Lock Stock Tikka
“What down here….are you sure?”
My eyebrows added to the query and mum looking equally concerned replied, “that’s what he said, number five.” The alloys rolled cautiously down the patchwork tarmac, fearing for their safety and we leaned forward in our seats to gauge missing numbers on the light industrial units, each looking like abandoned feral children. Broken pavements, battered white vans, steel clad doors, barbed wire crowned walls and stray thick necked men loaded high top vans. Nature had deserted this corner of Britain, not a glimpse of green in sight…even the weeds refused to poke through the cracked concrete. This could be the inspiration for Guy Ritchie’s next gangster flick.
We decided to park up, and follow our noses after all it was a commercial curry kitchen we were hunting out. So sniffing the air we arrived at a tough numberless wooden door encased by a steel grid welcoming its visitors…as if a stylist had advised its proprietor that mixing natural materials might soften the appearance of the building. It looked more akin to a CIA water boarding station. Abed, the caterer beckoned us through the open door and unleashed the curry tornado. Inside bright yellow lights, an odd assortment of inherited office furniture and a rush paint job of emulsioned light switches left us in no doubt that Elle Decoration wouldn’t be calling anytime soon. But our minds were on higher matters, namely the menu for my impending birthday, likely to be a largish affair we would need to cater for over 100 hungry revellers and the consistent quality was top of the list. Abed courted us with flat coke from plastic cups, we practised a balancing act on the non-adjustable mix and match office chairs and chatted through the menu.
Abed cleared the small burp lurking at the back of his throat and rested his hands across his slumped belly. “Okay for your price you have two starters, for the main, you have one chicken, one subzi (vegetable) enough pilau, plus salad, chutney and everything and for dessert (he wobbled his head with real delight) you have one option.”
Mum, moved into her Chief Negotiator position, “And naans, plus one meat dish and delivery”, Abed returned a respectful smile, recognising a fellow haggler, “delivery will need to be on top”. Mum, conceded and we moved on to the topic of dessert and agreed upon a carrot halva, light, not too sweet and punched through with pistachio and raisins. He left the office ‘needing to check on the pilau rice’ and returned with tasting plates stacked with lamb kebabs, samosas, aloo tikki and thin chutney. He left us to our paper plates and plastic cups to tend to the rice again and we virtually inhaled the delicious starter snacks….looking at each other a little guiltily at the speed of our consumption we nodded in approval and agreed Abed was the man for the job. Smooth, two inch thick aloo tikki (potato patties) combined with simple honest ingredients of green chilli, cumin and peas they did the job and left me wondering how best to explain to the Maharani that I couldn’t manage dinner that evening.
“Ok, ready for the tour?” Abed poked his round face into the room and yanked his head toward the kitchens. A series of four rooms set out as factory lines, a row of burners and huge pans. Each line was dedicated to a particular dish, pilau rice being stirred by well fed men, bubbling cauldrons of cardamom infused chicken, vast flat pans of mixed vegetables…naan ovens throwing out nuclear heat. Offering us platefuls of rice and curry I had visions of requesting a gastric band installation and we sweetly declined by accepting a container of carrot halva.
The deal was done, hands were shook and as we left the unit I’m sure I spied a four fingered man wave us goodbye… May be the curry wars were true, perhaps someone made him a ‘kofta he couldn’t refuse’.
Serve this aloo tikki recipe as starter, snack or party food
- 500 g potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed
- 1 mild onion finely chopped
- 1/2 cup green peas, boiled
- 2 green chillies, 1 red chilli chopped
- fistful of coriander, chopped
- 1 inch of ginger, finely chopped
- 1 tsp roasted cumin seeds, bashed into powder
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 egg, beaten
- salt and pepper to season
- flour to dust
- vegetable oil to fry
Pop all the ingredients (not the oil or flour) into a bowl and mash keeping the ingredients coarse. Create 10 - 12 portions and make into dumplings, squish them into thick flat patties/tikkis (which translates as cutlets) with the palm of your hand. Then coat the potato cutlets in flour. Cool them in a fridge for 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and then fry the aloo tikki until crisp golden brown on both sides. Serve hot with a chutney of choice.
A recipe from the Urban Rajah's Curry Memoirs cookbook. Due for release in Spring 2013, from Headline Publishing.