Thursday, 28 November 2013

Babur's Indian Muslim Cooking Menu

I have reviewed South East London's Babur Indian restaurant before on my blog. That particular visit coincided with their 28th birthday celebrations, where they featured a Keralan inspired menu. You can find my review here:

In that review, I said "We just wonder what their latest menu adventure will involve!", after thoroughly enjoying their "Dealer's Choice" anniversary menu. I was therefore delighted to be invited by them to sample their latest special menu, a celebration of Indian Muslim cooking. 

This special menu will be available until 12 December 2013. It reflects the wide diversity of influence Islamic culture has brought to Indian food. Trade between the pre-Islamic Arab nations and India has existed since ancient times. Once Islam was founded, trade and travellers came to India spreading this new faith as they did around the Arabic speaking world and beyond. 

The Mughal empire of the 16th Century to the mid 18th Century is a very famous example of the Muslim influence on India. The Taj Mahal is perhaps the most obvious and dazzling example of the Mughals' achievements, known across the world. However, the earliest Muslim settlements in India date back to the 6th Century and the Delhi, Bahmani and Deccan Sultanates are further examples of Muslim power in India.

Enough history. Back to the Indian Muslim Cooking special menu! You will notice that there are no "haraam" items. Pork, blood products, and any meat from a carnivorous animal are prohibited. Many Muslims in India also refuse seafood.

First came a small treat to get us started, a little chunk of boiled potato which had been subsequently fried in herbs and spices. It doesn't sound particularly exotic or special, right? Wrong. It had a kick of heat and fabulous hints of other spices, cumin and garam masala being among them. If it is ever possible to tease the recipe for this out of the chef of Babur, I'd have this with my Sunday roast in place of roast potatoes!

My starter was the Haleem with chilli khasta roti (£7.75). I ordered this because I was intrigued by the description and had no frame of reference for such a dish.

The dish was a thick stew where the lamb neck had been slow cooked for so long it had fallen apart. There were no chunks of meat left, just small strands. The resulting gravy was therefore full of hearty, meaty flavour. Surprisingly, there was not much of the wheat, barley or the lentils, which I had expected to have bulked out the dish. The spicing was bold and had a good balanced heat; not for the chilli novice, but not too hot to blow your head up. The overall effect was of a comforting and satisfying thick and chunky soup. My only criticism is that there was only one piece of the roti. Given the amount of Haleem, at least one other piece, if not an extra two were required to slurp up the goodness.
Him Indoors went for the Chicken Malai Tikka (£6.95). 
The presentation of this dish is not done justice by this photograph. The part of the restaurant we sat in was not brightly lit and I refuse to take pictures of food with the flash on as much as possible. The colours never come out right and everything looks dead with the flash. 

The chicken was well flavoured and coated with the marinade, and thankfully the cheese was a taste which registered but did not dominate the dish. I only tried a bite of this dish, which I found lovely. Him Indoors thoroughly enjoyed it, declaring it "brilliant".

We then moved on to the main courses... 

My choice was the Nawabi biryani with salan (£15.50). I often like to order dishes which either are ones I cannot make myself or are sufficiently difficult or time consuming to make at home. True biryani is such a dish which is both difficult and time consuming. The rice cooks essentially by steaming in a sealed container, kept air and watertighted by being sealed with some chapati dough. My biryani arrived in a cute little individual pot....

I took the lid off and found, to my surprise, not rose petals, but the sight and scent of a whole rose! It felt like unwrapping a very nice present.

In many Indian restaurants, biryani is served with a vegetable curry. This is actually not traditional. The veggie curry is served for its gravy, to provide something wet to mitigate the slightly dry biryani. However, the curry accompaniment has become so ubiquitous, people have come to think of this as the real McCoy.

Babur do their best to be authentic, but clearly recognised that serving the biryani by itself might disappoint western diners used to having something moist to go with it. They solved this problem by serving the biryani with a cute little pot of spiced chicken broth.

The biryani was a real treat for me. The rice was fluffy and flavourful. There were scrumptious chunks of perfectly steamed chicken. The broth brought an intensity of chicken flavours with a touch of spice. This was a great dish which hopefully might one day make it to the main menu.

Him Indoors opted for the Lamb Rezala with steamed rice (£14.95) which he chose because it was a traditional Bengali dish. I should explain: my family's roots are Bengali and many years ago, before the Partition of India, they lived in what is now Bangladesh. Hence, the choice of a Bengali dish.

The lamb had been slow cooked until it was beautifully tender. This meant that the sauce was not only creamy and full of delicate spicing, as is typical of Bengali food, but it had that slight sweetness which is a tradition and quirk of the region. The green chilli garnish particularly pleased Him Indoors who likes his curries nice and hot, and often gets treated to some extra green chilli by my mum when he visits for dinner.

The Muslim cooking menu is a very interesting exploration of a particular influence on Indian food. I think that Babur have worked hard to bring authenticity to the dishes they have selected for the menu. We enjoyed everything we had, and received the same good service and atmosphere that we do on every visit. 

My only criticism, which is not a major issue, is that this special menu felt a little restricted. Other than lamb and chicken, there was little variety. There were no vegetarian options. No other meats, which could have been halal were available. However, what was on the menu if you like lamb and chicken was excellent. And this was a temporary menu for which I was ordering for one visit alone.

For an innovative exploration of Indian food and food culture, I would say try to catch this menu before it disappears. You can always save more adventurous meat choices for another day.
Snigdha and Him Indoors ate as guests of Babur.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

November 2013 Favourites list

Hello everyone! How is November been treating you?

Personally, I've found the clocks going back and the sudden onset of cold weather a real shock to my system. Having, on the colder days, to try to cram feet with two pairs of socks into my boots has not been fun! 

Some people love this time of year. The yellows and russets of the falling leaves, the loss of oppressive heat, the cuddly feel of wool on skin, are all things many people find pleasure from in this season. I guess if that's you, we will just have to agree to disagree!

I do enjoy the flavours of this season, thankfully! Stews, curries, soups, casseroles, roasts/bakes and generally more comforting food always meet with my approval. Time to dig the slow cooker out, and plan some suppers! And the trusty cast-iron casserole dish is bound to see some action in the coming days and weeks.

I am thinking of making some stuff with some middle-eastern influence... perhaps some Turkish or Persian flavours. So dried oregano, saffron, pine nuts, raisins and chick peas... you get the kind of impression.... I think a buying trip to find stuff like Pomegranate molasses and Sumac is in order...

I'll get my coat!

This month's pictures are from Positano in Italy, from my trip there last year. It's a picture perfect little town perched on a hill, descending down to the sea.

Blogs Worth Following:


Originally to use up stale bread, this is a middle eastern salad which is full of colour and joy, Lebanese Fattoush.

Authentic Pad Thai from a street vendor. You have the lovely Anjali Hall to thank for finding this down the back of the internet!

Vegetarian & vegan - healthy lentils with sweet potato and spinach.

Originally to use up stale bread, this is a middle eastern salad which is full of colour and joy, Lebanese Fattoush.

Ketcheree, (or Khichuri) is the origin of Kedgeree, here is a Persian spin on the classic Indian dish:

Osso buco, one pan brussels with bacon, laksa, seared beef, sorbet - a collection of great recipes from Nigel Slater.

Baked squid, Mussels and bacon on toast, Grilled duck salad with lemon grass and ginger, Orecchiette with sardines and breadcrumbs. More best of recipes from Nigel Slater: 

Nigel Slater's best veg recipes - Grilled halloumi with beetroot, Artichoke and rosemary tortilla, Cheese and chive puddings, Red aubergine curry

Nigel Slater's best dessert recipes - Chocolate praline truffle cake, Blackcurrant ripple, Blackberry friands, Fig and walnut cake, Baked apples with dates, maple syrup and brandy butter, Pomegranate and prosecco jelly, Banana ice cream with warm cranberry sauce:

Smoked haddock and spinach macaroni cheese, what a twist on a classic!

A very traditional Bengali recipe - prawns with cooked gourd (lau chingri), similar to my mum's:

Allegra McEvedy writes wonderful recipes which are simple and full of flavour. Here is her Pear, Lentil and Pork chop suppertime recipe as featured on Radio 4.

How to make your own Za'atar and your own flatbreads:

Articles/Know How:

Making your list for Santa? Here are some ideas for foodies:


The Ambassadors

Imagine: Jimi Hendrix


Club 8 - Above The City

The Joy Formidable - Wolf's Law

MS MR - Secondhand Rapture

The National - Trouble Will Find Me

Neil Young - After The Gold Rush

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Catford Broadway Market - delicious food and super treats!

I've recently been posting about the goings on in the Nation of Catford, where I happen to live. It has long been a scruffy corner of London whose distance from any Underground line has led to it being perceived as undesirable.

That is all beginning to change. Regeneration is bringing much needed investment to the fabric of the community. Local initiatives are also changing the face of the community. One of these is by shaking up the Catford Broadway Market.

One trader who deserves to do well is Colonel Tom's Gumbo. Tom Warden, its founder, learnt how to make traditional southern Gumbo, which he serves with either rice or homemade cornbread. 

His Gumbo packs a mighty flavour punch, which I found intense and satisfying. Tom told me that his Gumbo intends to be rich, with a chilli kick in the finish. That afterglow is very pleasing indeed, and will be even more so as the temperature drops and we head into Winter. 

Pastaficio Mansi, of Ladywell, Lewisham, were in attendance, selling their artisanal handmade pastas. 

One of the recent Catford Broadway Supperclub hosts, I can attest to the loveliness of their delicate raviolis, generously filled with butternut squash. 

Another Supperclub host, Capo Cacciaare bringing their wares to Catford Broadway Market.

Pane Carasau, Mustela, Lardo, organic Pecorino, all great quality products from small producers in Sardinia.

There are lots of tempting baked goods for Catfordites and visitors to sample. 

I couldn't resist Sweetroot's take on baking, incorporating vegetables into their cakes, muffins and mini loaves. 

The sugar free Parsnip and Banana mini loaf was moist and delicious. It was hard to believe it doesn't have any sugar added, but clearly the parsnips and banana have given up their sweetness in a delectable and satisfying way. I may even have got one of my five-a-day and I did so by eating cake!

One very welcome trader is Elvira's Pantry, an artisanal Italian bakery selling Gluten, Yeast and Dairy free products. A great way for people with dietary requirements and food intolerances issues to enjoy a little bit of something sweet. 

The market isn't all about food, there are some fun and interesting stalls for other interests. This jewellery stall had some cool costume jewellery pieces for that urban bling look!

Amanda of local shop "Gorgeous Gifts and Accessories" has brought her special homemade natural skin care products to Catford Broadway. 

Her products smell divine and are made of herb and fruit extracts. A lovely treat for yourself or a gift for someone, perhaps?

Jozeen, another Catford local, runs "Light and Bubbly", making small batches of handmade candles, soaps and bath treats.

But back to the food!

Uli's jams, chutneys, scones and macarons are a popular and tempting stall.

The macarons stood out for me. The pistachio macaron was delicious and the rose was redolent with fragrance. A complete bargain.

 Jouvert are dishing up their West Indian delights.

Two Hungry Bees have brought a little bit of Saigon to Catford.

Their steamed buns are filled with sour, sweet, tangy spicy salad and meat.  

Or you could have one of their spring roll and salad boxes. 

The most recent Supperclub hosts - in the new Catford Canteen pop up restaurant, In A Pikkle are the final foodie traders at the Broadway market. Their food is Bajan, but made with an emphasis on keeping it healthy and light.

So in the middle of your Sunday, when trying to get the weekly shop done or popping out for Sunday lunch, why not come to Catford Broadway's Monthly Market? It's on the first Sunday of the month, and when the rebuilding works are finished, it is going to be a very pleasant little environment to stroll around and browse. 

Come and support your local market, people of the Nation of Catford!