black lamb curry and cotswolds indian feasting

I ate the most delicious black lamb curry this week. You know the sort of dish that makes you lie in bed dreaming about it a few days later. Or is that just me?

Indunil Sanchi, chef of The Noel Arms in Chipping Campden, my favourite local place for a curry, explained to me that he adds 100g of black pepper to 1kg of lamb. The lamb is local, delicious and cooked slowly for hours, which tenderises it beautifully but also does something magical with all that pepper. When Indunil, who has been awarded Pub Curry chef of the year for the last 3 years, once told a judge how much pepper he was adding to this dish, the judge thought he’d made a mistake with quantities. Then he tasted it. And obviously enjoyed it as much as I did; it was the winning dish.


Apparently in Sri Lanka, where Indunil originates, black curry is normally made with vegetables and this is something I’d love to try with my garden gluts. But having settled in the Cotswolds with his family 9 years ago, Indy seems to have really enjoyed experimenting with local ingredients in curries from Burma, Indonesia, Jamaica, Thailand and different regions of India as well as Sri Lanka.

I think this is one of the reasons I’m such a fan of the monthly Thursday night curry nights at the Noel Arms – it’s great value for such interesting, unusual curries, they’re all properly cooked from scratch and come with wonderful home-made chutney and breads, yet they use great local ingredients too.

Fantastic then that curry is going to play such a tasty part in the Cotswold food festival, Bite 2014. Indunil is teaming up with Ivor Peters, self-styled Urban Rajah and pop-up restaurateur, whose Curry Memoirs I reviewed here. Ivor’s Waste Not Want Not Mixed Sabzi is now one of my favourite dishes to use home-grown veggies in and his book is a great read too. It’ll transport you to colourful Indian streets where chefs with manicured silver moustaches conjure up earthy meals with notes of musk and bursts of fresh chilli and ginger. You’ll be ransacking your cupboards for spices after reading it.


The Urban Rajah has some great ideas for Afternoon tea by way of Pakistan here and I fancy making his Rajah fried chicken with masala popcorn to scoff with a Friday night film one weekend. A master of wordsmithery and a self-confessed dandy, Ivor should be a perfect entertaining partner for Indunil on their Great Indian Food Feast.

A gastronomic adventure, the Great Indian Food Feast celebrates Britain’s love for curry but the food will be far removed from the dumbed down versions of imaginatively spiced dishes that so many of us have eaten from takeaways and jars. Dishes will be introduced from various corners of the Indian subcontinent, from family recipes featured in the Urban Rajah’s Curry Memoirs and from Indunil’s vast recipe collection.




I can’t wait to try streetfood dishes and hard to find gourmet recipes from across India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan’s regions and am hoping that not only will each dish “transport its diners to an evocative moment shaped over decades and scented by the streets, beaches and countryside of this sprawling diaspora” but there may be a few tips on how to cook them too.
While sharing curries with me in The Noel Arms, Indy promised that the Great Indian Food Feast evenings will definitely be interactive and there’ll be opportunities to be hands-on with food preparation, including desserts. And the Urban Rajah will whisk diners through a collection of personal stories, a short history of Indian food, spice pairing and little known quirky facts and curry miscellany.
Vegetable Pakoras
I’m looking forward to the Chipping Campden Great Indian Food Feast in December, but there will be others around the UK (see here). A percentage of each evening’s funds will be donated to IID supporting education and healthcare projects for children and helping families living in India’s slums and International Justice Mission helping to liberate those trapped in the human trafficking chain.
Ivor and Indy will also be bringing pop-up Indian street food to Chipping Campden as part of the mini-Bite food festivals in October and December; brilliant to think that us spice-hungry Cotswoldians will have some lip tingling, vibrant feasting to look forward to in the winter months!
And if we’re bored of stews and roast root veg by February, the main Bite Food festival (which Indy and Ivor will take part in) will include a mushroom foray at Batsford, artisan Cotswold beer safari ending up at the fab Ebrington Arms, cookery school events at Daylesford, a Sophie Grigson masterclass and a peruvian pop-up restaurant at Bledington. I’m hungry just thinking of it all!
(pics in this post are by Ivor Peters aka Urban Rajah).


20 thoughts on “black lamb curry and cotswolds indian feasting

  1. Excellent, that black curry sounds particularly good!
    I blame the supermarkets for lacklustre curries – I think a lot of restaurants have adjusted their recipes to be like them, since they are so popular. I don’t think there’s a single really good Indian restaurant close to me. There are lots of them and they were much better 20 years ago. Even Brick Lane can be hit and miss these days.

    • I do feel very lucky that despite having a dearth of good ethic restaurants and takeaways around here, we have such a great local place to eat wonderful curry.

  2. Indian food is practically non-existent in Germany unless you live in a very big city… how I envy you! We briefly had an excellent Indian restaurant nearby, but we were usually the only guests and after a few months they had to close! I would not eat the lamb, but love the idea of lots of pepper, since I can’t eat paprika and only small doses of chilli. I have to blend my own spices, but enjoy that… Look forward to hearing about the festivals to come!

    • I reckon all that black pepper would be great in a similarly slow-cooked veggie curry. Sympathise with your lack of Indian restaurants, we don’t have a lot of selection when it comes to Asian food around here but Indy’s curries are fab.

  3. I learnt how to make a sri lankan curry at demuths cookery school a few weeks ago. It would work great with lamb in it. must try that! we will try to get up to the food fest!

  4. Oh how I wish I was in trundling distance of those awesome sounding festivals!! The best Indian restaurant around here is my kitchen – I say that not with pride, but knowledge that its a good drive to the competition.

    • If you live in a rural area it’s often the easiest option to cook your own ‘takeaway’ at home isn’t it. Very excited about the food festivals though.

  5. A winter break in the Cotswolds suddenly seems very attractive nay essential. Checking out many of your interesting links now. PS the sums on your spam filter are starting to get more complicated!!

    • Would be great if you made it round here for a winter break. Sorry about the spam filters. Have to admit it takes me ages to get around some of them – my inability to actually read the letters and numbers on some of them makes me realise I must get round to getting reading glasses!

  6. Oh wow, that all sounds amazing. We just don’t do Indian and curries here in Australia like you do in the UK. I’ve just watched a UK cooking series on curries but can’t for the life of me remember what it was called. I just made me realise how limited our options here – especially in regional Australia – are for this particular cuisine.

    And now I think I’ll have to adjust my menu plan for next week and add a curry – my two year old loves them

    • How brilliant that your 2 year old loves curry, must admit I end up making blander versions for my 6 year old and adding extra chilli for us. Hoping she will gradually develop a liking for spicy food.

  7. There isn’t an Indian restaurant where we live in Viterbo, so something we usually choose to have when we are back in the UK. They do use a huge amount of pepper in Ski Lanka; I know because the young man who helps me in the garden is Ski Lankan and his wife cooked us a meal once, but I don’t think she cooked it long enough and we found it inedible. Lucky you to have such a great chef near by.


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