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Tortoise tart anyone?

The Daily Mail, not my usual read, has the occasional blinder… this week’s has been the auction of a collection of antique cookery books and lifestyle guides that go on sale at Bloomsbury Auctions in London on September 22. Follow this link if you are really bored.

One of the collection boldly titled ‘A Perfect School of Instructions for the Officers of the Mouth‘, was published in 1682 and includes this bizarre recipe for a tart containing the entire body of a tortoise. Perfect for those late summer dinner parties you were all planning. Now, where did I put my tortoise net…

PS. 20/Sept. I have been re-reading Robert Byron’s Road to Oxiana. If you have never read it, go and buy a copy now. Its brilliant. No really, it is… anyway, more on that later, but when discussing the Turcomans and anti-Bolsheviks fleeing Russia (the book was published in 1937) he mentions that of the 25,000 a year crossing the boarder into Persia most were not fleeing political repression, but were simply fleeing from starvation: “If their accounts are true of the heaps of empty tortoise shells that surround the workmen’s houses in some places, tortoises being their staple food, it is no wonder what foreigners are discourages from visiting Russian Central Asia!




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Hurry Burry Chicken Curry

OK, so I can’t cook. I know I can’t. But I try occasionally… (my Calvados belly pork was actually quite good… and I do a good line in things on toast.)

My approach has always been, well, slightly more agricultural and experimental than cookbook orientated, and recipes are for wimps. So I was well pleased to discover a fellow ginger who actually knows what she is doing, and speaks my language. She is called Esther Walker, lives in London, and is married to some chap called Giles Coren (OK, so I have heard of him… I am not that bad!) Her recipes are instinctive, dont require the entire contents of Waitrose to put together, and most importantly, taste great. Her blog also makes me giggle. So… all good things!

Road Sign in Darjeeling

I tried her Chicken Curry last week… I used a big tin of coconut milk (the only one in the shop…), about twice the spices, and too much salt… but it was good. Real good!

Get Involved: This from her blog…:

So here we go, the River Cottage Bites chicken curry, for about 4 people

8 chicken drumsticks (or thighs)
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can coconut milk (I use those small turqouise ones from Waitrose)
1tsp coriander seeds
1tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
1 fresh chilli, seeds in or there’s no point
1 2cm square of fresh ginger
1 small onion

1 Grind together the seeds, the turmeric and the cumin and toast gently in a dry pan until the kitchen smells like the set of Slumdog Millionaire. It seems like a shiteload, but just tip it all in.

2 In a food processor, whizz up the ginger, onion and chilli to make a paste. Add some oil to the pan that the spices are cooking in and then tip in this paste. While that’s cooking gently for about 10 mins, bloop into the processor the chopped tomatoes and coconut milk and whizz. Leave it there for a bit.

3 Skin the chicken and brown in a pan for about 4 minutes each side. Arrange in a baking dish

4 When the paste/spice mix has had about 10 mins, add in the tomato/coconut mixture and wibble this around until it’s all bubbling. Then taste – it will be bland as hell, but spicy, so add salt bit by bit until it starts to taste like something nice. In the end I added – no joke – about four big pinches of salt, but it’s best to start small.

5 Pour this mixture over the chicken and bake in a 180C oven, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Do also check out her blog, Recipe Rifle, there are lots of other tasty things on there…

Esther Walker ... A rare domesticated ginger

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