In preparation for these cooking operations, which are seemingly preceded with an ingredient purchasing shit storm, I like to shower, wash off my afternoon, and wrap myself up in the beautiful black dressing gown given to me by my sister, Sophie. It’s almost like a hug. Although this time it was in the wash, so I suppose it was more like a hug from Ezibuy, which really isn’t at all the same.
I pour a red wine into a delicately rimmed glass and lay my 5 ingredients one by one on to my multi-purpose wooden chopping board. It’s seems, now I think about it, unsavoury to use it for nibbles later. I grab a chair, stand on it, and hover over the wooden board until the perfect flat-lay has been captured and my food is Insta-story-ready. (insert sarcastic British tone) Because that’s what everyone does before they cook their dinner.
I use this preparation opportunity to be mindful, too, and I often find myself wondering how much bacteria is multiplying on my meat as it sits, warming up, modelling, on my chopping board.
In most cases on a Sunday, I will lure Luis into entertaining me with conversation at my workstation, even though he always keeps one suspicious eye on my power usage and red wine intake. Having him there to talk to me transforms dinner into an occasion, an event that we both turn up to in our comfortable clothes and talk about our highlights from the weekend.
Yesterday, I received a letter from Grandad who is in a home for Dementia and he can barely remember my Grandma now. I didn’t even know if he’d received my card, as he was taken to hospital almost as fast as he was moved into the home. Then I received a card saying, “I loved having my card read to me, my smile was very big. I would like to wish you all the best – HIS WORDS. Lots of Love, Grandad.” It came with a side note from this incredible woman, Nic, letting me know, that “your Grandad was over the moon when I asked if he wanted to reply and when I said you would be surprised he had a little giggle”. That’s definitely my highlight. I can just imagine it all as he sits in his chair, smiling.
This particular recipe, Aromatic Lamb Curry, left nothing more than good memories and a residual smell of curry in my contrail. I did, as I have come to expect now, have some shopping challenges.
- 400g of deboned lamb shoulder: even though we are a nation of 30 million sheep I had more chance of finding the 400g required without a splattering of mint sauce in Tesco. So here I have 500g stubbornly smothered in mint sauce, sourced in Countdown. Or, if you were at Auckland Airport last week, Countdown.
- 2 massive aubergines: known in New Zealand as egg plant. If they weren’t so phallically obvious you would be excused for the confusion.
- 2 onions: or in the case of New Zealand 1 frightfully enormous one.
- 200g of natural yoghurt: replaced with Greek yoghurt, which as a kind blogger pointed out to me is merely natural yoghurt with milk powder to give it that thick creaminess.
- Pataks Rogan Josh curry paste: I came away with medium curry paste, because I couldn’t find the Rogan Josh flavour anywhere and I was already at my second supermarket and was bored of driving around in search of this 5th ingredient.
And so the mess began and I felt the power conscious eyes of my conversation entertainer starting to look at the stove tops, and I awaited the moment our conversation would turn into advice.
Advice flusters me, it interrupts my flow. I don’t get flustered in the kitchen when time is of the essence and someone reaches across me to get a beer out of the fridge, as I reach for an aubergine at the same time. I don’t get flustered if there are 4 people watching, talking amongst themselves, at the workstation.
For some reason, the sounds of why, why, why, Chloe, do you need to use so many pans, or if you turn the hob down you could save power, or you’ve even managed to get it on the floor! all flusters me. How can I make a masterpiece without making a mess?
These are all valid points I hear you say. After all to save power is to save the world, and Luis is the cleaner. His cooking standards are, evidently, higher than mine, his skills more refined, his advice Godly. His interference is an inconvenience that I can’t say I take gracefully. His advice puts my skills to shame. He will chop garlic, chicken, onions, anything I ask him to, with army like determination and unusual precision. But in my head, presenting a tasty dinner grants the chef exemption from all criticism in the kitchen. I am almost a pro now after my 5th cooking challenge after all.
I soon found myself in need of a casserole dish. I did have a dish that looked good for casseroles and so I asked my Insta friends if it was indeed a casserole dish. Alas, it was not and so I was forced to improvise. After reading Jamie’s method, luckily, I ascertained that all I needed was something deep, as this recipe has an air of throw it all in to it.
So, with my deep frying pan for a casserole dish at the ready, oven at 180 degrees, and my 5 ingredients presented before me, I found myself unable to move passed 3, c and m; letters and numbers sitting smugly on the recipe page that came with no further instruction.
Am I chopping 3cm squared Jamie? Or 3cm strips? If so, what’s the width of these strips? I settled for the incorrect 3cm squared and as you’d expect it was chunky. I imagined the lamb slow cooking, though, and falling apart resembling pulled pork. (This it did not do.)
I threw the chunks in to the pan and attempted to stir it all, but because they were so tightly bound like a mountain of aubergine 3 or 4 blocks flew out on to the worktop, all at great speed. So much speed, they left aubergine skid marks everywhere. The turnout thus far was simply a bland mess of breeze blocks for aubergines smothered by a sloppy dollop of brown.
The transformation, however, as the curry paste seemingly loosened up and stared to fold easily into my mountain was quite satisfying, I must say. You might even say it evolved into a real curry. I gave it a few more moments in the pan and then transferred it all to the oven for an hour.
A delicious smell wafted its way around the house, the kind that I liked to think would make a runner running by stop in his tracks to inhale what’s floating out of the front door, like they do in the movies, as I do when I’m on my (once in a blue moon) evening run around the suburb.
The egg plant aubergines, sucked up every morsel of liquid while soaking up the oven heat. The end result was super, albeit chunky as and not at all like Jamie Oliver’s photo. It tasted delicious and I didn’t shit myself so I would say it’s a win all round. It was most certainly not worthy of a photo at the end, though, it looked questionable on camera.
It costs around $35 to make this dish, which includes my bottle of wine. Bargain!
Effort: 1/5 (1 being the easiest)
Taste: 4 / 5 (5 being delicious)
Overall satisfaction: 4/5
Love, Chloe x