The long hot summer that seemed like it would never end, has departed. It is amazing how quickly it went away. One day it was balmy and hot, I would stand at the stove and run to open the back door and then the front door because the heat was insufferable. Anything for a breeze…
And then, all at once, it descended. Last Tuesday I woke up and there was an eerie mist hanging in the sunlit air. At first, I thought it must be smoke from a bush fire but then, as I walked into the garden, I realised it was fog. Autumn was knocking at the door and a few short hours later the rain was clattering on the tin roof. Unless you have lived under a tin roof, you cannot imagine the noise. It is all-encompassing. It is loud enough that if you’re on the phone, you will struggle to hear, if you’re watching tv, you will struggle to hear. If you had Slipknot playing in your sitting room, you will struggle to hear. You get the idea.
Season changes affect us all differently but I am pretty sure that everyone I know has gone into hibernation this week. The blustering winds and deafening rain are here to stay and buying your groceries has turned into an all day battle of wills, it was between me and the heavens. I had my list, I had my shopping bags, the only thing missing was the courage I needed to walk out the door. Finally, there was a break in the weather and the sun came out. Actually, it tricked me. It was all bright and twinkly one minute and then in the blink of an eye, the rain came in sideways and suddenly the umbrella in my hands seemed superfluous. Luckily, I had already done most of my shopping and I only had the butcher left before I was home free.
Lots of people are scared to ask their butcher for help but I am not one of them. They are there to cut up the meat, that’s their job, so if you want something special, just ask. Which is exactly what I did when I needed chicken on the bone for a Malaysian Chicken Curry. Being a poor apprentice, I have realised that buying a whole chicken is a lot cheaper than buying it in bits and bobs. My chicken cost me $16, it weighed 2 kilos and the butcher cut it into eight chunks for me. He also gave me the carcass so I could make chicken stock. Not a scrap of waste. So, after I fought my way through the horizontal rain (after hanging out in my dear friends shop for a bit), I finally made it home.
Many curry recipes tell you to pound your paste as apparently it tastes better than shoving it in the blender. Generally I ignore them and shove it in the blender anyway but I decided not to this time. After chopping my ginger, garlic, chilli etc etc, I then proceeded to pound away at the fragrant mess in my mortar and pestle. I was awakened and revived by the spiced paste I was creating. Several hours later, my curry had been ticking away quietly on the stove whilst I pottered around, doing the chores and watching the odd movie. The meat was slipping off the bone and it had reduced nicely, the last-minute additions of coconut cream and fish sauce were the final flourishes. Mr T walked in the door after rugby training, looking like a man in need of 2 kilos of chicken curry. I made an attempt at making roti, which when done right, are wonderfully greasy, rich, flaky pancakes which are perfect for sopping up curry juices. However, unlike my last attempt at roti, these were a disaster. I have made them once before, at college and they were lovely but this new recipe left me with a dry, biscuity excuse of a thing. I added about half a tonne more ghee (clarified butter) but alas, twas too late to save them. The boys scoffed them down and declared them a hit but they were far from good, in my eyes.
So, as the rain battered down on the roof, we got stuck in to a wonderfully flavoursome, unctuously moist bowl of spiced chicken, sucking the meat off the bones and wiping up the mess with my sad little roti’s. The chill of outisde, the damp of outside evaporated from my mind as I let myself give in to the change of season and give in to the inevitability of much more cold to come… Luckily I have stews, broths and curries in mind to get us through the cold spell.