Ever heard of gujiya-shaped Chicken Curry Puffs? Or Melba toast with bharta (smoked aubergine with tomatoes, garlic and onions)? Last Sunday, Pamela Timms served all this and more at the fourth edition of Uparwali Chai (high tea) at the Sanskriti Kendra, New Delhi.
Uparwali Chai begins at 4pm. Colourful tablecloths with bright napkins, a menu printed on handmade paper, milk jugs covered with net pieces trimmed with colourful beads, rosebuds in multiple hues, and a smiling Timms greet the guests as they stroll in.
Garden party: (clockwise from top) Gujiya-shaped Chicken Curry Puffs; fresh strawberry cupcakes; Pamela Timms serving guests at the Uparwali Chai at Sanskriti Kendra, New Delhi; tomato, mascarpone and basil tarts; and bharta (smoked aubergine) served in steel bowls. Photos: Priyanka Parashar / Mint
The Chai starts with Timms serving pots of tea (pick from Earl Grey, Assam or Rose) or jugs of iced tea. The teapots/jugs are accompanied by Melba toast, bharta (and salmon pâté), served in steel katoris (bowls), an Indianized touch to a very English concept. Pairing Melba toast with bharta makes for a delicious starter and if topped with a spoonful of salmon pâté, which thankfully was not ultra-fine glop but a paste with body, adds a creamy texture to the combination.
As you spend time getting to know your table partners, Timms lays out the remaining nine dishes on the menu and serves them on colourful cake platters and cupcake holders.
The menu for the day includes Emmental, Gruyère and mozzarella pastries; tomato, mascarpone and basil tarts (the tomatoes—fresh, not sun-dried—and other toppings rest on a flaky, crispy base); cucumber sandwiches (white bread with mild mayo and thick cucumber slices without the peel); dropped scones with butter and home-made cape gooseberry jam (a real treat); florentines; chocolate cake with vanilla cheese cream icing; fresh strawberry cupcakes; and pistachio macaroons.
Served in shot glasses, the cape gooseberry jam has a predominately sour taste with just a hint of sweetness. Its not-so-smooth texture is a welcome change from the jams one is used to. We asked for (and got) a second helping.
Another area where Timms scores is the frosting for her cakes and cupcakes. The vanilla cream cheese icing on the chocolate cake is so well done that despite the rich chocolate flavour of the cake, the taste of vanilla comes through. The strawberry icing on the cupcakes, made from fresh strawberries, has a tart taste, and thankfully, it was not blurred by over-sweetening the frosting.
In December, Timms, a food writer and a blogger who has been living in India for four and a half years, was asked by the owner of Gunpowder restaurant, New Delhi, to be guest chef for a day. Timms, who loves to bake, thought it would be fun to organize an English high tea complete with scones, cookies, chocolate cake, cucumber sandwiches and different types of tea.
She was so enthused by the response to the first Uparwali Chai that she organized two more—one on the rooftop of her home and another at a friend’s place. “The concept of Uparwali Chai lends itself to a pop-up restaurant easily. Pop-ups are a popular phenomena in the US and Europe, where someone who is an enthusiastic cook organizes a restaurant evening at their house. They cook for 20-25 people and charge small amount from the guests for the food and service provided. I decided to try out that concept here for fun,” says Timms, who is now thinking of starting a small café in Delhi.
Timms’ recipes have been collected from different sources. For instance, the recipe of Chicken Curry Puffs is not a “Timms original” but one she read in Susan Jung’s column in Post Magazine. It is her understanding and appreciation of Indian food that add a distinct touch to the menu. For instance, pairing bharta with Melba toast, using a gujiya mould for Chicken Curry Puffs or spicing up the filling with MDH’s curry powder are what Timms refers to as creating “British Indian food in the same mould as Chinese Indian food”. And she does not shy away from including these touches to Uparwali Chai as well.
Currently, Timms charges Rs800 per adult and Rs400 for children.
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