Tuesday, August 25, 2009
BRICK LANE ON A SUNDAY, a truly metropolitan hooray
having spent saturday night at a hen party, i was terrified that i'd have a sore head on sunday, when i'd planned to spend the day with my dear old friend Haz. thankfully, the hens were pretty well behaved. we were pleasantly held up in a garden in barnes, drinking pink champagne and giggling at old photos and naughty reminisces. i was up and on it sunday morning only a little fuzzy, and arrived on the wonderful brick lane, thrown right into the thick of vibe bar heavy bass lines and wafting foods from all over the globe. when i first went there 10 years ago, it was buzzy and busy, but not overly cool. now, the bad side of things is that it's totally teaming with bolshy bodies, haircuts and very vintage clothes. the good side of this is that it's like a festival and makes you truly happy to live in the capital, such a loud, brightly coloured and mixed up place.
the bits of brick lane that are as they were when i first discovered it, are for me, still the best. it's all about the indian super stores. here, you will come across vegetables so alien that naming, let alone cooking them, seems a far cry but none the less a really exciting thing. Haz and i spent a lovely few hours putting the world to rights, drinking coffee in the new fangled fashionable brick lane way, and eating some delicious and cheap greekish street food. the dolmas were good. She then bobbed off to a party, and i got back to the old school, trawling the aisles of first, Bangla City, and then Taj Stores, just further down.
i love these stores. they really are supermarkets, but the kind i like. they sell knapkins, cleaning products, incense, pots and pans and ofcourse all the things that are hard to find: unknown leaves and herbs; huge sliced of pumpkin, various wonky chilies and every rice and chili sauce you could wish for. and it seemed fitting to make a good spicey and aromatic curry dinner even more so, because raf was at the ashes being all crickety. i bought mung dhal, freshest curry leaves (which make me weak at the knees, and take me straight back to soft evenings in Gokana); a butternut squash, walnuts, basmati and fresh turmeric which is hard to find.
for dinner for the crickety boys i made a lovely dhal full of curry leaves and mustard seeds (using a new little pot especially for frying spices), a walnut chutney (which must be akin to a pesto, but indian) and a chicken and squash korma, all mild and nutty. it was the walnut pesto that really struck me, and which i found vaguely in madhur jafferey's curry bible, of pakistani origin. fresh, crunchy and bitter and sweet, hot and yet cooling, the perfect alternative to raita, here it is...
2 handfuls of whole walnuts
1 handful of fresh mint
1 whole dried chilli
1 finely chopped garlic clove
1 lime, juiced
4 tbsp natural yoghurt
1 tsp caster sugar (or palm sugar)
this couldn't be easier. place all the ingredients in a blender, and blitz until it is flecked with colour like grains of sugar. not humous, more pesto. serve with dhal, rice and a meat dish.