26 Nov Alu Tikki – spiced potato cakes
11.00 am on winter mornings used to be bath time.. Ashadi our nanny would have oil ready and warmed in a small silver bowl – she would then blow on her hands to warm them before dipping her fingers into the hot oil and giving me a vigorous massage a luxury which I would kill for these days.. She preferred to fill up hot water in a large bucket that was placed into our ginormous bathtub – mixed to the right temperature.. I stood in the bathtub while Ashadi would hitch her sari around her knees to avoid it getting completely drenched would break into a song and first work up a lather – her hands in tune with her singing, before using a plastic mug to scoop out water and pour it on me.. At the very end, she would pick up the bucket and empty whatever was left on my head signifying the end of the bath.- she knew exactly how much water to use at each scoop to ensure the soap was washed off, hair was shampooed and there was no wastage of water.. Once the bath was over, i was dressed up in warm clothes so not to catch a chill and then taken to the sunlit verandah where a glass of freshly squeezed juice made with oranges in season and two hot steaming Alu tikkis ( potato cakes)with a dollop of ketchup was waiting on a tray… crisp with a thick brown crust on the outside and melt in the mouth fluffy delicately spiced potatoes inside, a hint of lemon, sweetness of soft onions and the nuttiness of mustard seeds all combining to create a flavour sensation…
More than four decades on, I cannot eat an Alu tikki without actually feeling the warmth of the Assam winter sunshine in my eyes and on my still damp hair and the sensation of being completely scrubbed and of course Ashadi’s loud singing..
It’s going to an early start for me tomorrow as I’ll be on my own in the kitchen making up a 150 of these tikkis made to mum’s exact recipe to be picked up for a wedding celebration.. No ketchup though but a home made coriander chutney ..