When my son, Aniruddh, asked me, “Hey dad, if you were to describe a perfect father’s day – what would it be?”
No sooner had he finished asking me than I immediately replied, “Son, it has to be a day I still remember to this day like it was yesterday.”
Well, the year was 1969, and the place was Hyderabad.
I had spent a full day with my dad [I called him ‘Papa’], watching a game of test match cricket in Hyderabad. It was India versus New Zealand. Day 1. And what an amazing and unforgettable day it was!!
We watched Papa’s favourite players in action.
We saw Nawab Mansur Ali Khan of Pataudi Jnr, the youngest player ever to captain a national team in the world, take on the Kiwis who were led by the well-respected Graham Dowling.
The Indian team also had Ajit Wadekar, Bishen Bedi, Venkataraghavan and Prassanna.
On the Kiwi side there was Turner, Bevan Congdon, Dayle Hadlee and . . . well, the list goes on!
It was also my first experience of watching a test match ‘live’, as it were. It wasn’t on the television but in the stadium, the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium we called it “Fateh Maidan”.
At the Fateh Maidan my dad and I were sitting in the stand next to the members’ section. “Son,” I grin at my son at the memory, “it was the most exciting day of my life!!”
Mum had packed lunch for us, and it included aloo paratha with home-made mango pickle served in two boxes: one for me and one for my dad.
We reached the stadium at around 8 a.m. just as it was being announced on the radio that all roads leading to the stadium would be closed after 9 a.m. which meant that if we’d been late my dad would have had to park his Lambretta scooter a long way from the stadium.
But we arrived well in time, we weren’t going to be late for this game, no way!!
Anyway, the day finished with NZ making a smallish total, I don’t remember the exact score but the Indian spinners did what was expected of them. It was a great day’s play.
But there was more to come.
my Papa with my Bachcha in April 2003
On our way home, Papa took me to a small restaurant called a dhaba which I was told later was the name for a roadside eatery.
At this eatery we ordered two “full tandoori chickens” as a ‘parcel’ which is a term used to this day in India for a ‘take home’, ‘take-away’, or whatever you want to call it!
All this wonderful smelling food for just the four of us, sorry, the three of us as my mom’s a vegetarian.
Papa bought mirchi pakoda (batter fried stuffed banana chillies) for my mum.
the king of kebabs – tandoori chicken!!
“Son,” I said remembering the feeling as a young boy, “Can you imagine carrying all this food in your hand, riding pillion on a scooter?”
I smiled at the recollection as I remembered my sensory system was about to explode with the wonderful smell the parcel was giving!!
Well, we reached home after what seemed like forever to get to.
We ran inside. My Papa had his ubiquitous gin and tonic and we all (that’s my sister, my mother and I) sat around a small dining table savouring the. . .[cue music] “And and I think to myself, what a wonderful world. . .”]
“So bachche (son),” I say, returning to the present, “that to me is a perfect father’s day!”
And my son replies with candour, “No issues with that dad. I am sure we can do all of those things, can’t we? We can watch India take on NZ at the cricket in India, on TV. You can have your Shiraz and call it a ‘gin and tonic’, and we can certainly make the mirchi pakoda for mum .” And he pauses and then adds, “And I am pretty sure we can also make the tandoori chicken. Happy?”
So friends, for a perfect father’s day, I suggest you watch the cricket, have a gin and tonic (with extra ice and an extra splash of lime juice) and have, well, I’m sorry about this part as you’re going to have to make your own king of kebabs: tandoori chicken!!
So, to help you do this, here is my version of the king of kebabs, and yes, you certainly can make it at home even if you do not have a tandoor, just don’t call it ‘tandoori chicken’.
You can, however, certainly call it the king of kebabs!!
So, without further ado, it’s now time to cook the KING OF KEBABS for the King of the house!
Preparing the chicken for the first marinade:
1. 2 tablespoons white vinegar
2. 1 teaspoon cooking salt
3. 1 1/2 teaspoons kashmiri chilli, ground
ingredients for first marinade: white vinegar, kashmiri chilli [ground] & salt
1. Skin the chicken, remove any excess fat but leave some as it helps keep the bird moist. Prepare the chicken for the first marinade.
chicken ready for the First Marinade
mix well add salt add ground kashmiri chillies in oil mix well & check for seasoning add nilgiri’s garam masala & fold the Second Marinade/Tandoori Masala is ready
7. Remove the chicken from the fridge, place a skewer through the chicken. place the chicken in an earthenware, or clay, pot and place this in a pre-heated oven, temp. 160C.
run a skewer through the chicken & place on an earthenware pot or roasting tray with your choice of spices to give a ‘smoked’ flavour!
10. Serve the ‘king of kebabs’ with a mint and coriander chatni, sliced onions and a lemon wedge.
tandoori chicken, with onion rings, lemon wedge & mint & coriander chatni
Mint and Coriander Chatni
1. 1 bunch fresh mint, roots removed and some of the thick stems taken off, washed
2. 1 big bunch fresh coriander, roots taken off, stem removed, washed
3. 4-5 small green chillies
4. 1 tablespoon pomegranate extract
5. salt, to taste
6. 1 red onion
7. lemon wedge
1. Grind all the ingredients, except for the red onion and lemon wedge, to a fine paste. Add salt, as required.
grind all the chatni ingredients (apart from the red onion and lemon wedge) to a fine paste. add salt
2. Refrigerate and serve with the hot chicken alongside the sliced red onion and lemon wedge.
mint chatni, ready for the chicken, refrigerate until required
the perfect accompaniment to the “king of kebabs”!!
A few things to remember:
1. Buy the chicken with the skin on as this keeps the meat moist, even if you are not marinating it the same day.
2. Remember to prepare the chicken for the second marinade by applying the first marinade. Do not add the first marinade to the second and apply it on to the bird altogether. This won’t save you time, also, the marinade will not stick to the chicken.
3. To get the red colour, soak the chillies in lukewarm water till they swell (balloon), then squeeze the chillies and crush in a food processor with some vegetable oil.
4. Cook the chicken at a temperature of 160- 170 C as this keeps the meat moist and allows the chicken to cook from the ‘inside – out’.
5. To caramelise the chicken, flash under a hot grill or do as I do here!
6. Add your choice of whole spices to the earthenware pot before placing the chicken in it. As the oven heats up, so do the spices and the smoked flavour permeates into the meat.
“Well, it looks like it’s all ready,” says my son. “All you now need is a good Shiraz from the Iron Gate in the Hunter’, right Dad?”
“Yup, son.’ I reply yet add, “But there is only one thing missing. Where is my Papa?”
Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!!