Tariq Ahmad Bhat, Kashmir’s Own ‘Pizza Man’
- Ayandrali Dutta
Updated : March 22, 2022 08:03 IST
Tariq Ahmad's pizza brand Amigo's is loved by one and all in Kashmir.
Who doesn’t love a nice well-done thin crust pizza loaded with some cheese veggies and more? With pizza chains mushrooming in India, this dish has caught the attention of young and old and now almost a comfort for many. But this one man is surely making heads turn that is 40-year-old Kashmiri entrepreneur Tariq Ahmad. Tariq owns a local pizza brand by the name Amgio’s and hence is lovingly also called the ‘Pizza Man’ as he has introduced Italian cuisine to the area for the first time.
In his words he says “I opened my first restaurant in Srinagar's Gogjibagh area in 2008, when nobody had any idea what pizza was. My two brothers opened it.” Today Amigo’s has seen functional outlets out of which two are in Srinagar- Gogji Bagh and Hazratbal areas while the other one in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district. One of the hot spot in the city the place sees almost 200+custometrs every day.
He says the he got the idea to open a pizzeria when he saw Smokin Joes opened their store in Srinagar, the same year Amigo’s started. Tariq used to see how people used to relish the pizza and then he realised that this was something which had been missing in the valley. Amigo’s started with just three employees and Tariq himself used to serve, bake, and handle the counter all by himself.
The brand today has also expanded the menu and sees dishes like Lebanese, continental, Indian, Chinese, fast foods, and more. Tariq also has plans to open another in Baramulla too.
Here’s one of the most famous pizza recipes by non-other than Jamie Oliver
• 800 g strong white bread flour
• 200 g fine ground semolina flour or strong white bread flour
• 1 level teaspoon fine sea salt
• 2 x 7 g sachets of dried yeast
• 1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
• 1 clove of garlic
• 1 bunch of fresh basil
• olive oil
• 1 x 400 g tin of quality plum tomatoes
• 85 g mozzarella cheese
• For the dough, pile the flours and 1 level teaspoon of sea salt onto a clean surface and make a well in the centre.
• Add the yeast and sugar to 650ml lukewarm water, mix together and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well.
• Using a fork and a circular movement, slowly bring in the flour from the inner edge of the well and mix into the water. Continue to mix, bringing in all the flour – when the dough comes together and becomes too hard to mix with your fork, flour your hands and begin to pat it into a ball.
• Knead the dough by rolling it backwards and forwards, using your hands to stretch, pull and push the dough. Keep kneading for 10 minutes, or until you have a smooth, springy, soft dough.
• Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place to prove for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
• For the sauce, peel and finely slice the garlic, then pick the basil leaves and finely chop the stalks.
• Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan on a medium-low heat, add the garlic and basil stalks, then cook gently for a couple of minutes, or until the garlic is lightly golden, then add most of the basil leaves, the tomatoes, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
• Leave the sauce to tick away for around 20 minutes, or until smooth, breaking up the tomatoes up with a wooden spoon. When the time’s up, taste, and season to perfection.
• To assemble the pizzas, divide the dough in half. Wrap one half in clingfilm and freeze for another day. With the remaining half, divide the dough into 4 equal balls.
• Flour each dough ball, then cover with clingfilm, and leave to rest for about 15 minutes – this will make them easier to roll it thinly.
• Dust a clean surface and the dough with a little flour or semolina, and roll it out into a rough circle, about ½cm thick.
• Tear off an appropriately sized piece of tin foil, rub it with olive oil, dust well with flour or semolina and place the pizza base on top. Continue doing the same with the remaining dough, dust with a little flour so you can pile them up. Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge.
• When you're ready to cook them, preheat the oven to 250°C/500°F
• At this stage you can apply your topping: spread the tomato sauce over the base, spreading it out to the edges. Tear over the mozzarella and scatter with the remaining basil leaves. Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil and add a pinch of salt and pepper.
• If you can, cook the pizzas on a piece of granite in your conventional oven – if not, cook them one by one on pieces of tin foil directly on the bars of the oven shelf, towards the bottom of the oven (If you're going to cook your pizzas on the bars of the oven, make sure they're not too big – otherwise they'll be difficult to manoeuvre). Cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the pizzas are golden and crispy.