A Nine Dish salute to Mr.Johnson

, Food and Recipes

originally posted on 20/02/2013

Three months ago my husband came to know that his teacher , Mr.Johnson would be visiting Dubai in second week of Feb. since then he was counting the days to meet the teacher whom he hadn’t met for exactly 40 years.

As a wife of an ex Sherwoodians I had heard many tales of the legendary Mr.Johnson and I was very eager to meet him too.


The Dubai chapter of old Sherwoodians were all set for receiving and hosting Mr. & Mrs. Johnson. Some wore their old school blazers and ties, a few T-shirts with Sherwood College emblazoned on it and the party was on.

We also held a reunion dinner for all the ex students and Mr. & Mrs. Johnson.


In true Sherwoodian style every junior and his/her spouse becomes a ‘chotu’ and gets the privilege of doing all the work!

I have been hosting this get togethers for the past 20 odd years and have always been told, “Maa’m just tell us what to do.’

So of course I don’t need a second invitation. My job has always been to get the cooking done and leave the rest upto them.


I vividly remember once in Pune making a huge pot of chicken biryani and leaving it in the kitchen for the boys to serve. By the time the dish came to the table to my horror I discovered that there was only rice left. The ‘boys’ had polished off all the chicken from the pot itself!

The tradition of helping out the seniors is so strong that once on a visit to sherwood with some friends I remember one of them was carrying a heavy bag. As is the custom there every student who sees a visitor, wishes them. One of the boys wished us ,”Good Morning.’ Pat came the reply from our friend, who was also an old Sherwoodian, ” What’s so good about the morning, we have to carry such a heavy bag.”

That student just kept his books on the side, took the bag from him and said, ” Where do I take it ,Sir?”

As one of my cousins used to say that rarely have we seen students so well behaved that we got tired of replying to all the greetings.

The boarding school tradition is now slowly dying out because there are now excellent day schools in every city which provide as many facilities for extra curricular activities and also because transferable jobs are decreasing.

Parents are opting for smaller and smaller families and don’t want to part with their children.

We sent our children to Sherwood , my daughter was 10 and my son 7. Since my husband was in a marketing job we got transferred very often and he could think of nothing better than his old school.

My daughter was one of the very few girls in the class as Sherwood had just become co-ed. She had a tough time in the beginning but later loved the whole experience.

As she tells me now , it taught her to be ” emotionally there ” for herself and that went a long way into making her self-reliant and independent.

My son , was so tiny when I left him that I stayed on in the hostel, with one of the teachers who was my husband’s batch mate. The next day when i wen to the dormitory he was struggling to make his bed. I offered to help him but he refused. He said, “Amma just go back, otherwise I will not be able to settle down.”

A sound piece of advise which I took.

I used to visit them very often and stay in the College guest house so they could be with me.This is picture of one such visit.


There is no truth the assertion that the bonding between parents becomes less once kids go to hostel.

Yes they are away from you for 9 months in a year and they become self-reliant and independent. But the love always remains the same, wherever you study. It depends on each individual to build and nurture their relatioships.

Boarding schools forge bonds which are forever. Once you have gone through tough times, fun times, lonely times, homesick times, getting punished times, being hungry times, being happy times with them they become your friends for life.

i see it with my husband and children and their strong support for each other.

In fact in April my husband’s batch is having their ’40th year of having left school reunion’ in Nainital and the classmates are coming from all over the world.

When Mr and Mrs Johnson were going they thanked me for our hospitality.

When i said that it was the least I could do for all that he had given to my husband, Mr. Johnson said very emotionally, ” But I beat them up!”

That sums up the discipline and sense of fair play that students learn from their teachers. Of course such teachers who gave their all to the school and its students are a rare breed now.

Now we have bored housewives and aspiring civil service aspirants, or failed ones who make up the teaching force in schools. I have been a teacher myself and know how much respect students have for their teachers today. they wouldn’t bother if they didn’t see you ever the next day.

We need introspection on our school educational system, We need to learn the work ethics of these old warhorses, their love for the students, their dedication to duty and above all their sense of justice and fair-play.

As Churchill famously said, “The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.”

Though it’s 40+ years since Mr. & Mrs. Johnson returned to UK, they still love hot spicy Indian dishes.



I also promised Mr.Johnson and a few other people the recipe for shami kababs. This is as good a place as any to share it in.

Shami kababs

1/2 kg mutton mince ( mince should be dry)

1/2 cup chana dal

1/2 ” ginger stick

1 onion chopped

1 badi elaichi (seeds only)

3 pices laung ( cloves)

1/2 tsp peppercorns

2 tez patta ( bay leaves)

whole red chilli (to taste)

salt to taste

Put all ingredients to boil with 1/4 cup of water. Give it 10 minutes in the pressure cooker. Once done let it cool down.If there is some water left , open cook it till dry. If paste is not thick enough the kababs will break.

Grind to a paste in food processor. Add finely chopped onions, green coriander and green chillies to the mix.

Make kabab shaped cutlets out of it and shallow fry.

The trick in frying is very slow heat and a little oil at a time only

Mutton Nihari

( My recipe is adapted for modern lifestyle and isn’t the traditional one but tastes just as good)

Mutton – 1/2 kg

Flour – 4 tablespoons dissolved in 1/4 cup of water

Whole spices

1 1/2″ Cinnamon stick

2 Bay leaves

2 Cardamom

4 Cloves

2 tbsp – Ginger garlic paste – 2 tablespoons

1 tsp Turmeric powder

Chilli powder ( to taste)

1 tbsp Coriander powder

2 tsp garam masala

salt to taste

1/2 cup cooking oil

grind to a powder and keep aside

1 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp peppercorns

1/2 tsp cummin seeds

Nutmeg – Few pinches

( or as I use Shan nihari masala)

heat oil and fry 1 onion ( finely sliced) and all the whole spices

add the ginger garlic paste and turmeric, coriander powder, chilli powder and roast for 5 minutes. keep stirring by adding little dashes of water to prevent it from burning. Add meat, salt and the ground powder and garam masala . add 2 cups of water and pressure cook for 10-15 minutes. Meat should not be completely tender.

Once steam has been let off, open it. Check consistency as there should be enough curry to soak the nans in it.

Mix the flour and water well in a cup and add slowly to the mutton mix, stirring all the while to avoid lumps.

Let it cook , covered on simmer for another 15 minutes.

Garnish with ginger julienne, chopped green coriander and green chillies. Or keep these three aside as a side dish for people to add on their own

( The traditional nihari is cooked in a pot for 3-4 hours at night and served for breakfast. there are many hotels in Purani Dilli serving it at 6am.

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