Curry from Rita Singh

I WON'T mention the days of ping-pong messages on Facebook this took to order. Or just how much I do not like ordering anything on FB or having much to do with its creepy spying. These are the times we live in, after all.

Nor will I mention that frisson of doubt at 5.15pm on Father’s Day as I stood at the front door scanning an empty street. While checking the profile of someone called Rita Singh and telling myself this is definitely, surely, a real person. Look, there are friends. Posts. And photos, too.

Let’s fast forward to around 5.45pm whilst we’re now eating pakora, considering two surely-made-in-someone’s-home naans, dipping into earthy, tangy unfamiliar sauces, and I’m leaning forward for my third, yes third, samosa of all things.

We’d had a chat about samosa earlier as we waited. Me: Samosa? Meh, I’d said. Can't recall last time I had one that wasn’t dry, chewy and withered from sitting about forever. Never got them. Hey, I get them now.

A light, flaky, almost shortcrust crumbly pastry, stuffed with potato, vegetables, spices, almost like some magical eastern pie. Later, when Rita Singh will FB me and ask what I thought of the food she’ll mention they gave us a few extra samosas too. I know, dear. I ate them all.

And the pakora? I’ve had some of them in my time but not many like these: big, bulbous, uneven, cubed potato, puffed gram flour, packed with spice, tasting deliciously, dangerously and, probably genuinely, as though made-in-someone’s-home. Who is Rita Singh? I know you’re probably wondering that. Frankly? I have no idea.

She's somebody I ordered an Indian meal from on FB then crossed my fingers. I know who Peter Singh is. Or certainly was. He was the man who, back in the day before local Indian restaurants, would come to our house and give, (sell, I presume) Indian meals to my old man.

I’m sure Dad told us kids that Peter made the meals in his flat, spread the word when he was going to do it and if you were a pal you could order one. This was a thing, a happening, a wave of excitement in the days when Stars On Sunday was still a buzz, but we kids were always fired off to bed before the grown-up eating happened.

Are we returning to these days now? Genuine home recipes, made on a tiny scale and dropped off at people’s houses? Well, restaurants are still struggling to get up to speed, but one of the things I’ve noticed is that it’s actually a very pleasant experience to have a professionally prepared meal delivered to your home. That experience may even stick when things return to normal.

And now there’s this too. Butter chicken, buttered rice, mountains of it. Are there lentils in there, chick-peas? I see herbs, a family recipe apparently and an honest-to-goodness, superbly spiced family taste too. Probably the best Indian meal I have had for a very, very long time. So properly spiced, deeply and lingeringly flavoured, even the chicken moist and succulent, that I will order again.

Okay this curry comes with ghee – temporarily unfashionable – but ghee means flavour. I don’t think the naan work particularly well. Maybe I’m just too used to them being fired to bubbling in a commercial tandoor and these, almost like giant potato scones in texture, are such a step away from what I’m programmed to expect that my tastebuds go: uh?

But otherwise this meal feels like it was cooked in someone’s home, prepared not with restaurant level finesse or commercial imperatives, but on a small scale with high integrity. If there’s a place for this kind of cooking, too, in the brave new world that’s just round the corner – even if it really is the brave old world – I’m all for it. And something else good will have come out of the whole culinary lockdown.

Curry from Rita Singh

Rita’s Rotis on Facebook

Home delivery, all ordered on Facebook Messenger

Menu: It was all done on FB Messenger and if there was a menu we pretty much took what was being made fresh: butter chicken, samosa, pakora, naan and butter rice.

Price: Fed five easily for £65 including delivery by a burly man and with more than enough left over for me to enjoy butter curry for dinner the next evening.

Food: It arrived hot and very fresh, those samosas tasted like they’d just been made, the curry rich, deeply flavoured. Authentic family food made on a very small scale.