In the book Korma Kheer & Kismet, Pamela Timms starts the chapter on Homesick Restaurants, with: “I have never eaten a bad aloo tikki but I have eaten some glorious ones. Over in Katra Neel cloth market, just off the Fatehpuri end of Chandni Chowk, Gopal Kishen Gupta has raised the simple act of frying potatoes to an art form. …He prides himself on a very crispy aloo tikki so he lets his patties fry for longer than most other vendors. …Each mouthful first shatters saltily in the mouth like Heston Blumenthal’s triple-cooked fries, followed by the softly spiced fluffy interior, sweetness from the tamarind sauce, sourness from the yogurt, and a lasting kick from the chilli. A party in a plate...”
This post is part of Pinch Me, I’m Eating’s “2018 Novel Recipes series“, a collaborative collection of posts from food bloggers highlighting recipes that are featured in fiction. Each post includes a book review and a recipe from the novel.
I first came across this delicious little book at the lovely book club I am a member of, Bring Your Own Book (BYOB), Bangalore, a few months ago. The discussion and a reading of the excerpts from the book, were mouth watering. I could have borrowed the book to read, but I chose instead to buy a copy for myself. When I come across a nice book, I prefer to own it, specially when the book is about food, history or travel. And in Korma Kheer & Kismet, Pamela Timms writes about all three – her ‘trip of a lifetime from cold damp Scotland’ to Delhi in Northern India leads her to a quest for the stories and the street food in the ‘chaotic medieval gullies of the old City’. Old Delhi is full of the ghosts of history, and the aroma and flavours of food.
Pamela takes us exploring the Old City, braving its blistering, blazing heat in summer, the monsoon with its unrelenting and yet glorious rains; relishing the numerous celebrations and festivals from Janmasthami to Ramzan to Independence Day (and the tasty foods specific to each), navigating the dusty twisted by-lanes of Old Delhi, venturing into its twisted streets filled with every conceivable item that a householder would want to shop for, as well as fresh produce, butchers shops, and food ranging from kebabs, kulfi, kheer and kachoris to the chaat shops. The book moves around Delhi and to other cities such as Amritsar as well as recalls some of the author’s experiences with food in France and other places she has visited.
I have enjoyed every line in the book. It is engrossing and has captured the essence of the sights and sounds of Old Delhi and its incomparable offerings of food. See this one: “Fasting and Feasting: Old Delhi was ready to eat its way from one festival to the next and it was up to the Navaratri to get the autumn party started. From the platters of dried fruit, nuts and sweets offered to the gods during the season’s numerous pujas, to the giant temporary street canteens that spring up to serve free food to the poor; from the nostalgic neon pink of candy floss at the Ramlila parade to little plates of ‘roller’ ice cream at Dussehra; from the frugality of steamed chickpeas and puri during the Navratri to the diabetes-inducing excess of Diwali, food was everywhere and the expanding waistline I was sporting by December was proof I refused nothing.”
Don’t however think that this book is only for Indians or those who know Indian food. Pamela Timms memoirs are an adventure, a story, a window to food and travel and brings to your minds eye the people, the monuments, the streets, the changing seasons, and yes, the flavours and aromas of Indian street food which no city can offer the way the gullies of Old Delhi can!
There are some fourteen delectable recipes in the book, each at the end of a chapter full of the descriptions of food which makes you want to rush to the kitchen or the fridge and whip up a plateful of something spicy and tasty. The Aloo Tikki (fried potato patties) were at the end of a chapter describing the monsoon, favourite foods to eat during the rains, and a celebration of India’s Independence Day. It was an easy choice of recipe for the ‘Novel Recipes: Summer Reading You Can Sink Your Teeth Into‘ series – after all, we celebrated India’s 72nd Independence Day a few days ago, and the monsoons are making their presence felt (tragically disastrously in some parts of the Country).
Aloo Tikki it is then, crisp potato patties, served hot, with tongue tickling green chutney and sweet and sour tamarind chutney and fresh yogurt. Sit down with a nice book and cup of steaming tea and plateful of aloo tikkis and listen to the sound of the falling rain!
Aloo Tikki: About this Recipe:
I have deviated from the recipe in the book, in a few aspects. The instructions are for dividing the potato mash into 4 parts and making 4 tikkis. Instead I made 8 smaller tikkis which were easier to fry and handle without their disintegrating in my pan. For the frying pan suggested, I used the almost flat iron pan or Tawa which is a standard in the Indian Kitchen, and added half a tablespoon of oil to start with, instead of one tablespoon. The tikki, I found, does well when shallow fried in very little oil, topped up for each batch. I have learnt, to my cost, that the Tikki shapes up better and is less likely to fall apart when cooked in less oil rather than when deep fried.