The Adventures of an Englishwoman

Friday, May 15, 2015

For a daughter who grew up in a home where the kitchen was off-limits, this English wife, mum, photographer and former Fox News writer has done pretty well for herself in the culinary department. Her mother, a gastronomic genius with an equal passion for photography, believed her daughters would find their own way in the cooking world, led by the tastes of their families when they married, and never taught them the secrets of her vast collection of Indian, Muslim and British recipes.  It turns out she was right, although Kanchan Char thinks wistfully to those childhood days when she wanted nothing more than to help Mum in the kitchen.

Now a mother with two lovely daughters of her own, Kanchan has made the choice to teach her girls the skills she longed for early in life. Drawing from memories of her mother's spicy Indian dishes, her American aunts cooking briskets and hot dogs, and an Italian uncle who served mouth-watering dishes, she re-creates a bit of her childhood for her children as she cooks wholesome meals for their family each night. A melting pot of cultures, Char displays this to perfection in the variety of food she prepares, from Patatas Bravas or Prosciutto e Melone to Shammi Kebabs or a meaty Mughlai creation with tear-jerking spices.

Kanchan Char
Kanchan lives with her husband and two daughters in lovely Dorset on the southwest coast of England. Along with her self-taught skills as a home cook, she is an avid writer, music lover and photographer. Her blog, The Intrepid Misadventurer, was a finalist in the BiBs 2014 list for Fresh Voice and shortlisted for the BiBs 2014 Photo category.  Both her blog and Instagram are a visual feast of photography and word magic featuring her life in the English countryside and her travels around the world. Follow me on this photo journey through her daily life.

Like mother, like daughter. Kanchan captures the beauty around her.

Kanchan's cooking skills have come a long way from the early days when she mistakenly purchased daffodils for asparagus.
Food arouses memories, and for Char, who grew up in a home with several thousand vinyls, it also arouses music. Calamari was always prepared to the tunes of Soul Blues and Jazz.

Beginning preparations for Patatas Bravas.

Le Petit Prince - a favorite bakery and coffee shop in Dorset.

As a child, Kanchan would peddle to the chemist's to get ISO400 monochromatic film for her mother's photography obsession, a passion she has inherited. Here, she enjoys a quiet moment with her favorite analogue photography magazine and a cup of coffee to start the day.
Art provides inspiration for life. Here, a vintage find of a favorite artist.

What's better than a cup of steaming coffee enjoyed in the early morning on the English coast?

Slow-cooked risotto made with pantry essentials: air-dried sausages, cheese, chives and a fair amount of garlic.

 New Forest, a vast unenclosed pasture of land populated by free-roaming wild ponies and cattle.

Family photographs and favorite art.

The quiet beauty of the English countryside portrayed in this pastoral scene.

Home-cooked goodness served around this smooth, unfinished wooden table each night.
A walk in the village includes a stop for a cuppa.

Clean kitchen, happy Kanchan.

One of the things I've come to love most in England is the wonderfully sweet- tangy Caramelized Onion and Goat’s Cheese Tartlet! My first tryst with it was at the Manor Farm Tea Room in Bleasby, a family run organic farm in Nottinghamshire, which was our local haunt when I lived in Notts… a bit of a hallowed time in my life.  I think Goat’s Cheese per se, is a bit of a polarizer…you either love it or despise it, few seem ambivalent about it!

Part of my blog legacy is to not just catalogue my mum’s recipes and food I have fond memories of growing up with, but to also incorporate my newer favorites. Some of these classic recipes I've come to love have initiated me into British cooking, and the success of them will always glow with the light of a thousand candles. 
Caramelized Onion and Goat's Cheese Tartlet
  • 8 sheets Philo pastry, cut in strips
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 250g onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 25g butter, melted
  • 50g walnut pieces, chopped
  • 1 packet of goat cheese, about 70g, cut in thin medallions
  • 2 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • freshly ground black pepper

In a heavy bottomed pan add the oil, crushed garlic, sliced onions and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring often. You could add a teaspoon or two of light brown sugar to help with the caramelization! Stir occasionally for another about 6 minutes till the onions begin to turn a rich golden brown. Add a few sprigs of thyme and some freshly ground black pepper and cook a few minutes. Add toasted walnuts just before you take it off the pan! Cool and keep aside.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (gas 6).
Take the strips of filo pastry cut in roughly the height of your baking mold or muffin tray. Remember you’re going to lay the strips in circles around the base of the mold. Brush each strip with melted butter.
Bake for 5-6 minutes, until the pastry is almost cooked. Spoon the onions into the baked tart shells and top with thin slices of goat’s cheese, sprinkle with mixed herbs (optional).
Brush lightly with the remaining melted butter. Bake for 10–15 minutes until golden. Serve immediately with a helping of mixed salad leaves!
Caramelized Onion and Goat's Cheese Tartlet
For more on Kanchan Char, visit

1 comment:

  1. I always have these ingredients on hand. Now I know how to combine them for an incredibly tasty & quick recipe. Many thanks Kanchan.