Thursday 24 June 2010

Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music... Ad Infinitum

One of the first major changes I noticed in my life after settling in London was my exposure to different kinds of food. With so many cultures painting the British capital in various colours and giving it diverse flavours, it wasn't hard to imagine that my palate would also widen up with time. And widen up it did.

Hot (as in spicy) food was not my cup of tea at the beginning, however. There probably still exists a photo of me and two other Cubans at an Indian restaurant with my then colleagues from the travel agency for which I used to work where my dark features were given a rouge makeover; a consequence of the herbs and spices combination. No amount of milk and/or Naan bread could put out the fire. That curry was hot, my brethren and sisters.

But over the last few years I've become keener on the 'chillier' side of food. And not a day goes by, provided it's my turn to cook at home, when I don't put a dollop of chilli sauce on some stew or hotpot I'm cooking. It shouldn't, then, come as a surprise, that this section has seen the temperature rise (at least, palatewise) in the last few months.

The following recipe (by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) works wonders for a winter's evening meal, or a British summer's afternoon lunch. I tend to serve it with Basmati rice, though, my family prefers to have chapatis.

Chickpea, potato and kale curry

340g dried chickpeas (or 2 400g tins, drained and rinsed)
1 tsp cumin seeds, plus a little ­extra to garnish
1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp mustard seeds
1 hot, dried red chilli, crumbled
1 tsp ground turmeric
2.5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tbsp groundnut or sunflower oil
1 large onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
700ml chicken or vegetable stock
250g potatoes, peeled and cut into 3cm dice
150g kale (or cabbage), finely shredded
Yogurt, to serve
2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped

Soak the chickpeas overnight in plenty of cold water. Next day, drain, rinse and simmer them for about an hour and a half in fresh ­water, until tender, then drain. (If using tinned, just drain and rinse.)

Put a dry frying pan over a medium heat and, when hot, toast the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds and the chilli for a couple of minutes ­until they smell ­really fragrant and the mustard starts to pop. Grind to a powder in a coffee grinder, spice mill or with a pestle and mortar, and mix in the turmeric and ginger.

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat, and fry the onion, stirring regularly, until soft and golden brown. Stir in the garlic and spices, leave to cook for a minute or two, and add the stock. Simmer for five minutes, then add the chickpeas and potatoes. Cook until the spuds are tender, then add the kale. Cook for a few minutes, until the greens are tender, then serve with a dollop of thick yogurt on top, along with a ­sprinkling of toasted cumin seeds and some coriander leaves.

The playlist to go with this dish should have a kick to it, too. That's why I open with a classic Ray Charles's track, 'Drown In My Own Tears'. And lacrimal glands are also part of the curry experience. But a cautious note about the clip below. I'm not entirely satisfied with Ms Jones reworking such a heart-felt song. Don't get me wrong, Norah is pitch-perfect in her version, but in order to sing the blues, you have to feel the blues, you have to let rip, man. And I don't think she does. It's not the first time that I've felt short-changed by Ravi Shankar's daughter. It's almost as if the woman has the capability of taking you places, but she'd rather not take the chance to do it. Anyway, it's just my opinion. Rest assured, though, that my curry does have a lot of bluesy soul in it.

A blast from the past. That's all I can say about the next video. Tracey Thorn's voice is as tender as those chickpeas left in cold water overnight. Sizzling.

Carol Welsman comes back to my blog after I uploaded another clip of her duetting with Herbie Hancock some weeks ago. This time she sings with Djavan, a Brazilian music legend in his own right. This is a fabulous concoction, just like my curry. Enjoy.

© 2010

Next Post: 'Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music', to be published on Sunday 27th June at 10am (GMT)


  1. Wow! Food and music at one sitting. Lovely. Give Norah Jones a few years, and perhaps her voice will get those hues for blues. Perhaps it's the Latin in you, wanting more corazon in each intonation. I hear you. Thanks for the recipe.

  2. Oh, yummers!! I agree; Nora isn't a blues singer.

  3. London, me vas a matar con esos garbanzos! yo no como muy picante, pero coño, que rica esta esa foto.

  4. I could almost taste your chickpea curry.

    Norah Jones has taken me places I couldn't believe I could go. But yes, they were all her own songs with her own lyrics.

  5. How could you not have liked spicy food? But yes, I understand that for some, if the tongue is not trained for it, it can be a challenge. Glad to know you've acquired a taste for it. I'm a huge fan of hot hot hot, myself! It goes on just about everything. What's life without a little spice, no?


  6. Cuban, how could you tell, off-the-cuff, spontaneous. One time, you even knew that I was letting go of it and encouraging it to go where it wished.

    I must watch how I write my comments here. But then you could tell.

  7. I could tell, dear, I could tell. There are moments we steal from life that are so individually and selfishly enjoyable that the glow on our face is the only evidence people need to assert that we're living a moment of pure spontaneity. :-)

    Many thanks to everyone for their comments.

    Nevine, yes, I do ask myself the same question but then again, we're not very keen on spicy food in Cuba. Mexicans, on the other hand, oh, well, they even have chilli competitions (my mouth just watered on writing that phrase) :-)

    Greetings from London.

  8. Picante without tomato!

    As for me, I'll head to the local Punjab restaurant and not heat up the kitchen. Ninety degrees fahrenheit and higher for days here near Boston.

    Yours for savoring,

  9. That looks tasty –thanks for the recipe! I love that it uses both the seed and leaves of coriander, one of my favorites.

    I respectfully disagree on Norah Jones’s talent, but I much prefer the songs that are original to her. My daughter (another fan) and I saw her in concert in Maine. She’s fabulous live if you get the chance.

  10. That sounds a great recipe. I love spicy food and can't stand blandness at all. Maybe I'm not really British!

  11. We both had food on our minds and posts. I love the combo of cool music and hot food. Everything but the Girl and Norah are all time favorites and so is a good curry. If it weren't so hot here, I'd try it out this weekend.

  12. With memories of my father having a chile-eating competition with my uncle, I was at first taken aback by your statement that you were not used to spicy food. Ah well, the island experiences are different though maybe my father acquired his taste for chile around the Mexicans who lived around us. That picture was amazing; wish it could transport itself to my dining table tonight. As for brilliant Norah Jones, she is not Ray Charles.

  13. Many thanks for your kind comments.

    Greetings from London.

  14. Cuban, this is a recipe I will definitely copy to my favourites. We love Indian food and cook it regularly, and chickpeas are the perfect food, as far as I'm concerned.

    Being terribly tardy about my blogging of late, I am more impressed than ever about your constancy. I could use a little of your obvious self-discipline and excellent time-management skills!

  15. this looks like a fabulous dish. I love cooking so will have to try this out!

  16. I found your view on Norah Jones' take on the Ray Charles song interesting. I think you're right although I wouldn't go so far as to say that she doesn't feel what she's singing. I do agree that she's somewhat reserved in her performance.

    I'm glad you warmed to curry! They don't all have to be hot, though. Personally, I like my chili as an enhancer of the other spices, not the main taste.




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