It is now 58 years since Ronald Aubrey Timmins immigrated from the then Madras to Perth, Australia.
During this period, Ron not only served in the Western Australia Police Force as a Detective Sergeant, but also pursued his love for cooking Anglo-Indian cuisine. “Even during my schooling days at Montfort, Yercaud and college at Loyola, Madras, I was influenced by my mother’s cooking,” says Ron, who retired in 2014 after serving in the police force for 44 years. He adds, “Of course, my very first attempt to make kesari from my mother’s recipe, was a complete disaster! After I moved to Australia, it was a necessity and a yearning to satisfy my love for Anglo-Indian dishes that helped me hone my cooking skills.”
When his daughter Sarah-Jane told him that her husband Nathan had come across a small eatery that served fish and chips, up for sale, and that he would like to buy it and revive it as a new business venture, Ron’s ears perked up — here was an opportunity that would lend itself to all his years of pursuing his passion for cooking.
Ron made an alternative suggestion to Sarah-Jane: ‘Let’s look for another ideal place to reconstruct something closer to my speciality — Anglo-Indian cuisine’. “Scouting around, we zeroed in on a really run-down restaurant which was on the verge of closure. Sarah-Jane and Nathan quickly finalised the purchase and we went about refurbishing the whole place and, lo! Green Coriander was born in 2004!” exclaims Ron.
Ron was still serving as a Detective Sergeant in the Western Australia Police Force then. “I would finish my duty in the afternoon and head straight for the restaurant to cook; Green Coriander was a dinner-only restaurant. By then, I was already working in the force for 34 years and ever since I came to Australia, I had done almost all the cooking for the family (which included his wife, now separated, and his daughter, Sarah-Jane). I had a lot of recipes from my mother and developed many on my own, keeping the original style of Anglo-Indian cooking intact,” says Ron. He recalls how Green Coriander did a one-Sunday-a-month lunch of purely Anglo-Indian dishes, which would sell out well in advance.
Ten years after they opened Green Coriander, a couple of Indian entrepreneurs contacted Sarah-Jane and Nathan and made them an offer that they could not refuse. “It was saddening to know that all the efforts that I had put in to build a business were coming to an end. But at the same time, it was heartening to realise that these efforts were being recognised as a winning proposition. We decided that we should opt out when the going was good and sadly parted with Green Coriander,” recalls Ron.
Meanwhile, Ron had retired from the police force and he was already establishing a line of home-made pickles, chutneys and pastes under the brand name Rajah’s. He changed this name to Jackson’s when he started getting orders from abroad. “The name Rajah’s was too Indian and if I were to cater to a more cosmopolitan and international clientèle, it had to have a more westernised name. Hence, Jackson’s, which incidentally is my grandson’s name,” says Ron.
Meanwhile, Ron meticulously began to construct all the recipes for the dishes he was good at. His recent book, All-time Anglo-Indian Recipes, contains 123 recipes. Each one of them had been cooked and served at Green Coriander.
“After my retirement from the police force, I entered a major cooking competition by the Western Australian government. I was one of the four finalists and my dish was Fish Molee. According to one of the conditions of the contest — that one major ingredient should be an Australian produce — I featured a barramundi fillet, pan-fried and served with a molee sauce. Instead of the usual potato mash, I served potato buffarth, a traditional Anglo-Indian dish cooked in coconut milk,” says Ron, whose dish came a close second.
Presently in India on a holiday, Ron was invited to help select and suggest a range of Anglo-Indian dishes for possible incorporation in the menu at Taj Connemara, which has an Anglo-Indian section in the menu of their all-day dining outlet, The Verandah.
When he returns to Australia, Ron hopes to pursue his next dream of opening a café specialising in coffee and pies. “The idea is to serve typical South Indian filter coffee alongside popular Italian varieties,” he says. “Hopefully, just like how many Australians have taken to Anglo-Indian cuisine, filter coffee will become a rage.”