Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Curry For Change Khaadraas Club

Cafe Spice Namaste, the iconic restaurant run by "Incredible Spiceman" Cyrus Todiwala and "Keema Nan" Pervin Todiwala has, for several years run the Khaadraas Club. A monthly celebration of their Parsi Indian culinary heritage, the usual menu is suspended for one night and replaced by a variety of dishes loved and cooked by the Zoroastrian community of India, all for a fixed price per head with drinks extra. Tables are shared between parties, to encourage people to talk to others for an informal and friendly feel. I had been meaning to go for a while, but never quite gotten round to it. But when I heard that September's Khaadraas Club would be a fundraiser for my favourite little charity with a big impact, Find Your Feet, I was sold! I have long supported Find Your Feet's Curry For Change fundraising campaign, as regular readers will know.

Cyrus, for this Khaadraas Club drafted in another Curry For Change champion, Romy Gill, whose restaurant Romy's Kitchen near Bristol, serves food reflecting her Punjabi family heritage and experience of living in West Bengal. The menu, shared between Cyrus and Romy sounded like a wonderful variety of Indian regional food. 

In case you are wondering, "Khaadraas" is a Parsi word, used affectionately to refer to a food lover of great enthusiasm. It translates literally as "greedy pig" but isn't quite as nasty a phrase as in the English language. The Parsis do not believe in fasting, and have a strong belief of enjoying life, but in a spirit of generosity and joy. Being a "greedy pig" is part of that enjoyment of life. 

Cafe Spice Namaste agreed to donate a proportion of the money received from each diner to Find Your Feet. But that wasn't all, a charity raffle was operated by those lovely people at Find Your Feet with some wonderful prized donated by some of their kind, generous supporters.

The prizes were:
The Sirocco cookbook of Persian recipes by Sabrina Ghayour
A food hamper from Natco foods including several spices, rice and dal to get you making your own curry creations
A 1960s vintage silver plated serving tray, fabulous for tea and cakes
A handmade cashmere pashmina from Nepal in midnight blue
A Cocoa Hernando luxury chocolate selection box
A Chin’s Kitchen Nankhati (Indian shortbread) box
A spirits set of Pickerings Gin and Zubrowka vodka
Dinner for two at Chit Chaat Chai

To begin with, we had Saria and Achar, Parsi corn (maize) poppadoms with homemade chutney and spicy pickle. 

The poppadoms were crispy, crunchy, cracky and complimented the tangy tamarindy flavoured chutney and darky hot spicy pickle very well. Sweet, sour, heat and spice made this pre-dinner snack moreish and tempting. 

The starters were next.... Chollar Dal, keema breaded kofte and Bombay style bread roll. 

Chollar dal is a lentil soup of chana dal (Bengal gram) cooked in Bengali style with coconut and spices. Like true Bengali cooking, it has a hint of heat, derived from chilli, warmth from spices and a touch of sweetness. It was authentic and delicious. The cute little lamb kofte was crumbly, meaty with a touch of crumb-filled crunch. The Bombay style bread roll is the kind of bread made famous in the iconic Chowpatty beach dish Vada Pau, a soft and slightly sweet sourdough bread. All the facets come together beautifully.

The second course; Kolmi Purr Eedu and Mung Bean Noodle Salad.

Kolmi Purr Eedu is a Parsi dish requiring a little bit of explanation. The base is made from chopped prawns cooked in chopped red onions, spices and crushed tomatoes. On top of this is a whole egg which is cooked in a very interesting way. It is initially fried, but in an ingenious twist, it is deep fried in eight inches of oil. The egg is dropped in the hot oil, and immediately, sticks are used to spin the egg in the oil. As a result, the egg keeps a spherical shape, with the yolk in the heart of the egg. This means the outer part of the egg coagulates, but the inside remains soft. I'm slowly getting used to eating eggs, having discovered I no longer react badly to them (mild allergy), and so perhaps I am not the best person to review this dish. I prefer soft eggs to hard ones, so I enjoyed the rich, liquidy yolk with the prawn base and the less cooked part of the white. Everyone on my table scoffed the entire egg, so my reluctance to eat the fully cooked parts of the egg white is just my own personal vagary. Please forgive me, Cyrus. I am sure as time goes by I will become more used to eating eggs. 

The Mung Bean Noodle salad is a recipe taken on by Parsis living in Myanmar (Burma); mung bean lentils, ground into flour and extruded into noodles, cooked until tender, then tossed in finely chopped ingredients: fried garlic, chili, onion, cucumber, spring onions, coriander leaf, fresh mint, dressed in a curry leaf lime dressing and topped with chopped roasted peanuts. I want this recipe. Seriously. It would make a fantastic noodle salad for taking to work for lunch. It lasted seconds, I scoffed it so quickly!

Main course; Cauliflower and cabbage stir fry and Butter chicken with pilau rice

The vegetables were cooked lightly with a touch of whole spice. This would make a great accompaniment to a Sunday roast, if only I could manage to re-create this at home. This dish reminded me of the South Indian vegetable dish Thoran, as the veggies retain their texture and nutrients with the wonderful spices bringing flavour rather than heat.

Butter chicken is a traditionally Punjabi dish many of us have had the good luck of encountering in the UK. Southall in West London in particular, is a great place to get good butter chicken. Romy's butter chicken was marinaded in garlic, ginger, Kashmiri chili and spices before being cooked in the Tandoor oven. It was then served up in a rich tomato and cashew nut sauce with methi. It was indulgent, velvety, spicy and gorgeous. 

Desserts: Paav Maakhaan Nu Pudding and Kesarwali Chawal Ni Kheer

On the right is a Parsi bread and butter pudding with pistachio and a little bit of spice. Bread and butter pudding is too often seen as a old fashioned dessert, out of favour compared to macarons and panna cottas of this world. It may be honest and frugal, having been made of leftover bread, but this is a tasty contradiction of sumptuousness and lightness, indulgence without heaviness. Whilst the bread and butter pudding is a fusion of east and west, the kheer is a traditional Indian pudding. English rice pudding originated in India, but the original Indian dish is more generous on the thickened, home condensed milk in comparison to the rice. Here the rice has been broken to make smaller pieces cooked with a little "bite" remaining, just a little over al dente. The milk is sweet, scented and gently flavoured with saffron. Topped with chopped almonds and chopped pistachios, the dessert is fragrant, sweet, flavourful and reminiscent of my childhood. Just wonderful.

Turns out I didn't win anything in the raffle. Not a sausage. But I don't mind one bit. I had a superb meal, met great new people with interesting stories to tell and had a great night. Not only that, but the raffle and donations raised £567.81 in all, which will be doubled by a matched donation by the key Curry For Change sponsor, Natco foods. This makes a grand total of £1135.62. Not bad work for a bunch of greedy pigs!

If you want to find out more about Curry For Change 2016, which will be continued to the end of the year, please check this: http://www.curryforchange.org.uk/

Snigdha and Him Indoors paid via the plastic fantastic for their meal and drinks. Snigdha mugged Him Indoors for cash for her raffle tickets. This review represents Snigdha's honest views. Snigdha has received no incentive for writing this review. It's for charity, readers. I'm not shabby like that!

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