This morning was another splendidly spring-like one. I walked down to the Village Shop and back, to collect my dry cleaning. In an open-necked shirt and unbuttoned jacket, I raised a sweat. Not bad for January.
As I approached the Trusty, dazzled by the high sun, I was uncertain, until she’d passed me, whether the driver of the trap pulled by a familiar white pony clopping up the road was my friendly acquaintance from Seamans Lane. It was. She slowed the horse to a walk, and we exchanged smiles and waves.
The weather reverted to white cloud this afternoon, and I had a trawl through my posterity collection, coming up with colour slides from 1964. Two members of the group of friends pictured with Vivien and Michael in May of that year were to provide a link with the next stage of my life of which I was unaware at the time. Seated in one of our two rooms in my parents’ house at 18 Bernard Gardens, from the left next to Vivien are Felicity, soon to marry Tony Dowdle who is beside her; Mike Vaquer; and David, whose surname I have forgotten. The three men were work colleagues at the Yorkshire Insurance Company. It was Mike who had introduced me to photographing the West End Christmas lights.
Three months later we attended the wedding of Tony and Felicity in a church in Killieser Avenue, Streatham. Felicity looked all the Bluebell Girl she was. Interestingly, she seemed a great deal more happy to be photographed then than she had appeared in May. Alan Murray, best man, I think, and company seemed rather determined to ensure that Tony was covered in confetti.
Vivien was to live barely a year after this wedding.
A further year on and I was to return to Killieser Avenue for visits to Jackie who was then sharing a flat with her friend Janice. Who could have known?
Even less predictable was it, given the intervening years, that Jackie would be feeding me a wonderful dinner this evening of lamb curry and pilau rice, accompanied in my case by more of the Bordeaux.
For her fans, she has provided a description of the preparation of first the curry, then the rice.
Lamb curry (serves 8):
For the sauce finely chop 4 medium onions; 4 fat or 5 medium cloves of garlic; 3/4 bird eye chillies, and fry them in a little mustard oil mixed with vegetable oil.
When this mixture is softened and golden, throw in 3 tsp ground turmeric, 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp coriander powder, 2tsp garam masala; 2 tbsp white vinegar, 2tbsp red wine and stir until a lovely paste is formed.
Stir in 2tbsp tomato puree and 500g Passata
The lamb (1lb), which has been pre-cooked should then be added. Our chef has used trimmed rump steaks boiled, with a little water and a lamb stock cube, in a pressure cooker for 6 minutes. If you have no pressure cooker simmer in stock until tender.
Add the lamb and its juices to the mixture above and simmer on a low heat until you have a nice thick sauce.
At some stage before then add a cupful of broad beans.
Take 8 oz basmati rice and one pint of water. Pour a little of the water into a small saucepan with 4/5 bay leaves, 2 inches of cinnamon stick, 8 green cardamoms and 8 cloves. Simmer until soft and squashy and water full of flavours.
In the meantime fry another finely chopped onion with a couple of cloves of garlic in 2oz butter then stir in the rice and throw in the saucepan of wonderful spices, the rest of the water and 4 good shakes of Maggi seasoning. (Jackie may have been a bit carried away here. For ‘throw in’ I would substitute ‘gently pour in ‘, but what do I know? Make up your own mind. PS you can leave out the saucepan itself).
Boil until all the water is gone. Garnish with toasted almonds and chopped coriander leaves.
Anyone caring to zoom in on the rice may well spot a few peas, sultanas, and yellow pepper. That is because you can add a little of whatever your fancy dictates and you have available.
Finally, a tip on keeping coriander fresh. Neither freeze it nor leave it in water. Wrap it in cling film and leave it in the fridge. That which garnished today’s meal had kept its youthful quality for at least three weeks, and there is more in the fridge.