in the refrigerator.
Deep fry the cakes golden brown and serve hot. They can be served with any mustard based sauce mixed with tomato ketchup.
Charlene Peters is editor of special features at GateHouse Media New England. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.