Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Indian Princess – Gourmet Indian Cuisine

Saturday night I ate the best meal I have ever eaten in my life. And that is saying something. Not only because I have eaten a lot of good meals, but I love to cook good food and I have eaten some amazing meals labored over with love by friends and family. We are all foodies in our extended family. So this really is saying something. And by no means do I intend to offend anyone who has ever cooked for me. But this meal was out of this world.

It was a nice bright Indian restaurant in Margate. But this Indian food was top of the market, non curry based food. The spices were amazingly gentle and aromatic. The restaurant atmosphere was cheerful and not ostentatious. The staff were incredibly welcoming, and friendly.

On arrival the six of us were shown to our table and given a glass of Champagne! Then as we perused the descriptive and enticing menu an Aperitif arrived for us all, beautifully arranged on long thin plates with drizzled lines of sauce & pretty d├ęcor, it was almost a sin to eat and destroy its beauty. The waiter called it “Chicken supreme” and it was indeed a tiny piece of battered chicken with a small round papadom held in the top of it.

The menu was a marvel. Titled headings and long descriptive paragraphs about each meal. There were six starters and seven main course. So we all decided, rather naively, that we would order one of everything on the menu (minus the prawn main course) and share a little of each others.
The starters were –
1. Liver slices in a fruity green dressing with, sweet shredded carrot tart and onion jelly – the liver was pink and smooth and amazingly tasty, all the fruity sweet flavors complimenting the deep earthy meat.
2. Soft belly crab, which had been painstakingly stripped of all its shell, body and legs, covered in a spicy sticky goo and quick fired as a whole crab. It kept its shape through the whole process, so was recognisable and impressive with its serving of minute portions of vegetables that complimented the crabs spices and lightly crispy meaty texture.
3. Garlic pork ribs – delicious and sweet and gooey with a good chunk of meat on all bones.
4. Fillet of Claresse – delicately fragranced fish, quickly fried until crispy yet tantalisingly moist which disintegrates on your tongue leaving nothing but salivating excitement.
5. Tender Breast of Turkey – roasted in the tandoor , with herbs and spices giving a delicate yet scrumptious flavor, so refined you just wanted to keep nibbling it.

The presentation of the starters was exquisite. They all came served on long thin plates, with swerving drizzles, and small additions of caviar, or sweet shredded veg, or a little scoop of pate, or crispy accompaniments. None of which I can be sure to remember the exact order of, or on which exact plate. But what I do remember is the way everything worked so well together. Making each delicate mouthful an explosive taste sensation.

Then we had another appetizer. (They always give me such a pleasant surprise when they arrive, such a treat you were not expecting! Yes, yes, I know its Ala Carte and yes, yes, the price is built into everything else you buy, but I like the surprise all the same.) This one was a cute looking crispy potato cake with a sweet drizzle along the long thin plate, finished with a small cup of thin spicy tomato soup. Very, very refreshing. Our only criticism was that the plates were so warm the drizzle would not lift from the plate.

Then our main courses arrived. The titles were as follows, as are my descriptions…

1. Loin of Kentish Pork – the skin was encrusted with cinnamon and fennel then pangrilled, making it satisfyingly crunchy to bite into, with a refreshingly rewarding taste that cuts through any fatty residue from the crackling . It was served with an aromatic Goan style sauce of malt vinegar and garlic wine that truly tickled the taste buds into a thrilling taste sensation, earthed by the perfect upturned basin of Basmati rice.
2. Breast of Gressingham Duck – perfectly pink, flavored with oranges, fennel and cinnamon so cleverly that the whole duck just tasted mouth wateringly delicious, rather than over powered by any of the flavours. Laying on a bed of garlic creamed potatoes, this dish was wholly satisfying and heavenly and was my utter favourite from the whole lot.
3. Rack of Lamb – well. What can you say about a large rack of perfectly cooked lamb, covered in a delicious sauce, the meat just dropping away from the bone as soon as your knife points at it. Apparently a South Indian style, not that I know what that means. What it does mean to me is South Indian style is really, really good on a Rack of Lamb.
4. Fresh water Nile Perch – a dense flaked meaty fish with plenty to go round six people, grilled with peppers, coriander, fenugreek and carom seeds. Served with a gently spiced and fragrant sauce of mustard, ginger and kari. All of them so subtle, so aromatic that even though it was fragrant, the fish shone through the flavours, working well together in a warm satisfying way.
5. Breast of British Chicken – back to the South Indian style. Beautiful spices that made this, the least adventurous dish on the whole menu, be acknowledged. It was just chicken, and yet we all recognized how good it tasted, how succulent the meat was, and how much there was of it to go round.
6. Zebra Steaks – Now here was the controversial choice for me. As I explained earlier, the menu was very descriptive, explaining the background, purpose, spices, cooking methods behind each dish. It explained that in parts of the world (where Zebra live) there were so many Zebra, they were becoming pests. The hunting of Zebra, allowed numbers to be kept down and ensured they could not over graze the land.
I was very unsure about this. It sounded like a convenient reason to kill and eat Zebras. Such a pest, those darn Zebra’s. Everyone told me, “Its just a stripy horse. Have you eaten horse?”
Well yes I have, as well as Ostrich, Kangaroo, Water Rat and Snakes. All of which I was sure were not as wild in the safari as Lions and Giraffe. Don’t EVER ask me to eat a Giraffe. I tried to protest, but I could find no valid reason other than my gut instinct telling me , that eating Zebra seems wrong. However when it turned up, and I ate it, it was delicious, tasted just like beef. And it didn’t have any stripes, so I was happy with that.

What’s important to explain about this part of the meal is that each dish came as a dish of its own. Not in any way like your traditional Indian restaurants, which serve curry in big dishes in the middle of the table, and each of you are given a clear plate to self serve. No. These dishes came individually plated, with beautiful light fluffy basmati rice turned out in a bowl shape, the sauces dripping over the meats and a minute square of what turned out to be sweet Swede. They all looked stunning, yet we probably freaked the restaurant right out by passing plates around, cutting everything into six pieces and trying to share everything with each other. Not the way the meal was supposed to be eaten, I am very sure, but it gave us all a chance to try every delightful thing on the menu, which was a culinary delight. Afterwards, we could say we had tried (and loved) the whole menu.

And even eaten this way, the flavours were complimentary, the spices you savoured were so outstandingly delicate and precise that you sat back and truly enjoyed the master cooking of each mouthful. This was Indian food that would impress even those who don’t like Indian food.
After the main course we were given another appetiser, something called a ‘froosh de boosch.’ Sounded rude, tasted sweet, like a really posh banana fritter. Delicate little ball of banana in batter with more artistic drizzle on the plate and fruits of the forest foam (pronounce fom to them). It was rather tasty but disappeared so quickly both before your eyes and on your tongue. YUM.

Finally, as we all decided against dessert, we were given our last little extra course. Which was such an easy thing to make, so surprising and refreshing. A shot glass of semi melted flavoured ice water with space dust on the top. It arrived on our table, quietly sizzling and popping. We would all have ignored it if one of us hadn’t said “oh its fizzing and popping” so we quickly gave them all out and dug in with our spoons.
And indeed, it was space dust. Wet, cool, sweet icy space dust on our tongues. It was the final excitement on our delicious spice extravaganza.

So there you go. My lengthy description on our Fabulous Indian meal for six, where we tried the whole menu. The table service was exceptional, the several waiters had great knowledge and were really accommodating and helpful.
The strangest thing about the whole night was this restaurant was in Margate. So after such a fine dining experience we wandered down to the sea front for a final tipple where we were reminded that the rest of Margate is not so refined.
However, this restaurant has to be the main attraction now.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Rules for Life

I’m up early again. On a Sunday. So I am hoping my small snack, my green tea and a bit of writing will relieve my over active brain so I can climb back into bed beside my super hero sleeper BF and catch some more snugly wuggly time.

As I look out of my window, watching the sun shine on the new house next door, the ravens swooping and swapping branches around their nests, stretching their wings and cawing at each other; as I sit here cradling my cup of green tea with blackcurrant, I am thinking, what can I tell the world today?

I have had a restless night, dreaming about work next week, my mind obviously needing to practice the week in advance and run through the various tasks that lay ahead. For next week is my busy week of the year for pubic engagement work. I have long days to complete, various groups to work with, live radio interviews to air and in the middle of it all, a birthday to enjoy.

But its not that I want to share.

When I look deep down inside myself and contemplate my navel, (a newly learnt saying that cropped up on me three times this week – it means the fluffy stuff inside), I find myself thinking about rules. Why do we live by rules? What do rules mean to different people? And why are they or are they not important?

The issue of rules keeps popping up in our house, why wouldn’t it, we have teenagers? So they often question the rules. But its also a discussion I have with many other parents, teachers, colleagues, and friends. I even hear second or third hand comments about rules thorough our children from my partners ex, the girl’s mother and her partner. Who apparently defy all rules, as it makes you ‘boring’. This I fail to understand as everyone lives by rules. Rules are everywhere, even in nature, it’s how you acknowledge them I guess. It depends if you have commitment to take responsibility, as to which rules you need to live by.

When you type rule(s) into a thesaurus, here are some of the other options you will receive – system, imperative, regulations, set of law, convention, control, lead, manage, reign, run or preside over. And when you think about everyone’s day to day life we all live within these types of constraints. No matter how much of a free spirit we are, we cannot escape that with life, comes a responsibility to live by some rules.

For example,

If you break a set of laws, you will be punished, fined or worse, have your freedom relinquished.

If you go to work, school, college, you get up to a time schedule, perhaps use public transport that runs to a timed schedule, work to a set of regulations (conduct, approach, safety, risk assessment) and then you come home.

If you have children, you must accept the responsibility that they need consistent warmth, regular food & drink, love, and stimulation. You have to manage the way they grow, or they will not. You must lead the way for them to become independent and rounded. It is imperative you make them your priority.

When you take up a hobby, sport, or interest you are required to attend classes at a set time, behave as you are instructed and show a level of control for the regulations that preside over you. Or you risk injury, your safety and potentially the safety of others.

Even tasks as simple as cooking, washing, putting on make up and tying up boots, run to a set of rules. There are certain things you do first, then second and certain ways you need to do these things for the whole process to work.

So rules, are part of our everyday life. They allow us to live in a place where we can be relied upon. Where we can build security and structure for ourselves and our loved ones. Where we can be depended on by employers or family alike, to do a good job, to be there for you, in a time frame given, for the return of a pre agreed amount of return.

Rules enable us to teach our children right from wrong, how to be independent, to learn and keep safe from harm. How to look after themselves and others in a mature and honest manner. Rules enable us to earn money so we can be free spirits, in our own time, part of societies thrills and enjoy life to the maximum when we step outside the constraints of employment.

Yes, some rules are there to be broken, tried and tested as time moves on around them. But when you break one rule, you are simply creating another to live by. There is no escaping, the dreaded rules.

What you can do, is make them so normal, they make sense. Make them flexible so you can bend them for the better good and I guess at the end of the day, if your rules make your life boring, then change them for another set that don’t. If you’re not happy in your life accepting rules, then you cannot reign your own life.

Rule number one. You are the rule.
Rule number two. Children always come first.

That’s how families should live. It’s how we try to live and we have a complex busy and dynamic life. We all achieve something every week. We all laugh and smile every day. We manage conflict. We lead active lives. And we hardly notice the rules. And in my tiny little own world I Reign over Rain.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Yippe its raining

Ha ha!
I woke up this morning, far too early but extremely well rested and my mind awake with 'to-do's.'
I got up and ventured downstairs through the strange murkie light of the house. Picking up abandoned pencils, clothes, rubbish, wrappers along the way. Tidying the kitchen as I waited with squinting eyes for the kettle to boil. Putting on a load of washing as my toast burnt in the toaster and finally, with my eyes a bit more accustomed to being open, looking outside to see a wet and windy miserable day.
And I felt delighted.

For today was going to be a stay indoors day. No way I could cut the grass, wash the car, trim any bushes, hang out any washing. No way I was walking into town for groceries, or getting out on my bike. Turn up the thermostat! I'm staying in.

I grabbed my burnt toast, my hot water and sat in front of my pc with glee. I wrote a 2500 word story. As the heavens opened and the rain absolutely poured down upon our garden, I watched with immense satisfaction becasue I was already making the most of a miserble day.

I love the rain. Its my reason for being lazy, my acceptence of my own apathy towards activity. I know I wont (cant) sit around doing nothing ALL day but I was delighted with being good for nothing this morning. Rain lets the laziness in me come out. For a little while at least.