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Murgh kali mirch ……

murgh kali mirch served alongside steamed basmati rice

Happy New Year to you all, folks!

As my first blog for 2013 I want to share this recipe that, to this day, remains one of the most amazing dishes I have learnt to cook.

It is simple yet very technical as it uses black peppercorns, the king of spices, in three different ways.

First, the peppercorns are used whole to create an infusion in the hot oil; secondly, they are crushed or cracked; and thirdly, they’re ground with garlic and curry leaves to add that extra ‘oomph’ to the dish!!

the ingredients arranged before I cook

adding buttermilk to the chicken

mixing the buttermilk and chicken

adding oil or butter

adding peppercorns to the hot oil

adding cassia

adding the cardamon

adding cloves

adding asafoetida

adding onions and curry leaf to the oil

folding the spices and onions

the leaves will become translucent and the onions start to caramelize

add salt to taste and cook till onions are translucent

keep stirring whilst holding the pot firmly

add ground ginger and garlic one after the other, when the onions are golden

add the chilli powder

add turmeric powder

stir ingredients each time after adding a new one

add ground coriander

add chopped tomatoes

stir in the tomato

let the tomato cook till skin is soft

add marinaded chicken

fold in chicken

cook chicken

crush curry leaves and add to pot

add ground pepper

add a generous sprinkling of cracked pepper

cover the pot and simmer till chicken is cooked

add peppercorns to a mortar

add garlic flakes to mortar

crush leaves and add to mortar

add coriander leaves

crush ingredients with pestle working under a clean tea towel to prevent any mess, and smile please!!

add the crushed spices to the pot

sprinkle chopped coriander on top before serving

close up of dish

the dish is now ready!

plate the meal on a banana leaf and served with steamed rice

If you want quantities, here is the murgh kali mirch recipe.

And if you want the classic way to cook basmati rice, please watch this video!

Please let me know how you go with this dish.

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!

Dhuyein ki machchi (smoked fish and tomato chutney)

sampling the wonderful dhuyein ki machchi smoked at home!

The dish I want to share this week is the easy-to-do-at-home, or on the barbie (great for the Aussies), dhuyein ki machchi!!

smoked fish and tomato chutney

ingredients for smoked fish from top, clockwise: ground garlic, ground ginger, chilli powder, turmeric powder, kebab garam masala (ground), oil, lemon wedges, salt; plate-sized NZ snapper (gutted and scaled); tea leaves for smoking

I like to serve this alongside a tomato chutney which you can prepare whilst your fish is smoking in the oven.

ingredients for tomato chutney, clockwise: kari leaves, chilli powder, oil, black mustard seeds, dry red chillies, chick pea lentils, white lentils, salt, asafoetida powder, lemon juice, turmeric, tamarind paste, tomato purée, fresh coriander leaves

step 1

the fish can be red snapper (pictured), baby barramundi, flathead, in fact use any whole fish that can comfortably fill a plate. It’s always a good idea to keep the fish on ice when out of the fridge

step 2

What’s smoking? To infuse the fish with a smokey flavour, you need something to smoke. Pictured is black tea with some of the ground spices that make up the kebab garam masala…… You don’t have to use tea! If you have time, use the fibre husks from sweet corn, dry in the sun for a couple of days. You can also use shaved hickory (available at all good BBQ stores)

step 3

If you’re smoking the fish on a stove you’ll need: heavy-based pan, glass lid, mixing bowl, whisk and a metal rack

step 4

If you’re smoking the fish in an oven you’ll need: baking tray, mixing bowl, whisk, metal rack

step 5

click kebab garam masala for the ingredients

step 6

grind until garam masala resembles course sand

step 7

your fish should be scaled and gutted – clean the insides thoroughly

step 8

on a chopping board, score the fish, three slashes on each side, about 1/2 cm deep

step 9

this is the right cutting depth

step 10

After you have scored all the fish, discard the ice.

pat fish dry with a paper towel or the marinade won’t stick

step 11

pat dry the insides of the fish as well

step 12

place fish in tray and cover with paper towelling whilst preparing the marinade

step 13: Preparing the marinade.

add 1 tbsp salt to mixing bowl

step 14

add 1 tbsp garlic paste to mixing bowl

step 15

add 1 tbsp  ginger paste to mixing bowl

step 16

fold salt, garlic and ginger paste together

step 17

add 1 tsp chilli powder and fold

step 18

add 1/2 tsp turmeric and fold

step 19

add 2 tbsp ground kebab garam masala and fold, add any remaining garam masala to the tea leaves

step 20

add polyunsaturated vegetable oil and fold

step 21

your marinade is now ready and should look (more or less!) like this

step 22

smear marinade over fish and into scored cuts

step 23

smear marinade into fish cavity as well

step 24

this is how much marinade should be on the fish (both sides)

step 25

folding in remaining garam masala to the tea leaves

step 26

if cooking on the stove, add tea leaf mixture to pan – the tea leaves should be laid about 1-cm thick, covering about 60% of the base

step 27

place fish on rack, add more marinade if necessary

step 28

cover pan with lid – a glass lid is ideal as you can see when the fish is ready without having to take off the lid (which you don’t want to do as the smoke will escape). As the fish cooks, the gills will open up and the dorsal fin will rise. The fish is cooked when the scored cuts ‘weep’ (fill with moisture).

step 29

scored cuts ‘weeping’ (moisture will bead there) means the fish is cooked

step 30

If using oven: turn on temp. to 180-200 C and also turn on the grill (if your oven is able to do both), to medium heat. Place tea leaves on aluminium foil in a tray on top shelf of the oven (closest to the grill). Tea leaves should be laid about 2 cm thick. Keep fish on the rack and place on tray. Then place on shelf underneath the tea-leaf tray, as shown above!

step 31

A close-up of the tea leaves in the oven – they will start to smoke

step 32

The fish is ready when the gills are fully open and scored cuts are weeping

step 33

Making the chutney that goes alongside the fish (prepare whilst the fish is being smoked).

add 2 tbsp polyunsaturated vegetable oil to a hot frying pan

step 34

when the oil is smoking, add 1 tsp black mustard seeds – if the oil is hot, they will immediately sizzle and pop

step 35

add whole chillies and fold

step 36

add 2 tbsp lentils and fold

step 37

add 2 tbsp white lentils and fold till caramelised

step 38

add 11/2 tsp salt and fold

step 39

add 1/2 tsp asafoetida powder and fold

step 40

add kari leaves and let crackle (this is pretty instantaneous)

step 41

add 1 tsp chilli powder and fold

step 42

add 1/2 tsp turmeric and fold

step 43

add 1 tbsp tamarind paste and fold

step 44

add 2 cups tomato purée and fold (or you may add chopped tomatoes or a combination of both), cook until the oil separates and appears on the surface

step 45

tear coriander, add to pan and fold

step 46

add 1 tbsp lemon juice, to taste, and fold

step 47

remove from stove – then serve chutney as it is, or if you prefer, blend it for a smoother texture

step 48

your chutney is now ready!

step 49

place fish and chutney on a serving dish and enjoy!

There are a few things I’d like you to remember when smoking fish:

1. Never add lemon juice to the marinade, this moistens the fish and will ‘break’ it up when smoked. Add lemon juice to the fish after it has been smoked and removed from the oven and whilst it is still hot.

2. Avoid small fillets of fish as they are too delicate, use whole fish, especially when the fish is ‘plate sized’.

3. If using fillets of a bigger fish, crust the skin side (making sure you do not skin the fish, dry the skin side and apply the marinade, the skin will get crisp after smoking) and cover the flesh side with aluminium foil to prevent the fillet from drying out.

4. You may use any wood chips as long as they are safe! Please check this before you use them. Also, try rose leaves mixed with tea leaves, it creates the most fabulous aroma and taste!!

5. Remember, never fry the fish before smoking it like they do on MasterChef, nothing is worse than this as the smokey flavour does not permeate through the fish.

So, happy cooking till the next one!

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhaava!!

“Taraporee Prawn Patio”: Nergis’ 100-year-old prawn recipe!!

Mrs Nergis in Bangalore at home!

Don’t understand the title? Well then, keep reading . . . all will be explained!

No kidding, friends, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear a 90-year-old chef from Bangalore talk about this yummy prawn dish, and I mean literally ‘talk’!!

But before we do the talk, let’s answer a few questions that I’m sure you’ve got.

Firstly, who is Nergis?

Secondly, what’s so special about Tarapore?

And, thirdly, what in the world is Prawn patio?

Well, let’s answer these questions ‘back to front’, as it were, starting from the last.

Thirdly, Prawn patio aka kolmino patio is fried prawns (in a spice mix, or masala, which uses only five  ingredients besides the ubiquitous salt and oil) and the end result is the most amazing prawn dish that one can have as a side dish, or as a salad, or as a pickle, or as a main course, or as a . . . well, you get the idea . . . or, as all of the above!!

nergis’ taraporee prawn patio

Secondly, Tarapore is a small town about 100 km north of Mumbai and this is where Nergis’ family hails from. (In fact, her family are Parsis who originally came from Iran but left that part of the world when the Islamasition of Iran started , a few hundred years ago.) Nergis’ surname, Tarapore, comes from the name of the town where her family settled!!

Today the town of Tarapore is a lonely one. Now there are only about five Parsis living there and they are all in aged-care centres.

Most other Tarapore residents have left and are now living in different parts of India – as well as the rest of the world!

Which brings us back to our first question about who Nergis is.

So, let me introduce you properly to this wonderful lady.

Nergis was born in Madras in 1922.

She moved to Bangalore when she was 29 years old. She married Mr Dalal and has seven children.

She also has, as you can imagine, lots and lots of grandchildren and even more great grandchildren!

When she was young, girls were not encouraged to study (which still makes her furious to this day) but that did not stop Nergis from becoming a nursing aide in St Martha’s hospital in Bangalore.

She was a very active social worker and she was also heavily involved in teaching English language to poor and destitute kids who would otherwise have never been taught.

Nergis has also helped many relatives and elderly people depart from this world with dignity who would otherwise have received no support whatsoever from society or the local government.

“My Mum is the most amazing person,” says her daughter, Ivy, with great pride. She then goes on to add that she is also an incredible cook!!

Well, you know me, folks. That grabs my attention even more. Someone I can admire and someone whose brains I can pick about food.

Well, there’s no doubt about it, Ivy. The dish I made last night following your mum’s recipe had my neighbours complaining about the kitchen exhaust not working!! No, that’s not a negative thing, it’s a positive thing as the aromas of the cooking were out of this world!

I think it’s so important to keep alive the oral tradition of cooking. It’s how family recipes were passed down from one generation to the other. I still remember my mother’s aunt would ‘talk’ the recipe of puda chi wadi as she cooked it.

I’d like to have all these wise people tell us about some dish that’s important to them in some way, whether it’s because a dish reminds them of their childhood, or because it reminds them of their village, or of a loved one, or because it reminds them of a particular incident , or whatever the reason.

We should share these testimonies and I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do. Experience, like cooking from the heart, is not something you can ever put a price upon. No Dollar, no Rupee!!!

Nergis at the stove and very much ‘at home’!!

Well then, now that we have seen the video and heard all that Nergis has to say about this ancient prawn dish (kolmino patio), it is time to enter the kitchen.

Ingredients:
1. 1 kg green prawns (with shell)

2. 2 1/2 tablespoons brown cumin seeds

3. 3 cloves of garlic, peeled

4. 1/2 cup brown vinegar or apple cider vinegar

5.1 teaspoon turmeric powder

6. 2 teaspoons chilli powder

7. 1 teaspoon salt

8. 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

clockwise from left to right: roasted cumin seeds, brown vinegar (or apple cider vinegar), garlic cloves, vegetable oil, turmeric, salt & chilli powder and prawns (centre)

Method:

1. Remove the shell from the prawns, devein and refrigerate.

shelled & deveined prawns

2. Roast the cumin seeds and let cool.

roasting cumin seeds

3. Grind the cumin seeds, garlic cloves and brown vinegar to a fine paste.

cumin seeds, garlic cloves and brown vinegar for the ‘masala’

‘masala’ ground to a fine paste

4. In a pan, add the oil and immediately add the spice mix (masala).

add ‘masala’ to cold oil

5. Add the turmeric, chilli powder and salt to the masala.

add the turmeric, chilli powder & salt to the ‘masala’

6. Cook over moderate heat until the spice mix is cooked and the oil rises to the surface. (See no. 1 below.)

mix well and cook over moderate heat

the ‘masala’ starts to change colour

the ‘masala’ is ready when it starts to bubble and the oil leaves the sides of the pan

7. Add the prawns and fold in the spice mix (masala) till it coats the prawns.

add the prawns

prawns coated with ‘masala’

8. Increase the heat and cover the pan. Cook for 1 minute and then reduce heat to moderate-high.

prawns ready to be covered

cover with lid

8. When cooked, serve the prawns as an accompaniment with dhaan dal (rice and dal), or as a salad, or as a pickle, or as a main course with Indian flat breads, or . . . well, the choices are endless!

serve on a bed of salad leaves

ready for the ‘masala’

drizzle some ‘masala’ on the prawns

nergis’ taraporee prawn patio

And finally, a few facts to remember when cooking this dish:

1. Start cooking the spice mix (masala) in cold oil. Heat the oil after the spice mix has been added. Adding the spice mix to the cold oil helps cook it till the flavours from the ground spices comes out without burning it!

2. If brown vinegar is not available, don’t panic!, you can use apple cider vinegar instead.

3. This dish can also be made with fish, especially a dried fish called boomla (that’s known as ‘Bombay Duck’ to lots of you which is a fish inspite of its misleading name!) and it can then be used as a pickle!

4. You can use any leftover spice mix to cook with slices of eggplant, or grated carrots, and “don’t over do them” as Nergis suggests.

5. Nergis mentions “every day fire” which means whatever fuel you use whether it’s gas, electricity, or even cooking coal and not too high heat !!

6. Lastly, Nergis says, “Enjoy, eat well and be healthy.”

Well, if you didn’t hear Nergis say that, that’s fine, nor did I, but she means it from the bottom of her heart!!!

SHUKRIYA NERGIS!!

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!

To ghee or not to ghee!!!

Ghee.

This is one word which is synonymous with Indian food.

The moment we hear of Indian food there are three things that come to mind: firstly that it is loaded with chillies, secondly that it is oily and thirdly, that it is cooked in ghee.

Having previously written about the importance of chillies in Indian food (What is it. . . Green chilli, red chilli, dry chilli, black pepper, white pepper?) it’s now time to talk about the myth surrounding ghee which will also cover the ‘oily’ aspect too!

So, what is ghee?

Most Indians would know that it is the purest form of a cooking medium and that it is also the purest form of milk. However, most people don’t know ghee is extremely cooling to the human body if taken in the right manner!

And this is where the main problem with ghee lies.

How does one know if one is taking it in the ‘right way’? Well, unfortunately this aspect of Indian food has never been documented and is left to any and every possible interpretation!

Here is my take on the use of ghee.

Having cooked for nearly 30 odd years or so, I have never understood how to use ghee correctly and hence it is never used in my restaurant, full-stop.

We even make our desserts using fresh oil (we use polyunsaturated vegetable oil, except canola, because in NSW the canola crop is genetically modified). For example, at my restaurant we fry our gulab jamoons in fresh oil and believe you me they come out abso-bloo..-lutely light!!

There are some exceptions to this rule, however:

For example, we once catered for an Indian businessman who insisted that the bati in dal bati churma was to be fried in ghee and served only with ghee. Of course we did as he requested and he was very happy with the results, but given a choice I would have stayed as far away as possible from ghee! There is method to this ‘madness’.

In 1988 on my way to Mangalore to learn how to cook on a chullah (a chullah is a kind of burner that is used in Coondapur), I went to a place called Palghat, now known as Palakkat, or the temple city in Kerala.

This is a place renowned for its temples and one of the temples is famous for its pal pradaman, a kind of rice pudding that is made with milk and ghee and edible camphor!!

Once in Palghat I had little time to perform my religious rituals and so I had the head priest help me make the food for a Naivaedyam, or prasad, or an offering, to the gods.

In this I was assisted by at least nine other so-called apprentices who were aspiring to become priests in the temple.

I must tell you that this, mind you, was my first taste of every single dish being cooked in ghee. We had at least five other dishes that were being cooked as well, including a sambhar (a lentil dish), a rasam (a soup), kootu (a pumpkin and lentil dish) boiled rice and a yoghurt dish (aviyal), all of which were to accompany the pal pradaman.

All of this food was to be fed to the regular visitors that numbered anywhere between six and seven thousand souls, just for lunch!!

We started by tempering the cooked lentils in ghee for the sambhar followed by cooking the aviyal and finishing it off with a tempering which comprised mustard seeds  and curry leaves in ghee.

Then the vegetables and lentils, called kootu, were tempered, once again using ghee and spices.

Then came the pièce de résistance, the paal pradaman, made with rice flakes, called ada, which are soaked for about 20 minutes and then drained and cooked with milk and ground green cardamom pods. Once cooked, the rice and milk combination is allowed to thicken and edible camphor is added followed by nuts that are fried in, yes, of course, ghee!

I had never seen sooo much ghee being used in a kitchen before. What a revelation!

Back at my hotel in Bangalore the only time we ever used ghee was when we made sweets for special occasions, for everything else it was dalda a.k.a saturated vegetable oil that looked like ghee. And this is where the similarities ended. Daldadid not taste like ghee nor did it behave like ghee, which is supposed to bring out the true flavours. Interestingly, dalda actually ‘camouflaged’ all the flavours and smells, unless you put your nose right into the dish!!

Well, back to Palghat, at the end of the lunch session, which also became the beginning of the dinner session given the thousands of visitors that had to be fed, I asked the head priest if cooking with ghee was the same as cooking with dalda, or saturated vegetable fats, and this is what he replied:

“Son, anyone can cook with dalda, to cook with ghee you should have attained moksha.” [Or nirvana.]

That was a tempered way of saying that it was beyond my understanding to use ghee and hence I should not bother cooking with it as it was very tricky and needed to be understood, which, he might also have been implying, was beyond my scope!

Very encouraging words, indeed, for an aspiring chef!

But then there was another message too. Nothing is ever as simple or straightforward as it first appears and it was all about using ghee properly.

According to the priest, very few people can differentiate good ghee from bad.

Good ghee is grainier to look at and will always remain in a solid state, even at room temperature.

It should never be stored in the refrigerator as this reduces its shelf life and also, by extension, that of the dish.

When melted in a pan, or pot, it must be crystal clear and have a high smoking point. This is very important for Indian food, which is wrongly accused of being oily as I mentioned above.

The oil remains in the dish if the ghee is not brought to a smoking point properly. (To do this part properly takes lots of practice as you must bring the ghee to a smoking point but not allow it to smoke!)

Smoking the oil brings it to the surface and it is called rogan which actually preserves the dish; whereas if it is left in it makes the dish heavy and oily!!

Anah daata sukhi bhava!!

Please try two desserts for yourselves, one of which I’ve mentioned above, gulab jamoon, which are deep-fried cottage cheese dumplings steeped in a warm rose water and saffron syrup. Delicious! Also, paal payasam which is a saffron and cardamom infused rice dessert.

Who was Vishwanath Apte? A tribute to an inspirational Indian from down under

Vishwanath Apte

Well, there are nearly 200, 000 Indians in Australia, so I am told, and the number is increasing daily, so why single out Vishwanath Apte?

He was the first Indian to be granted Australian Citizenship in 1951, among many others I am sure, who came to Australia around the same time, so why focus on Vishwanath?

He was an astute and successful businessman who made a fortune importing and selling damask and fabric into Australia from India, China, Portugal and Pakistan. Of course there are others who ran successful businesses, and some even more successful than VA’s, so again, why single him out?

He was a philanthropist like many others in his line of business so that can’t be the reason I’ve chosen him in particular.

Okay, so let’s cut to the chase and explain why. It’s because VA was not just all of the above but he was also a great inspiration, both practically and ‘spiritually’, to me when I was going through a tough time in my business.

So here’s the story.

We had been open for nearly six months with little success. Firstly, my restaurant was possibly the first Indian restaurant to be called a Southern-style restaurant serving little-known dishes like prawn balchao, chicken xacutti, beef ishtew. . .etc. Added to this, it was also the first Indian restaurant that did not have the word ‘cu..ies’ on its menu which meant that a lot of Australians were confused by this fact, and to add to all this ‘ethnicity’ we did not even have a tandoor. It was a hell of a task trying to run a restaurant with all these challenges!! 

They say that when the going gets tough the tough……Yes, this line sounds good but not when you’re living it and don’t have the bl..dy money to pay your next rent!!

Enter VA.

Vishwanath entered literally into my life on a Thursday evening (in September 1991). There wasn’t a soul in my restaurant and in walks a family with an Indian father, mother and some young kids with their Australian friends (possibly the Australians were married to the Indian girls).

This was to be my first Indian family to have dinner at the restaurant and it could have been a great night if only the food had lived up to the mark.

The floor staff were too excited to even think about the basics of serving guests like giving them their napkins, or pouring water or even handing over the menus! Meera, who ran the front of house with Amin to help her, came charging into the kitchen to tell me there was an Indian family and they were speaking in Marathi, my mother tongue!

Orders were taken and the food was served. So far so good.

However, more orders were taken from them! By this stage there was no coconut chutney and we were running low on sambhar (an important accompaniment that goes with dosai).

nilgiri's masala dosai

So picture the scene, if you will. All hell breaks loose!! Just when we thought that all was going well it was slipping away, fast. There was a long delay and the family, and a few other guests in the restaurant, were losing patience. No food meant no service and no service, as we all know, meant no planning!

Anyway, the food was finally served, although it was late. It was my job as the chef to go out and apologise for all this misery. As I stood at one end of the table waiting to be crucified, I heard a soft, but stern, voice say, “I am very disappointed with the delay and poor service. The food, however, is very good and the young lady who looked after us is a good waitress!! We will come back but only if the food comes on time”.

Bl..dy hell!! After all this delay I was going to get another chance.

So, the next Thursday, as promised, the Aptes come back and thus began a long association that lasted over two decades.

VA was the man who gave me a second chance when people usually judge you on the first innings that you have played. Usually people aren’t interested in hearing about one’s history but Nana was aware that I had spent a long time working for the Taj hotel group in India. And so, according to him, I deserved another chance!

As the years passed we catered for a number of functions at Mr Apte’s  (now called Nana!) residence, including one for a famous flautist named Hariprasad Chaurasia, the classical vocalist Bhimsen Joshi, Malini Rajurkar and many others.

But, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end! My business partner and I decided to part company and Meera and I decided to move on. But where? Nana advised us to take a break and said that a trip overseas would help. So, we decided to go on a holiday and learn about food trends in other parts of the world. Nana made a mention of Woodlands in Singapore where some of his friends had a business. Nana said that as the owners were his friends they would help us set up a restaurant in Sydney, if the need arose. Now that’s a friendly gesture!

However, on return from our overseas tour, about six months later, and with Meera pregnant with our son, Aniruddh, there was absolutely no scope of starting a business let alone a restaurant. But Nana and Mrs Apte gave us a function to cater for almost every month just to keep the cash flow going. A considerate man!

When my son was born, Nana and Mrs Apte were there to wish us well and share our little bundle of joy the very next day! He never forgot Aniruddh’s birthday and wished him well till the end. What a great memory and what a very kind-hearted man!

Nana and Mrs Apte were also there to open my new venture, nilgiri’s, in Crow’s Nest and then in its new location in St Leonards where we still are to this day.

Nana was going to launch my first book but he was overseas when it came out and so the honour went to one John Pearce (I will write about this man soon. If Nana’s was the first family to dine at my restaurant, John Pearce was my very first customer. John left us for the heavenly abode in 2009).

Well, in 2007 we took up the biggest challenge of my professional career. We were to cater for nearly 1200 people for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea with snacks followed by dinner. That is a whopping 4800 meals in a day. We thought we could pull it off. But nature and other elements beyond our control were against us and the writing was on the wall. It could never succeed!! This was the biggest flop of my 31-year career and to this date I am not sure why I took up that humongous challenge in the first place. I was at my lowest point when I got a call from Mrs Apte to cater for a function at their place. Nana, a man of few words said to me, “Ajoy, I know you can do it, I have full confidence in you!”

What an amazing man, he had more confidence in my own capabilities than I had.

Well folks, from that day onwards we have never looked back.

But let’s get back to Nana and Mrs Apte who were my most regular customers. They were also my best, and fiercest, critics who had every right to be so! I remember on one occasion Nana was served a mini masala dosai when he had ordered a large one, and boy, he was not happy. I was summoned to his place the next day for this sacrilegious act. However, we moved on. We made mistakes, we learned from them, the rest is history.

Every staff member in my restaurant knew Nana and, of course, Mrs Apte. He treated the staff with respect and always had a tip for them in an envelope with their name written on it. To him they were not mere ‘servers’ but people who helped him make his function a success. What a great way to run a business. Treat your staff as helpers and not workers!

I am extremely fortunate to have been associated with this man of great character and acumen, who stood shoulder to shoulder with the best doctors, engineers and accountants when he was ‘just’ a commerce graduate from Mumbai. But what an inspiration to people like me who never even passed their graduation.

Nana passed away on Friday, 23 of September 2011.

He was cremated on 30th of September 2011. He was 88-years-old! For me that date is also significant as it is my father’s birthday; it now becomes doubly so. My father died in 2004.

Well Nana, you are a true ‘Fair Dinkum Aussie’! I will miss you.

Please try the following nilgiri’s masala dosai recipe that was one of Nana’s favourite dishes. It is essential that it is served with sambhar, fresh coconut chutney and potato pallya.

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