Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Mamta's/Kavey's lamb biryani: AKA what to do with leftover lamb

A well-used recipe from Mamta's Kitchen
A very well-loved Mamta recipe I printed up in 2010
I've used and loved the recipes from the wonderful Mamta's Kitchen site for ages now. When I want an Indian recipe, I head to Mamta's because I know it'll be failsafe and delicious.

I stumbled upon her daughter Kavey on Twitter and discovered that she's been posting recipes, too. I had a lot of leftover lamb from Easter dinner and remembered Kavey's post about her mum's lamb biryani (http://www.kaveyeats.com/2014/03/mamtas-delicious-lucknowi-style-lamb-biryani.html), which happened to be posted the same week I made the Worst Biryani Ever.

I should have realised when I read the recipe that it was never going to even remotely resemble biryani. It was sort of like a pilau rice dish or maybe a distant relative of paella if you used your imagination, but whatever it was, it was not biryani. It was incredibly sloppy due to far too much stock. How it got 337 five star reviews on the BBC Food site is beyond me. And don't even get me started about people giving recipes five stars when they have to amend most of it to make it edible.
Really, really not biryani
This is totally not biryani and I can only apologise.
So anyway, proper biryani. Had I done two more minutes of Googling I would have realised that it is a dish of two parts that are layered and baked. Kavey's recipe reinforced this, and I bookmarked it with a promise to give it a go one day. Enter my copious amounts of leftover lamb and a need to get at least one more meal out of it without resorting to shepherd's pie. I used leg of lamb, but I think shoulder would be much better (and cheaper.) 

I didn't stray far from Kavey's recipe; I didn't have saffron or rose water for the rice and used coconut oil to saute everything instead of ghee. As I used cooked lamb, I only simmered it for about 20 minutes. The final dish was absolutely, gloriously scrumptious and I would very happily eat the lamb curry on its own. 

I prepared it ahead of time so I only had to pop it in the oven when I got home from work. Kavey asked her mum about preparing it in advance, and Mamta advised that I chill the rice quickly under cold water before assembling to prevent any nasty bacteria from setting up house in my baking dish overnight. I would add that once you've made this dish, don't reheat it again to avoid the nasties. You ever wonder what often causes "Delhi Belly"? Rice that's been sitting around too long or has been reheated too many times. It ain't pretty. 

The onions do take a while to brown, so heed Kavey's note about it taking about 20-30 minutes until it goes sticky and lovely like this:
Browned onions
And don't freak out about using so many onions because they will shrink big time. There is a Japanese word that escapes me for the crunchy layer of rice that forms at the bottom of the pan, but it is one of my favourite things in the world. I greedily scooped out all of this golden layer for myself. Oh yes I did.

So, thank you Kavey for sharing your mum's beautiful recipe and for giving me something more creative to make with my leftover lamb. All five of us loved it and I would make it again in a heartbeat.

Lamb Biryani

Sunday, 6 April 2014

review, sort of: savion glover, sole sanctuary

It's not often you'll find one of my reviews on this site but as no one asked me to review Savion Glover's latest show "SoLe Sanctuary" (currently at Sadler's Wells theatre in London), here it is. Actually, this isn't a proper review; it's more of a response to the lukewarm reviews I came across on t'internet (of which there were only two, but both for major British newspapers.)

So here's the thing - most people here will know Savion Glover as the tap dancer who was digitally tracked to animate the feet of Mumble, the penguin from "Happy Feet". For those of us from North America, we also know him from the wildly popular production "Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk" that had a good run on Broadway in the 90s. We also know him from the films "Jelly's Last Jam" and "Tap". And yeah, probably "Sesame Street", too. The point is, we know what to expect when we see him tap.

We know he's not going to leap into the air and turn a sofa on its side or shuffle his way up a grand staircase. He's not going to do jazz hands and big-toothed smiles to big band music. He's going to use his feet like percussive instruments, moving very little else. He is going to blow us away with his intricate rhythms and make us wonder how he's making any sound because we can't really see his feet  moving.

His latest show, SoLe Sanctuary, does exactly this. It's 80 minutes of percussion, sometimes with music or singing, but mostly just his and Marshall Davis Jr's taps. He strips tap down to its essence: sound. He doesn't look out into the audience because he doesn't need to; I spent the entire show staring at his feet, my jaw on the floor.

His segments with Davis Jr were like conversations, moving between finishing each other's sentences and trying to outdo each other. They smiled broadly as the other danced, showing a longtime familiarity but also marking respect. It was difficult to tell if these segments were ad libbed; their faces made us believe that some of the steps were being seen for the first time on that stage.

I think drummers would enjoy this show or at least get something more out of it. I don't think I fully appreciated how intricate these rhythms were and my rudimentary understanding of tap didn't help much, either. Still, I was transfixed. I found myself shaking my head at these impossible steps and nodding along to the sounds. The audience erupted with applause and whoops at the end of each segment and gave a standing ovation at the finale.

There was no intermission but I think a break would have disrupted the flow of the show. It also left us wondering how the hell these men could tap for that long without collapsing. It was, in a word, astounding.

Thank you Savion for educating me about traditional African American tap and for blowing me away with the sounds that came out of your feet. I am inspired.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

and then the kate bush ticket gods smiled upon me

My first year at York university was in 1986. I had really big hair and I thought I was pretty cool because I was a Fine Arts Student. I was on my way to get my BFA (or as most of us fondly called it, a "Bachelor's of Fuck All") and I wore a lot of black and was very, very deep.

I made friends with a guy called Tony during the first week on campus. He was gay, so don't get all excited - this story doesn't involve true love or anything like that. It mostly involves nose piercing, hair dying in the co-ed residential bathrooms, and Kate Bush.

Tony was a massive Kate Bush fan and a vegetarian. "I'm vegetarian too," I blurted out. I wasn't, but from that point on, I was. I did know who Kate Bush was thanks to "Hounds of Love" becoming a huge hit that year, and I was already a fan. So Tony and I became inseparable, did a lot of very silly things at university, and I was now a Kate-loving vegetarian because I was incredibly impressionable and keen to please. Good thing I didn't bond with a heroin-smoking Kajagoogoo fan, really.

Tony introduced me to Kate's back catalogue along with some B sides from his "The Singles File" boxed set. I made cassette recordings of everything and Kate became my soundtrack to my weekend job; the graveyard shift at the Shell station. Her music was also a handy way to coax my uni roommate out of our room. Playing this at full blast usually had the desired effect:

I fell in love with her music. I still know every word to every song and certain songs always evoke specific memories. "The Dreaming" will always remind me of my job at Shell because it was my favourite album and I played it over and over during my shifts.

When I moved to Montreal, "Sensual World" came out which introduced us all to the wonderful Trio Bulgarka. I learned that one of her songs was based on Molly Bloom's words in James Joyce's Ulysses and immediately set out to read it and love it. Which was a really stupid idea because I had absolutely no idea what the book was about (although a later course in Irish literature would help me decipher the story.) And of course there was Book of Dreams by Peter Reich ("Cloudbusting") and millions of other references I would pick up over the years.

28 years later (god, really?) my friend Steph alerted me that Kate is going on tour. WHAT? A quick Google confirmed she was indeed touring for the first time since 1979. Oh. My. Giddy. Aunt.

I knew I had a one in a bazillion chance of getting tickets. She has a huge fanbase and this was to be her only tour, made up of just 22 shows. I cracked my knuckles last Friday morning, opening up a few browser tabs, and hoped for the best. I didn't expect to get tickets, but I had to try. But I did. I got tickets. I got opening night tickets in row E. I just kept refreshing the page and magically the little icon went green and I clicked madly, not even looking at what night or what seats I was getting.

Even with the confirmation page staring back at me, I couldn't believe I actually got tickets. I wouldn't close the window until the confirmation email came in and even then I had to read the email a dozen times to make sure I had indeed secured tickets to Kate Bush.

I don't know how I managed it, but by the gods, I am absolutely thrilled about it. My 45-year-old self is high fiving my 17-year-old self. And telling her to stop smoking and acting like an idiot.

(I'm not vegetarian anymore, sorry Kate.)