When we lived in Amritsar, in the days of Black Thunder, there was much coming and going between Delhi and Punjab.Flying visits from politicians with their bodyguards and their AK- 47's, business men to make quick deals with beleagured industries, and ofcourse, journalists from all over the world. They all found comfort, safety,refuge, and gourmet food in the ancient rooms of the Hotel Ritz on Mall Road.
'Tiny' Mehra owned the place and made everyone feel welcome. His name belied his size. He was a vast man. 9 foot diameter must be an accurate guess. His girth gave his gait a certain ponderousness and, when he stopped by the kitchens to check on the menu of the day, his cooks must have shivered.
I certainly did, when he went around my buffet table helping himself to one spoon of each dish at a time.Thinking he was holding himself back I urged him to take a bit more. He turned to me and said " I like to taste each dish first to see which one I like." and continued his picky way around the dining table.
Suddenly I remembered that my piece de resistance, the dessert, a superb white blancmange of cream and milk with the very slightest addition of sugar and gelatine has been left in the freezer for the last four hours to make space for other concoctions. I froze as well.
Panic set in. Removing the blancmange I did a foolhardy thing and flung it in the microwave for a couple of minutes, praying that it would not melt or split.
It turned out to be a hit with 'Tiny' after all.
Then he invited us for a private dinner at the Ritz . Just three dishes , a dal, a sabzi and an Amritsari fish, came to the table and he served us personally in the kindest way possible, putting small helpings on our plates and urging us to taste it.
What is unforgettable is the methi sabzi we ate there. So many years later my mouth waters at the thought of it. What follows is my reconstruction of it.
'Tiny ', in true Amritsari style, never told me the recipe.
- 1 bunch of methi/ fenugreek leaves. About 4-5 cups of leaves.
- 250 gms baby potatoes.
- 1 cup ghee
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- A pinch of black pepper
- 1 tsp sugar
Wash and scrub baby potatoes. Chop 250 gms baby potatoes into 1/2 " cubes leaving the skins on. Makes about 2 1/2 cups .
Pick leaves of methi and measure about 4-5 cups . Wash thoroughly and chop fine.
Heat ghee in kadhai.
When hot fry potato cubes in three batches for 4 minutes each.Let oil heat up again between each batch.
Refry potatoes for 1 1/2 minutes till brown and crisp.
Fried potato cubes
Pour off the ghee leaving one teaspoon in the kadhai.Saute methi in this teaspoon of ghee with chilli powder, salt , pepper and sugar. Cover and cook till done.
Saute methi leaves
Toss the potaoes into the methi and stir once. Serve.
Methi Alu Sabzi/ Fenugreek and Potato Vegetable.