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).


The Urban Rajah’s Curry Memoirs – book review

In chilly weather, curry is often exactly the sort of comfort food I need. Yet the fabulously sunny bank holiday weekend we’ve just enjoyed had me craving some heat in my food too. So this book of fabulous curry recipes, with lots of wonderfully spiced dished that are simple to prepare, was very welcome.

Dishes such as Kachumbar, a refreshing looking Asian version of salsa, looks like perfect summery food:

Kachumber Salsa duo aerial (1)

The energising Dudh Badam (Almond Milkshake) made by the Urban Rajah’s grandmother to “breathe life into my father’s nutrition-starved body on his return from his Catholic boarding school,” looks perfect for sunny weather too.

And I’m looking forward to making the Cricket Chicken, where frugal chicken thighs or drumsticks (I’ll use the very flavoursome ones from Great Farm in the Cotswold’s very free-ranging birds) add taste and nutrition to a spiced stock that you then cook basmati rice in, before reuniting the succulent chicken pieces with fragrant rice.

There are some beautifully spiced versions of familiar classics that I’m keen to try too, such as Aloo Ghobi, Comfort Daal and Mama Peters’ Jhalfrezi.


But thanks to the self-styled Urban Rajah’s (aka Ivor Peters) wordsmithery and entertaining storytelling ability, lots of gorgeous pictures ranging from family snaps to street food in Karachi and descriptions of food ranging from wedding feasts to Bazaar snacks, this is far from just a cookbook. It’s the sort of lovely book that’s perfect for reading in bed or in the bath. But be warned, 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 in the morning.

Ivor Peters grew up in 1970s Britain and so his memories of falling in love with curry as a young boy in Slough mingle with ones of hot summers, street cricket, fishfingers and a pair of orange curtains. His Curry Memoirs offer great recipes for home-cooked spiced food that are influenced by the East and married with Western cuisine. These are introduced to us through fascinating, often amusing stories that have obviously been as lovingly passed through the generations as some of the recipes.



The Urban Rajah had a spell as a pirate radio DJ, is a food writer with a great blog full of travel, style and food, and has a highly acclaimed pop-up restaurant, Cash n Curry. A social enterprise dedicated to raising funds for projects helping India’s street children, profits from Cash n Curry also help to liberate trafficked children and those in bonded labour. Some of the author royalties from this book will also be donated by the Urban Rajah to support these organisations.


One of the things that makes his Curry Memoirs such an enjoyable read is the way that the Urban Rajah’s zest for adventure, as well as food, is evident from every page.

It reminds us of the comforting warmth of a family kitchen as well as tempting us with some far-flung escapism. We begin with the chapatti shuffle in the Peter’s kitchen, are led past Asian camp food high atop cliffs of Big Sur, and are taken via a Siberian Duck Curry on a trip to a lake fringed with man-sized rushes near Karachi.


I also like the way that a lot of the dishes seem to be a lot healthier than the dumbed down ghee-laden dishes that often pass for ‘Indian’ food in this country. I’ve only travelled to India once, to Kerala, where I stayed at a fantastic homestay and enjoyed the beautifully spiced home-cooking of our hosts. It included lots of fresh fish and vegetables, plenty of fresh-tasting home-made chutneys and I couldn’t resist wrangling an invite into the family kitchen to see how these dishes were made. Curry leaves, black mustard seeds, fresh ginger and chillis were used a lot, all adding flavour to great local produce. Much of it growing within sight of the table where we ate.

Many of the dishes in this book remind me a lot of the fragrant southern Indian food I enjoyed on this trip; I was glad to see a Kingfish curry included as well as a Keralan Fish Stew. There are lots of dishes that are new to me that I’m eager to cook too. In fact I have a feeling that this is going to be one of those books on my kitchen shelf full of tell-tale food spattered pages. It’ll also be a book that I’ll reach for when in need of a feel-good read. As the Urban Rajah proclaims:

“This book isn’t just about nutrition, it’s about nourishment at every level. It’s about food to fill your senses and bellies and spark a lust for adventure.”

Curry Memoirs

 With many thanks to Headline publishing for my review copy of The Urban Rajah’s Curry Memoirs by Ivor Peters. Published in hardback and ebook by Headline on 9th May 2013.

All photos used in this post are from The Urban Rajah’s Curry Memoirs by Ivor Peters. See