of memories and irani cafes

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i grew up in Bombay and lived most of my formative years there. it is my hometown. and although i’ve now come to build my home in Bangalore, Bombay will always continue to reign supreme in my heart. it is a place like no other, a place where i’ve made a chock-full of memories to last a lifetime. my earliest memory of a cafe was not the Starbucks of today’s modern times. it was one of old-world charm with a subtle colonial touch, basic and minimalistic, with high-end ceilings and large creaking fans, black-and-white-checkered laminated/tiled flooring, wooden/glass/marble-topped tables with red-and-white-checkered tablecloths, wooden/cane chairs that wore the brunt of time, large wall mirrors hanging precariously doubling up the floor space, large chiming pendulum clocks, and large apothecary jars filled with shrewsbury biscuits, nankhatai (shortbread biscuits), macaroons, madeira pound cakes, mawa cakes and other such characteristic bakery treats on display. legend has it, Iranian cafes were opened by Persian immigrants to India as early as the 19th century. there were hundreds of them then of which most downed their shutters over a period of time losing to competition from fast-food chains etc. leaving only a few handful to pass on their dying legacy. since they operate on a low margin making it affordable to the common man, their sustainability and survival is only a matter of time.

there are no Irani cafes here in Bangalore. but there is one that opened up in their name with the below objective;

With sodabottleopenerwala, we give you a concept that is unique to India; the dying legacy of the wonderful chaotic, crowded, bustling, colorful, quirky, cluttered, eccentric, and so real world of an Irani cafe. Our way of reviving the love for the edu and the disappearing race behind the cafes.

        i must say they did a pretty good job at recreating the cluttered and eccentric ambiance and the food, to some extent. here are a few shots from my time at the restaurant. 

    

i have been looking to bake these Irani mawa cakes for long now. cakes that time-travel into my childhood. i find they are ridiculously easy to make with basic pantry ingredients except for the condensed milk solids (mawa / khova) that a trip to your local supermarket or milkbar / dairy center should fulfill.

adapted from here


ingredients

  • 200g mawa/khova (condensed milk solids), at room temperature
  • 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups caster sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • a pinch of cardamom powder
  • a tbsp of almond flour
  • almond slivers

instructions

  1. blend the butter, sugar, eggs, milk and mawa using a hand or stand mixer at low speed in a large bowl into a smooth batter. add the cardamom powder and almond flour and blend until incorporated.
  2. whisk the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. fold the dry ingredients into the wet to form a muffin-like batter.
  3. spoon the batter into a muffin tin, with each hole about 3/4th full. sprinkle almond slivers on top.
  4. bake in a preheated oven at 150 deg celsius for about 30-35 min.
  5. serve warm with a steaming cup of hot irani chai!

 

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