Hampered by my inexcusable vanity of not wanting to set forth across the doorstep and venture outside to the shops for fear of scaring horses and small children with my drooping bloodshot eye I decided the only fortuitous outcome would be to contribute to my local shopping economy by venturing somewhat stealthily into town to pick up much needed supplies.
Armed in advance by a leisurely perusal of available cookbooks I took my list in my tightly held fist and gingerly drove at 20mph into Whitstable High Street exaggerating the distance I kept behind the car in front of me because of the inability I now have to effectively judge distances with only one eye fully operational.
One slow, unhurried scour of the High Street revealed hidden delights; several lovely farm shops heaving with fruit and vegetables of every imaginable origin including that rare label “local produce”, a dedicated fresh fish shop and harbour piled with saline divinities, local butchers who sold meat with labels such as “our lamb”, a well stock local farmers market with local cider, bread, venison and as rammed as any out of town supermarket on a Saturday afternoon with the most untescolike ruddy cheeked ladies with posh accents who had red cravats tucked into lumberjack shirts and unkempt hair and green wellies. So this is what people do when the rest of us are at work?
Back home, £40 lighter, I now had the veritable beginnings of a heart exploding, with joy that is, series of delicious fulfilling and hearty meals that my new, moving in girlfriend, would wax endlessly about for weeks to come.
I started with Lamb Biryani, a Mughal dish and a fine example of the way Indian cooks use a wide variety of seasonings to enliven a dish and bring out its flavour without destroying its essential character. The basic formula is layers of delicately perfumed pilau rice and lamb in a spiced gravy.
First the lamb is prepared, then cooked in the masala sauce, which is rich with spices and made a little acid with curd. Finally the pilau rice is cooked. The cooked lamb and the pilau rice are then layered together in a heavy pot, with the masala poured over, then covered and baked gently.
The biryani emerges fragrant with saffron and is unexpectedly subtle considering the spices used. It is garnished with a mix of fried nuts and sultanas. I serve with delicious homemade chapattis and a crisp salad. Abso-fucking-lutely delicious and I beg you to try it if you have a few hours for preparing and cooking available. Recipe available below*
So, C is clearing things out of her old flat. She has handed in her notice and it really looks like this thing is happening to me. Living full time with my partner. The house is beginning to become stacked up with large boxes and bags and sundry accoutrements all needing to find a place somewhere. C has already registered the house as part of the Whitstable “Open House” Art Trail for the summer. We already are having the beginnings of six tonne of top soil delivered to give the garden a big makeover. The downstairs dining room is already delegated as C’s art studio type area. The spare bedroom is designated as the guest room and will need all sorts of stuff in there before any of our friends can ever hope to be invited to stay in Whitstable for the weekend. The little spare room will become my office or rather our office as my computer and desk are moved out of the bedroom and await reassembling. Years of collected papers and educational resources are now being peered at for the first time in years and I’m chucking away recycle bags full of papers not wanted anymore. I have had great fun looking at every bit of paper, saying aah at the provoked previously lost memories and then shoving them in the bag to be removed. Found loads of really early tVC flyers from the old Labour Club days where we first started and promised my self to add them to the piles of flyers that I really am going to scan in and put on the internet for posterity along with all the old Tangentopolis’, flyers, thousands of cassettes of DJ sets and assorted memorabilia from over two decades of hedonistic indulgence. Understandably this is taking bastard ages to do and keeps me solemnly and solitudinously occupied and out of trouble whilst my eye repairs itself.
Tonight sees the tVC bandwagon roll remorselessly on to its 24th year of performing in Whitstable when we continue our non stop and unending monthly visitations to the bosom of Steve and Karen at the Smack. Our guest this week is the one and only Ed Millard formerly Edspin or, as he calls himself now, Formerly Formerly. A man once held dear to the tVC heart and a stalwart, nay lynchpin, of the formative free party scene in Kent in the early nineties. A man whose edgy, dark tech flecked minimal house funk is only just now beginning to be appreciated by the underground house minor. A man who has not played out live for over 10 years. A man whose kids are now grown up enough so that he can, once more venture out into DJ land and claim his rightful place at the helm, as leader, as innovator, as the front runner in tVC’s underpants of fucked up weirdy techno with a housey edge that is more likely to fuck with your brain AND get you on the dance floor. His name is Ed and we welcome him back onto the scene.
2 tbsp ghee
1 lamb leg, trimmed & cut into 2.5cm cubes
3 tbsp ghee
3 onions, thinly sliced
2tsp grated fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
piece of cinnamon stick
8 whole cloves
6 cardamom pods
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup natural yoghurt
1/2 cup cream
500g basmati rice
2 tbsp ghee
1/2 tsp saffron threads
6 cardamom pods
1 tsp salt
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup cashew nuts
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup pistachio nuts
2 tbsps sultanas
varak (silver leaf) optional
Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee in a pan and fry the lamb until lightly browned on all sides. Set aside.
For the masala sauce heat the ghee in a heavy pan, add the onions and fry over a gentle heat until soft and golden brown. Remove and set aside.
Add the ginger, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg and salt to the pan, adding more ghee if necessary, and fry lightly for a few minutes. Add the stock. Mix the yoghurt and cream together and stir into the stock and spices. Cook for a minute or two. Add the lamb and half the fried onion to the pan, stir in, cover and cook over a low heat for about 15 minutes more. When cooked, allow to stand for about 10 to 15 minutes.
For the pilau rice; wash the rice well until the water runs clear, and drain.
Heat the ghee in a heavy saucepan and add the saffron and cardamom pods. Fry for a few seconds, then add the rice and fry until the rice is coated with the ghee. Add the salt and stock and bring to the boil, stirring once or twice. Once it comes to the boil do not stir. Reduce the heat and cook gently for about 10 to 15 minutes, in which time the stock will have evaporated and the rice be almost cooked; cover and set aside.
To put the dish together; melt a little ghee in a large, heavy, flameproof casserole, swirling it up the sides. Spoon in half the rice, forking it up lightly to loosen and separate the grains first, then smooth over evenly with the back of a spoon.
Transfer the lamb cubes to the casserole using a slotted spoon and place evenly over the rice. Top with the remaining rice. Push the masala liquid through a sieve and drizzle over the rice. Top with remaining fried onion rings. Cover with a sheet of foil, crimping the edges to keep it in place. Cover with a lid and bake in a preheated moderate hot oven (190C/375F) for 20 to 30 minutes or until the rice and lamb are tender.
Garnish; fry the nuts and sultanas in a little ghee until lightly browned. Sprinkle over the biryani.
To serve; fluff up the rice with a fork and heap the entire contents of the casserole onto a large heated dish. Sprinkle with the nuts and sultanas. Top with a few sheets of varak.
from "Encyclopedia of asian and oriental cookery" by Margaret Fulton