Saying good-bye to the son with a curry

A couple of weeks ago Jay Rayner started off his Sunday restaurant review in The Observer with him labouring in the smallest room in the house and suffering the blow back from the very good Thai meal he had had the previous evening.

The same review finished with a half paragraph promoting the merits of another Thai restaurant, Janetira, and its formidable curry made from the fermented guts of a mackerel.

I had my second go at the Super Duper Hot Mackerel Curry on Saturday evening as we bid good-bye to the only son as he disappeared into the depths of Camberwell Art School (along with one of my more colourful shirts).

It is fair to say that the consequences that Jay Rayner went through were nothing to the indignities I suffered 72 hours after having had my fill of the 6 chilli sign hot mackerel curry the effect of which appeared to be so powerful that various parts of my gut tried to make an escape to a better life. It took the probing of a gentle doctor who announced “piles but I have tucked it back in” to bring it home that I may not be trying the mackerel curry again.

The evening had started well as we drank our way through the most expensive round of drinks I have bought outside of Scandinavia in the sort of bar where you have to queue for a table, gold glitters from the ceiling and you bump into Jarvis Cocker walking in as you are walking out.

We the made our way to Janetira and sat at the same table we had sat at eighteen months ago. We also seemed to be using the same papers menus which had become thin and yellow with use.

Drinks were ordered and we went through the menu. I had gone determined to leave the mackerel curry to one side. I had been through it before and there was so much else on the menu that looked good. But as the first beer settled down on top of the hugely expensive cocktail I had just had my eye kept being drawn back to the 6 chili sign and the promise of something deep and volatile and fetid. So when our order was taken I opted for the mackerel curry. As I did so a warning hand was place on my shoulder but I waved it airily away “Don’t worry I have had it before.”

With the benefit of hindsight I wonder if they have heard that before and use it as an opportunity to up the ante in the kitchen.

We went through the starters – chicken wings with a tamarind sauce, soft pork sate on sticks, ‘son in law balls’ and their glorious morning glory – greens slathered in fish sauce, soy sauce and garlic.

Then the mains came to the table. First to arrive was a pink noodle soup which did just as it said on the tin arriving a luminous bright pink on the table. The mackerel curry arrived soon after and then the rest of the evening was gone.

It may have lacked some of the rotten pier like smell I could remember from last time but it more than made up for that with its raw fetid heat. It came with a small plate of cooling lumps of cucumber and they offered some respite against its violence.

It was possible to take a mouthful and persuade yourself that the relentless heat had passed but within a few seconds the heat would come again, wave upon wave of it. Its power was almost hallucinogenic. Soon I was giving off moisture from every pore and I was weeping into the bowl. I started hiccupping almost immediately  and I was obliged to cut them off with a beer.

It was a slow process. As soon as I felt half human again the spoon went back into the bowl and I tried to eat what I could before the sheer heat of the chilli forced me to put the spoon to one side for another five minutes before another go was had. There was a small bowl or rice to the side but that only seemed to intensify the heat. There was nothing for t but to keep spooning away and try seek some relief with cucumber and beer.

The family watched on astonished to see their father in tears for the fist time since he had tried to read them the last few pages of James Joyce’s The Dead.

Eventually there was nothing left in the bowl but a half inch of brown liquid. I called it a day and we walked out into the cooling night air.




Getting rid of the only son

So the only son is upstairs packing his stuff away in anticipation of a trip down to London over the weekend when we will get rid of him and he will start on an immersive journey into the world of art at Camberwell Art School. We may never see him again.

It is going to be a wrench to lose the only other meat eater in the house.

By way of a farewell a lump of beef was roasted last weekend.

It went into a hot oven after we had been for a walk along the marshes at Parkgate where the sky seemed to fill with cloud against the last sputtering heat of summer. There was even time for a pint in a pub.

The beef was smeared with olive oil before being rubbed in a mixture of sea salt, pepper and crushed black mustard seeds.

It lasted barely an hour in a very hot oven.

In the meantime a pan of Kilcrohane potatoes went onto the boil and were rescued a few minutes before they fell apart.

They were quartered and went into the oven to roast. I finished them off with garlic, salt and parsley.

There was enough left over for us to have a second round on Monday evening.


This weekend we have been partly eating out of Sabrina Ghayour’s new book Sirocco which was a half unexpected birthday gift.

Last night we had stir fried tangy prawns. There was only three of us so not too many mouths to keep happy. The recipe called for 6 pickled red chillies. No pickled chillies were available so I compromised with just one large dried red chilli. This may have been a mistake as the one chilli I chose transpired to be capable of disseminating more than enough heat to compensate for it just being the one. Notwithstanding the heat the prawns were eaten with the heat being tempered by the cooling balm of the cucumber slices thrown in at the last minute.

For supper today some of us tucked into the roast chicken that had made a welcome return to The Farmer’s Market.

For those not having chicken I made some butternut rostis.For those who have not previously grated a butternut squash I should let you know that it takes some effort. But it seems to have been worthwhile as they went down very well.

In the meantime I have spent time in the garden expanding the pond and gathering the last of the courgettes.


Porter Cake – baking with beer

Having set myself up with a good cigar on Monday evening the week has been beset with worry on account of my failure to bring a box of chocolate into work to help everybody else celebrate the birthday.

It matters not that September has been a prodigious month so far and that every day there has been a fair selection to be had from the other birthdays that have been celebrated. I have felt a prick of guilt as the greedy hand has been dipped into the box of Celebrations, the Roses and the chocolate chip cookies.

This evening I have started on making amends and a good twenty minutes has been spent putting together an assemblage of sugar, butter,eggs, flour and raisins. These have all been stirred into a half pint of Guinness and are due to be spending the next hour or so cooking slowly and filling the house with a good smell.

Baking with beer. There can be no complaint.

Let us hope I remember to take it all out of the oven and bring it with me tomorrow morning with a sharp knife.