My first impression as I flew to Stockholm was both good and bad. Good because despite the plane being packed with children, it was a surprisingly restful flight with hardly any noise and lovely service — I should have added beautiful manners to the title of this post; every Swede I met on this trip was delightful except, that is, for the gruff sandwich tart lady (you will find her later in the post). They are really the most charming people in Europe! The bad impression which thankfully was fleeting was due to my vision of all Swedes as tall, blond and beautiful and there weren’t many on the plane. But this changed as soon as I landed. Wherever I went, I had to stop myself staring at gorgeous men and women. Fortunately, I was able to stare at the beautiful young man in the picture above taken at Saluplats Husman in the fabulous Hötorgshallen as he served us the most delicious meatballs and a wallenbarger (a very soft large meatball made with veal, eggs and cream).
I don’t order take away very often but when I do, I have two great options: delicious Vietnamese from Cay Tre or sensational Gujarati specialities from Mrs Patel, my lovely newsagent. And now I have a third option although it is very far from London, the woman in the picture above who sells her home-cooked food from a stall in souk al-Wakif in Doha. Her smartly presented selection includes balaleet, h’riss, ‘assida and mashbuss to name a few and she seems to be very popular amongst the locals as most of the people I have watched buying from her are Qataris like the lovely couple in the picture trying to make up their mind about what to get for their dinner.
I have been going to my local newsagent now for 10 years and am friends with the whole family: I speak French with the two adorable young boys, commiserate with the pretty young wife whose dream it is to return to India, discuss local affairs with Dip, her husband, and talk about anything and everything with his charming parents, Mr & Mrs Patel. Their shop is like any other newsagent’s except for what is inside one small hot cabinet: Mrs Patel amazing home-made samosas and kachoris (balls of dough filled with a spicy pigeon peas mash).
And because the Patels are from Gujarat, neither the kachoris nor the samosas have any onion or garlic in them, an important detail for a dear friend who can’t eat either. So, one evening, when I was seeing her for dinner at another friend, I took some with me. Naturally they were a great success, especially with an Indian friend who was also there and who immediately knew the kashoris were from Gujarat and asked if Mrs Patel also made khandvi (spicy pasta rolls). So, I suggested he come over to me and I’d get Mrs Patel to make us some as well as other Gujarati specialties. And because Fuchsia Dunlop was also coming that evening, we decided to have a mix & match dinner: Gujarati starters from Mrs Patel, a Lebanese salad or two by me and a Sichuanese chicken salad and an aubergine dish by Fuchsia. And, I took advantage of the occasion to go watch Mrs Patel cook. Here are a few photos of her in action.
Mrs Patel oiling the tray in which the dhokra (spicy sponge cake) would steam; spooning the dhokra mix into the tray; sprinkling cayenne pepper on the dhokra mix
Putting the pigeon pea filling on the disk of dough; sealing the dough over the filling; rolling the kashori ball
Sadly, I didn’t think to photograph Fuchsia’s dishes. They were delicious. The salad I made is the white tabbuleh in my previous post and I served a Chateau Musar 1999, which was a perfect match for all those strong flavours. We finished with my own blackberry ice cream and unlikely as it sounds, all the dishes worked fantastically well together. Now I must think of more mix & match combinations.