Cheap Eats in South Delhi?

Last month when a friend visited me in Delhi, we had a rather delectable brunch at Elma’s in Hauz Khaz Village. Freshly baked bread in different hues, a German-style handmade sausage roll, and olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes for dipping purposes. All washed down with Darjeeling tea (served in china cups and saucers, naturally) and carrot and cheesecake cake. The bill was Rs.1200.

Tea & Cake at Elma's - yes that is cheesecake!

While permissible as an occasional indulgence, forking out at this level just isn’t possible on a student budget. Luckily for me, my daily expeditions to North Delhi for college take me into the realm of Rs.30 thalis and Rs.5 cups of chai. But what happens when you want to eat local? Six months after moving into Safdarjung Enclave, here is my round-up:

Tiffin in the Village

If you find yourself in Hauz Khaz Village on a sunny day, then you can have the most delicious aloo gobi without breaking the bank (in fact, even if you order it with curd and roti, you’ll still have change from a Rs.50 note). This tiffin-wallah extraordinaire(who also sometimes has rajma, rice & aloo matter) is located just behind the newsagents on the left hand side of the main drag, just before you reach the entrance to the small park/historic monuments. Taking your lunch into said park means that you can enjoy not just delicious food, but also a lakeside view. What more could you want.

Aloo gobi in the village

Bengal Sweet Corner

In the same complex as Kamal Cinema in Safdardung Enclave, and rightly famed for its delicious sweet dishes, The Bengal Sweet Corner also does a rather wonderful thali. Rs 100 for delicious dahl makhani, a paneer dish, raita, tandorri naan, rice & sabzjie, it never fails to sate me. And for just another twenty rupees they’ll deliver it beautifully packaged to your door, with the added bonus of a desert dish (often gulab jamum – yum).

Madras Café

Whenever I find myself in Green Park Market, I always nip into the Madras Café for my fix of South Indian food. Whether you want a cup of chai (served so that you have the added challenge of pouring it back and forth from the metal cup to the metal bowl without scalding yourself) a dosa or a full blown thali, it’s the place to go. The thalis are particularly noteworthy for coming with poori rather than roti, which always goes down well with me. You need to get your oil fix somehow, nah?

Madras Cafe chai, served the south Indian way

Baker’s Byte

Sometimes only pizza will do. On such occasions in the past, I have relented and called Dominoes or Pizza Hut Home Delivery, forked out a large sum of money, and invariably been disappointed by the fact that the pizza claiming to feed two actually barely satisfies one. That was until discovering Baker’s Byte! A small chain of bakeries (with my local being a stone’s throw away in Arjun Nagar), it does very passable large pizzas for between Rs.100 and 150, in a range of (vegetarian) flavours.  Their personal pizzas (the same size as dominoes medium) come in at Rs.55, and they also have a great selection of toasties, pasta, and of course cake. Fast-food fix sorted.

Happy (cheap!) eating.

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Cooking up a Storm

From time to time living in India I find myself faced with the question: “Can you cook?”

No, I didn’t make this …

Well, that really depends on what, exactly, you are asking. Following tried and tested recipes from my Dad I can turn out some (if I do say so myself) fairly yummy puddings: treacle sponge, chocolate brownies, fruit crumbles and the like. And while not exactly gourmet cuisine, my shepherd’s pie is pretty passable.

“But”, as my boyfriend’s sister probed me, “can you cook actual food – you know: rotis? Sabji? dahl?”

Hmmmm, perhaps not.

How many cheesecake girls does it take to make a roti? All three!

Part of the problem is my inability to recreate home dishes on Indian soil. With ovens few and far between in Indian kitchens (most of the cooking is done on the stove top) whipping up a pie or a cake just isn’t going to happen. When a familiar dish can be created on a gas ring – treacle sponge (which is steamed) or spaghetti bolognese, it’s often ingredients which throw a spanner in the works. Golden syrup is not on the shelves of any of my local shops, and for pretty obvious reasons I haven’t even attempted trying to find minced beef in the markets near my house. All of this, perhaps, reinforces the belief that foreigners are not very domesticated. “In your place everything is pre-prepared, isn’t it, beta?” a not entirely mis-informed auntie recently clucked.

Well, action has now been taken, and on two fronts: learning some Indian staple dishes, and brining a little bit of the west east. While learning how straight-forward it is to prepare rotis has been a revelation and I have discovered a love of shelling peas, I’m perhaps more excited my recent acquisition of an OVEN! (disclaimer: an oven in the loosest sense of the word as it is about the same size as a standard toaster, and doesn’t have a temperature dial)

One batch of crumble emerges from the tiny oven

Acquired from a charity shop back in the UK for the bargain price of ten pounds, it made it’s debut this weekend as a group of us joined together for a Saturday cooking party. With matter paneer courtesy of my friend Sangeeta, and an apple crumble & biscuits courtesy of said oven it was a truly multi-cultural feast. Just a shame that it took three batches of crumble through the teeny-tiny oven in order to feed five people …

Thanks to Susanna for the lovely photos from Saturday, more of which can be found on flickr.