To make the chicken frisky we add white wine and whisky,” chuckles Bridget White-Kumar, the cook-book czarina of Anglo-Indian cuisine. We’re at Anglow, Khan Market, where she has rustled up a Winter Menu of Anglo-Indian delicacies; Fricassee ‘Frisky’ Chicken being one with chicken cubes marinated in ginger-garlic and grilled in dry white wine sauce.
“In the colonial times, servants couldn’t pronounce English words, so Fricassee became ‘frisky’.” On that tipsy note, White-Kumar also remembers her grandmother’s sweetish chicken in red wine dish. “Actually it was just a way of using up the old wine for Christmas,” she winks.
And for every item, White-Kumar has a dollop of pre-Independence trivia. Understandably so, given her Anglo Indian roots – her paternal grandparents were British, who came from Cornwall along with the mining company John Taylor and Sons to work at the Kolar Gold Fields, erstwhile Mysore State. Four generations of her family lived and worked here at this town, monikered, ‘Little England’.
Ex-banker White-Kumar is now a food consultant, culinary historian, holds cooking workshops and furnishes the Anglo dishes at food establishments across India. Her seven cookbooks that explain multitude of Anglo dishes in easy English have earned a sigh of relief from the younger lot who struggled to decipher their grandmother’s recipe rationing (read: ‘add a dash/pinch/throw in/put five annas of coconut…’) scribbled in now yellowing diaries. Her books also pay tribute the khansamas from army bases, cantonments, clubs, tea gardens, who tempered spicy Indian dishes to match the British palate.
Like the Bengal Lancers Shrimp Curry listed on Anglow’s menu. The spicy curry, heavy with tomato and served with rice, originated in Calcutta at the Indian Army’s Skinners Horse Regiment. “They still have an active WhatsApp group,” she reveals. (But hold your horses if you’re expecting shrimp, because tiger prawns makes a sly replacement.) Then any ‘devilled’ food item, she informs, like the Devilled Pork here, tastes just like the Jalfrezi in Kolkata that’s base to strong Anglo-Indian community even today. “It tastes similar, though they put in lots of capsicum and bell pepper, and we use braised onion, tomatoes, chillies, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and spices.”
From the menu, we love the ring to the Duck Ding Ding; tender, mild-spiced fried shreds of duck piled on toast. If you don’t enjoy eating offal, then avoid the Chicken Liver and Kidney starter, a mildly-spiced that also sits on toast. Aubergine and Potato Vindaloo has a simple, homely vegetarian curry feel, nothing like the fiery Goan vindaloo you expect. “The Portuguese Vindaloo has more on chillies, pungency and vinegar, but Anglo Indians like it more refined, so more tomatoes, and slightly sweet. We use condiments judiciously, as these good for the winters. Only whole spices, no garam masala and if at all, then it’s a tapered down version, all done to balance the taste of an ingredient and bring out strength of the poultry.”
But proving complete contradictions on the menu is the very Moghlai Pork Seekh kebabs and the Eggplant on Lavash that suspiciously tastes like Baigan ka Bhartha on a multigrain cracker. Her reply, slightly heavy-hearted, is in league with Anglow’s current modus operandi – evolving to comply to North Indian spicy palate. “Everyone here [in Delhi] likes lot of spices. So instead of one teaspoon of chilli powder, we’re adding a little more.”