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08.09.2017

We once spent an unseasonably warm November evening sitting in Shaheen Peerbhai’s pretty London kitchen, where she fed us a salad of tender greens and perfectly al dente pasta sprinkled with herbs from her garden, fortification, she claimed, for the bowl of heavy cream waiting in the fridge, in need of a good whipping.

Gently, she positioned us behind said bowl, helping us grip the whisk just so, talking us through the forming peaks and valleys, promising dark chocolate cake once we finished our task. Going back to school never felt so good.

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That Shaheen, aka Purple Foodie is a good teacher doesn’t come as a surprise: she has been staging a series of wildly popular baking / brunch / dessert classes in India and away for years now, with a dedicated core of students who will happily fly in to flambé for an afternoon.

Gently, she positioned us behind said bowl, helping us grip the whisk just so, talking us through the forming peaks and valleys, promising dark chocolate cake once we finished our task.

Starting today, she’s also launching her recipe shop, an online repository of over 150 recipes for everything from a five-layer, Pierre Herme-inspired Plaisir Sucre to fluffy pancakes. These are complete with detailed steps, photographs, and in some cases even illustrations for particularly complex procedures (see for instance a series of seven line drawings to demonstrate the proper technique for laminating a Kouign Amann). She will also set up a forum where people who buy her recipes can ask questions, clarify doubts and generally chat with Shaheen.

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“I’ve been teaching for over five years, and have never repeated a recipe,” Shaheen tells us. “The online shop is the only way to access these now.” A sneak peak reveals a neat, easy-to-navigate website with recipes arranged in clusters, around themes and seasons, all leavened with delish photos. PS: If you feel like baking us treats, we’ll take anything from the Chou Chou class or Posh Pastries, circa fall 2016.

What makes Shaheen’s recipes special is that they allow her expertise to shine through. At bpb, we’ve had the pleasure of watching her grow from an avid recreational baker to a classically trained chef from Le Cordon Bleu Paris and London, who has cooked at 3-Michelin-starred restaurants and won a bunch of prestigious scholarships, including from the James Beard Foundation and The Culinary Trust. She also has a new book out in the spring.

But for the time being, we suggest you stop by her shop, and browse through her recommendations for the top five books for novice chefs. Just try not to set the kitchen on fire! 

Shaheen’s recommendations:   

Pierre Hermé Pastries - No-fail recipes from the Picasso of Pastry.

Breakfast, Lunch & Tea - Quick and easy recipes from an English bakery perched in Montmartre.

Tartine Bread - Detailed techniques for making sourdough bread.

Gjelina - Not a pastry book, but I love the vibrant, colourful food from this eponymous LA restaurant cookbook.

La Pâtisserie des Rêves – For elegant and delicate pastries

Macarons by Pierre Hermé - Again, for the perfect macarons every single time.

Getting there: Find Shaheen’s recipe shop at classes.purplefoodie.com, start at Rs 950.

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