Victoria: 1928 posts

The Art of a Perfect Flatbread : Chapati

Chapati, also known as roti, is the most popular bread in India (in addition to Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other parts of Asia where Indians have set foot). Save for the southern states where rice is the main starch, flatbreads are the staple in other areas of India. Freshly off the pan, chapati is one of the most delicious things you can eat, and all of my Indian culinary highlights include it in one form or another. Although I don’t cook Indian food daily, chapati is a frequent presence on our dinner table. Made with whole wheat flour, water and a tiny bit of oil, it’s versatile enough for a variety of accompaniments, from prosciutto and mozzarella to avocado and shrimp salad. It’s also perfect on its own with a dab of salted butter.

chapati-stack

Watching my mother-in-law turning out chapatis with lightning speed, I decided to record the process for a masterclass. You’ll find two short videos below. My mother-in-law is quite modest about her talents, but she’s one of the most accomplished cooks I’ve met, with an innate feeling for flavors and interesting combinations. (I know that some of you have made the cc powder already–that’s another one of her lessons.) You need to turn out hundreds of chapatis before yours will look as perfect as hers, but it doesn’t matter. Even if your chapati is closer in shape to the outline of India than a circle, it will still taste just as good.

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Cauliflower with Saffron and Coriander

Saffron has the reputation of a luxurious spice. Use it in tiny quantities for the most delicate of preparations like custards and seafood bisques, advises many a cookbook. Certainly, unless you live in saffron producing areas like Iran, Turkey or Kashmir, you’ll pay more for saffron than other spices in your collection, but its flavor is so dramatic that it’s worth a splurge. What I don’t agree with is using saffron only in special occasion dishes. Life is too short for that.

cauliflower-saffron1

Saffron has a medicinal-leathery scent, with a hint of apricot and floral notes. Its fragrance will entice on its own, but it’s bold enough to stand up next to strong flavors. Today’s recipe is a good example. It’s a cold cauliflower dish, and it’s a good vehicle for saffron. The combination of coriander, saffron and white wine is the right blend of spice and acidity, and it gives cauliflower elegance that one doesn’t usually expect from cruciferous vegetables.

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The Scent of Rhubarb

It’s hard to imagine a note trendier than rhubarb. Pick up any pink tinted bottle and a sales associate will recite a litany of notes which is bound to include rhubarb (along with red berries and pink pepper). But rhubarb’s popularity is justified because it can be made tart or sweet, coquettish or edgy. For me, familiarity with this material doesn’t breed contempt. On the contrary, the more I explore it, the more I become infatuated. To reveal different facets of rhubarb, I take it as a topic of my FT column, Perfumes with a Rhubarb Shimmer. I explain that materials with rhubarb inflections also have a classical pedigree and I recommend savory fruity perfumes for both men and women.

rhubarb slices

Every spring I make a Persian rhubarb sherbet by cooking sliced stems and sugar in water. Once the flavour and pink colour infuse into the syrup, I filter the liquid and add rose essence. Enjoyed in tall crystal glasses, the sherbet has a voluptuous taste that calls to mind the warm light streaming through the stained-glass windows of the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, a pink-tinted jewel of Shiraz. Since perfumery has much in common with cuisine, rendering my sherbet into a fragrance accord with a similar ornate impression is not difficult. Please continue here.

Any other rhubarb recommendations are more than welcome.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Atelier Cologne Mandarine Glaciale Giveaway

Today we have a great giveaway thanks to one of our readers. Tim would like to find a new home for his bottle of  Atelier Cologne Mandarine Glaciale (3.3 oz, 100ml, 3/4 full, no original packaging). Tim is in Australia, but he can ship it worldwide.

mandarine-atelier-cologne

It goes without saying that we are not responsible for leaks or damage during transit or for lost packages.

To participate, please answer these questions. I will draw one winner.

1. What are some of your favorite foods?
2. What perfume evoke the carefree feeling of a summer vacation?
3. May I contact you via email to notify you of your win?

The contest is now closed. The winner is Annette. Congratulations.

Snake Charmer and Sandalwood

She is wearing a peacock feather mini skirt and gazing passionately at a cobra. Serpents embrace her slender legs adorned with heavy anklets and stained with henna. Who is this mysterious snake charmer in the 18th century Indian miniature?

ragini

According to Indian legend, snakes are entranced so much by the perfume of sandalwood that they wrap themselves around the trees, but there is something even more powerful that can entice them–raga. Meaning “color” as well as “beauty” and “melody,” raga is a melodic mode in Indian classical music. The painting held at the Victoria & Albert Museum is called Asavari Ragini, hinting that what we are looking at is a representation of a melody.  Asavari is usually performed in the morning, and it’s classical image is a woman charming snakes out of their sandal scented groves.

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Latest Comments

  • Claire in The Art of a Perfect Flatbread : Chapati: Victoria, this is SO mouthwateringly delicious-looking! I’ve always loved Indian food, I’ve been known to invite myself whenever my good friend (who came from South India) had a visit of… July 30, 2016 at 1:16pm

  • Lydia in Bath and Body Works Italian Collection : New Perfumes: Capri Seaside Citrus is one of my all-time favorites. I am forever looking for them to bring it back and I hope that one day I will be able to… July 30, 2016 at 12:46pm

  • Victoria in The Art of a Perfect Flatbread : Chapati: Thank you very much, Lynn. I was also thinking recently when we made these breads together that one doesn’t need much to create something memorable. Plus, as a French saying… July 30, 2016 at 11:35am

  • Victoria in The Art of a Perfect Flatbread : Chapati: Hope that you try it. It might be hard to get the perfect circle at first, but whatever the shape, they will taste delicious. It’s worth giving chapati a try. July 30, 2016 at 11:32am

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