19 September, 2010

In clover. And Jimmy Choos, too.

After the rain, comes the end-of-summer technicolor. Summer crocus, everywhere. Clouds of pink heather, growing right left and center, including straight out of a rock face, though you can't see that in this image.
And then there's my macerating figs. Some of these, drunk on organic sugar and vanilla, were destined to nestle next to the first foie gras we've had at home since, oh, January-ish. I'm not counting that divine foie gras I had in Barcelona this summer...We're in clover these days: the heavy rains have dissipated, the newly discovered hole in the roof is fixed, and the world's gone emerald green, saturated with the scent of huge, giant swathes--larger than most people's gardens--of blossoming oregano. The little oregano flowers are those splodges of white in the background below. If only blogs had a scratch and sniff option; the scent of oregano at the day's end is improbably magnificent. The excuse to eat foie gras is simple: the inkling of autumn, old friends and good stories. The friends in question are from London. Married 38 years, they are a low-key, unfussy, jovial pair, retired, with a permanent case of the travel bug. They each turned 65 this year. He got her...a beautifully wrapped shoe box. Empty, but for a gilded card. The splurge to end all splurges: bespoke shoes from Jimmy Choo. For this, four separate fittings at Mr. Choo's cosy little atelier in the East End. A rainbow of leathers to choose from, a near infinity of styles to consider. Each foot measured separately with extreme precision. This is, after all, the man who shod Princess Diana. And the shoes? Fit like a glove. Like walking on air. How to feel like a princess...
And what did she get him? A fly-fishing trip (using some flies which he tied himself). In Scotland, on a lovely estate. Without her.
And what does one make for Londoners who've been nearly everywhere? I couldn't help myself. I made curry. The nerve I have, knowing full well some of the best curry in the world is found in London. Did I take a photo? Of course not: in full view of the assembled dinner crowd, my chutzpah dimmed. Will you accept a photo (taken by my daughter) of one of the kitchen goldfish instead? I do hope you'll consider trying this easy, incredibly flavorful recipe, only slightly tweaked from the original, which was taken from Aussie Charmaine Solomon's Complete Asian Cookbook. I decided to share it with you when I noticed the size of the second helpings every single person took at my table. Please keep in mind that this is a versatile recipe, but try it like this at least the first time, and remember: the cilantro is a non-negotiable. You won't regret making a special market run just for those sassy green leaves. I know I didn't...

P.S. Another sign fall is on the way? Our English friends played a friendly variation of conkers with the kids.

Curry au poulet et noix de cajou (Chicken Curry with Cashews)

Serves 4 to 6.

1/4 cup butter
2 onions, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons peeled fresh ginger, finely chopped
3 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon tex-mex hot chili blend or other spicy blend
6 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)
1 can diced tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup cashews, roasted or raw
3/4 cup plain yogurt

Brown butter in a large, wide heavy pot (cast iron is great) over medium high heat until foam subsides, which should take about a minute. Add chopped onions, garlic, and ginger, stirring, until softened, or about 5 minutes. Now add the spices: curry powder, salt, cumin, and cayenne. Cook another 2 minutes, stirring all the while. Add chicken and cook, stirring and turning to coat, for some 3 minutes. Lastly, add the chopped cilantro and the entire can of tomatoes, including the juice. Bring to a active simmer, then cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes to an hour or so. It can continue to simmer at very low heat for longer, the meat will be only the more tender for it. Meanwhile, put cashews in a food processor or electric coffee/spice grinder and process until very fine. Just before you're ready to eat the curry, add the ground cashews and yogurt; simmer gently, uncovered, stirring, until sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Serve with basmati or jasmine rice and a sprinkled garnish of freshly chopped cilantro.

Added plus:
This curry, without the yogurt and cashews, can be made up to 5 days ahead. Reheat over low heat, then stir in yogurt and ground cashews. Right now or later, you'll be in clover too.


  1. The trick is to photograph the food before it gets presented to the guests. :P

  2. Hehe, yes indeed, WC, but hard to do when they're all hanging out in the kitchen while I'm cooking!

  3. haha! the picture of the goldfish is just too funny; love these shots of the flowers and hedges what beautiful nature! the couple giving each other thoughtful gifts sounds like a dream. and that curry is fab except I am wondering how you manage to cook the yogurt and not get it to curdle I have always been told to use cornstarch or smething (unless it is goat yogurt, which does not curdle)

  4. Hi Joumana,

    This friend of ours is a complete BLOKE, a laid-back man's man. How he had the creativity to come up with such a splendid, charming gesture is a bit of a surprise to us all!

    As for the curry, the trick is that the yogurt is added at the end with the ground cashews and just heated, not cooked. That way, no risk of curdling.

  5. I'm so pleased to see you know Charmaine Solomon's bible of Asian cuisine. I got a copy for my 21st birthday, but left in in Australia when we came to the UK. I've always kind of regretted it.

  6. Hello Susan,
    It's really a stellar recipe. Pared down in terms of steps and general ease, but boy do you get a lot for little effort!

  7. Tammy,
    I would LOVE a bespoke gift like the Jimmy Choos. Wow. And you are cheeky to serve curry for your British friends. I'm sure it was delicious though. Think I'll try the recipe. We do really miss a good curry.
    And again, your photos are so beautiful.
    Bon weekend,


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