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Chakra Restaurant, Notting Hill, London

Chakra 3-thumbIf you’ve lamented the loss of the much loved and all time best Indian restaurant in London known as Vama, you’ll be pleased to know that chef Andy Varma and his brother Arjun have come up with another culinary creation. Nestled in the heart of London’s Notting Hill is Chakra.

 


Despite being in an upmarket location, Chakra through its ethos has the essence of good food in relaxed surroundings. The dishes are sophisticated yet possess an air of Indian regality. 
Chakra derived from ancient Sanskrit is the energy points of the body according to Hindu and Buddhist traditions. And it’s that very energy which Chef Varma and the team bring to the dining table. Their interpretations of Indian dishes are vibrant with starters such as the unusual Butternut Squash Galouti - vegetable kebabs made with yellow chilli and black pepper. This makes the most of seasonal British vegetables. Something which is very close to Chakra’s heart. Innovative dishes encompass another vegetarian delight called the Lucknow Plate that’s well worth ordering purely for it’s simplicity and genius combination of a delicately spiced lentil and mint kebab, red kidney bean patty and a spinach and nutmeg infused kebab.
 
Chakra 3-mediumA signature speciality is the Lamb Seekh Kebabs marinated in a homemade spice blend and then grilled on an Indian coal barbecue known as a chula. There are several classic main dishes to choose from including the popular Chakra Black Cod that’s roasted in a tandoor (clay oven) after being marinated in lime and cracked black pepper. The Patiala Chaap gets its inspiration from the Royal Kitchen of a King in Northern India - Maharajah Bhupinder Singh of Patiala and consists of fresh English lamb chops cured with a touch of cardamom and lemon.
 
My personal favourite is the Cucumber, Pomegranate and Tomato Raita that sits comfortably with a bread platter assortment of unique Okra Naan, Lamb Naan and Peshawari Naan. The varied choice of curries include the Jalandhar Chicken - a clever Chakra version of a Punjabi classic of tandoor cooked chicken simmered in a tomato and cream masala. You can also savour the fresh flavours of Spiced Sauteed Greens of baby asparagus and beans and the warmth of Chakra Chana which are chick peas tempered intake-away-medium cinnamon and clove. 
 
The desserts also have that Chakra touch. From the Mango Kulfi with a rich and tart Raspberry Coulis through to the fluffy and light Lemon Cheesecake, there is something for everyone to sweeten the tastebuds.
 
Chakra’s clientele is like a who’s who of Hollywood, Bollywood and the British glitterati so you wont be surprised to find yourself rubbing cutlery with the stars. The staff are incredibly warm and hospitable making sure your visit is enjoyable and informal and with the Varmas at the helm, Chakra is not an award winner for nothing.  
 
 
Chakra
157-159 Notting Hill Gate
London
W11 3LF
Tel: 020 7229 2115
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Saffron

saffron250px IMG 1742Saffron is the dried stigma of Crocus sativus, an autumn-flowering plant. More than 75,000 crocus blossoms are needed to produce a pound of saffron. It is very expensive but, fortunately, a little goes a long way. It adds a rich golden colour to rice dishes. Saffron is sold as the whole stigmas, wiry strands or threads in a deep vibrant, orange or red colour. It should have a strong, penetrating, clinging aroma, and an aromatic, warm rich flavour.

Saffron supplies the characteristic flavour and colour in Indian dessert sauces and milk puddings. Steep the stigmas in water for a few minutes before using them to extract as much as possible of their flavour.

Store wrapped in Cellophane in an airtight container away from sunlight for 2 months. Buy small quantities as it loses its flavour quickly

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Curry Leaves

curryleaves250px IMG 1831Curry leaves lend a lingering aroma to the dish, and are discarded before serving. They come from the curry plant, a shrub native to India and Sri Lanka. They are slender, dark green and similar to a small, narrow bay leaf.

The leaves smell fresh and pleasant, remotely reminiscent of tangerines, and add an aromatic curry flavour to any dish. They are the trademark of southern Indian cooking, used to flavour meat, fish, vegetables, lentils, rice and bread. They are also used in preparing Madras curry powders.

If you cannot get hold of fresh curry leaves, try the dried variety. You can buy either from Asian shops.

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Peppercorns

peppercorns250px IMG 1731Native to India, the peppercorn is the king of spices. Black peppercorns are the fermented green berries of a perennial vine plant, piper nigrum, sun-dried to turn them black and hard. Green, white and pink peppercorns are from the same plant as the black variety, picked at varying stages of ripeness. Black peppercorns should be large, even in size and a deep rich brown. They smell earthy, warm and pungent. Their flavour is released on grinding and enhanced by heat. However, once ground, the volatile oils soon evaporate so add pepper towards the end of cooking.

Good-quality black peppercorns will keep for many years in a cool dark place in an airtight container.

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Coriander Leaves

A herb in the parsley family, similar to anise. The leaves come from the young plant, Coriandrum sativum, and look similar to flat-leaf parsley, but are thinner and lighter green. They are sold in bunches in Asian shops, and smell fruity and vibrant. They have a distinct, strong flavour, of ginger and citrus. You can use the stems as well as the leaves in Indian dishes, but make sure you wash them thoroughly first to get rid of any grit. They feature in curries chutneys, soups, sandwich spreads and relishes.

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