Solo Traveller

imageI’ve done lot’s of solo travelling across Europe in the last 14 months. 15 cities, 14 of which I’d never visited before and 11 of which in countries I’ve never visited before and I did it Johnny NoMates style. A couple of friends asked me how I do it and they weren’t meaning method, just how I journey to completely new destinations without anyone with me or waiting on the other side. The short and honest answer is that it helps to be a grumpy anti-social independent-minded git.

OK you don’t have to be as seemingly anti-social as me to solo travel and in fact that’s an unfair label to put on myself as when I am abroad alone I’ve been known to be up until almost dawn having conversed all night with people from other countries I’ve never met just learning about their country and culture and politics all aided by several beers. Of the 4 classic personality types I have a ‘melancholic’ persona, apparently, which doesn’t mean I’m about to burst into tears every few hours but does mean that I’m very comfortable being in my own company for extended periods. Here’s my first tip: solo travelling doesn’t suit all personalities, especially those which can’t exist for a nano second without interaction with other human souls. Even in these days of cyber-interaction that is of little comfort if you need others to help you make a decision as to what to wear, do or where to go.

I love city breaks. I love culture, heritage, history, art, archaeology and architecture. I also like the complete unknown. I love to people-watch and time to think, time to absorb and time to eavesdrop on how others do life even though at the very most all I get are snapshots and sound-bytes. Yet you will be amazed at how even these can colour life back home just by seeing how people do things differently. So for me, my choice of travel experience must fit my personality to get the best from it. By comparison, I’m never going to understand for a single moment the attraction of say, Magaluf or ‘Eye-beef-fah’. That’s just me. There’s nothing wrong in those places either for a solo traveller. If that fits you and your personality and you can handle yourself alone in such places safely then go for it.

imageThat brings me to my next tip on solo travel: be savvy and fearless. OK, it doesn’t take a great deal of fearlessness to travel for the first time to Copenhagen or Tallinn or Bratislava on your own, not for me anyway. All are First World cities in developed countries but as ever things can go wrong. I do always pick out a good Guide Book and read up before I go out and take out with me (usually a digital version available offline). Depending on where you are going the guide-book may or may not be able to advise you on where to avoid, but all will counsel on basic common sense: stay in mainstream areas, keep your possessions close at all times and respect local laws. In my case this doesn’t always work. Drop me down in a new city for the first time and once I have the lie of the land, I am drawn to explore mazes of barely navigable back streets and love turning corner after corner as if drawn into the legendary Labyrinth. A word of caution here: I do have an in-built SATNAV in terms of me finding my way around. Not a boast and not 100% reliable but from all my travelling experiences this far in life I would say 90% reliable. You can drop me anywhere without a map and I will find my way around. That said, I do always keep guide books and maps in my shoulder bag even if I never refer to them. Be fearless – there’s no point going if you are just going to stick to the well-beaten tourist path, at least not for me. Use common sense and all your intuition but you will often learn and experience more from your destination when you venture off-piste.

imageNext tip: have a ‘Laissez-faire’ attitude or as the French say ‘whatever’. Now here I’m only speaking about my travels in Europe and not explorations further afield to more exotic locations. I don’t make lists when I pack to travel. I know me. You know you. My default travelling list is in my head on-demand. I’m not travelling with anyone to impress with my much admired fine biceps and 6-pack with a full array of Uniqlo sportswear. I’m out to experience what I set to experience as comfortably as I can. Do you need all those this and thats? The must-have essentials are your travel documents and any important medications. Anything else you forget to take with you, including toothbrushes and underwear can be bought at the airport or abroad. Just a caveat on the underwear thing: if you are prone to ‘go commando’ for comfort’s sake while you fly at any time – and I’m not saying that’s me (ahem) – just remember you have airport security x-ray screening to pass through before you’re in the departure lounge. Ever wondered why those security guys and girls seem so amused in their mundane jobs?

New tip: Never, never NEVER talk to warm, friendly, elderly chatty Australian Grandmothers who might sit next to you on any flight. This is not so much a golden rule for all but just me venting for the loss of my very expensive Dr Beats headphones on a flight back from Finland because the incessant talking of said neighbouring passenger which caused me to forget I’d put them in the seat pocket in front ready to use before I was ambushed and which I forgot in my haste to exit the aircraft.

Last of my big tips for solo travellers…but then you would already know this if you are or will be a solo traveller…be spontaneous. Plan your trip ahead if you want. Google Streetview where you will be staying and the streets around if you want (as I have done) but then when you get there be quite prepared to rip it all up and just pick a road and follow it to see where it goes. Yes, of course as said before, keep your brains inside your skull. Be safe, know what you need to do if you need help from that guide book you have already read and is in your backpack…but DARE to do things you’ve not done before. Stop your life for a moment and take a look at the lives of others. In my travels across Europe so far the differences aren’t huge but they are subtle and it has only served to have enriched my worldview.

My scariest adventure as a solo traveller to date has been a journey I took out of Sheffield one day as a newly licensed driver. Following in the footsteps of Bilbo Baggins I did pick a road – any road – and drove on it. I ended up in some small nondescript town in the British Midlands. To any non-Brit readers just imagine you were heading out into your local countryside just on a whim and ended up in Nowheresville Arizona. Well that was me. Scariest experience was trying to find my way out of that place. Whatever road I chose – with no map in the car – lead me back into NowheresVille where I genuinely believed I would run out of petrol, be drugged, kidnapped and wake up in a cornfield in Iowa. Go figure.

The worst I’ve ever encountered in solo travels have been riding in a bus through the West Bank during an Intifada (Palestinian uprising) with angry youths stoning the bus I’m in or riding a night bus from Tel Aviv to Eilat overnight while trying to sleep with my head against the hard metal handle to the escape window while a sleeping soldier next to me had his Uzzi Rifle digging in my ribs or being strip-searched before being allowed to board a flight to jumping full pelt onto a ferry last-minute in Norway only to realise I didn’t know where it was going, to being almost arrested in Rome as a suspect terrorist. I’m far more worried about being out late with the drunken hoards in my home town than any of all the above.

As I wrote earlier I’m a ‘whatever’ solo traveller I’ll keep on travelling solo in this way while life and God’s good grace permits.

Eurovision 2015 – pick of the bunch (Vienna #2)

imageOn location in Vienna to join in the madness that is the usual running of one of the biggest TV shows on Earth – Eurovision. See my previous post as to why I’m here (and it’s not a gay thing either. Rather resent the gay hijack of what was once a fun event). Anyway, this is not a rant post and if you are joining the estimated 195 million watching on TV tonight and have no idea who to look and listen out for, here are my Top 10 picks, though I will say at this point…steel yourselves UK. This is going to be a car crash watch for us. More on that later:

Lithuania

imageThis will get your toes tapping and along with the UK entry is one of the few up-tempo songs this year. There are a lot of male/female duos here (usually a recipe for disaster). Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila belt out this rather happy song called ‘This Time’ and I liked the instant I heard it some months ago. This will be bolstered by the Baltic bloc vote but the country music style will appeal across Scandinavia too.

Cyprus

imageDon’t under-estimate slow, gentle ballads sung by solo males with no fancy dancers and effects. Belgium, Finland and others have done very well with songs like this in recent years. This is very effectively staged and will be one you will remember come voting time. Song is called ‘One thing I should have done’ by a very British-sounding John Karayiannis who will be moving to the UK after the show, that is if David Cameron let’s him in.

Hungary

imageBoggie (yes make sure you pronounce it right) got herself into a little hot water with this entry prior to the show due to a promotional video for the song which was deemed too political and drew official protest from the Israeli Government who felt it was aimed negatively at them. She seems to have appeased everyone now with this attractive and gentle anti-war ballad backed by some very able singers called ‘Wars for Nothing’. Despite the controversy, this one was on my Top 10 list from the start and if popular sentiment rides her way bearing in mind events in Ukraine, she could do well.

Norway

imageAnother male /female duo and another strong contender. Norway once cherished our place for ending up bottom of the pack. The Nordics all tend to take Eurovision very seriously (the Swedes take months to choose theirs in what is their biggest TV show of the year). The Norwegians are giving them a run for their money this year with this song called ‘A Monster Like Me’ which does seem to have a rather sinister ending. Performed by Morland and Debrah Scarlett.

Belgium

imageThis is another that stands out in the crowd for me. Very unusual and hypnotic slow pop ballad sung by a young guy who is the toast of his country at the moment having got through to the final while arch rivals and neighbours The Netherlands failed. Called ‘Rhythm Inside’ and sung by Loic Nottet. I don’t think this will win but it will pick up its fair share of the votes plus he seems to have the pink vote well and truly behind him.

Israel

imageThree times winners Israel have not qualified for the Grand Final for a while and there was much post-contest controversy last year when their entry, which Bookies and the 40 or so voting Eurovision fan clubs (yes they really do exist) all had them as a Top 3 finalist yet the song failed to get through. There are debates about anti-Israel politics in play with the growing global movement to boycott Israel but singer Nadav Guedj seems to have bucked the trend with his dance number ‘Golden Boy’. At only 16 he’s the youngest contestant this year backed by a troupe of boy dancers who bounce around like Jack-in-the-boxes. The song is about the angst of a guy who’s just been dumped by his girlfriend so decides to go out and party and pull another bird. Lots of remorse there then.

Estonia

imageIt’s taken a long time for this one to grow on me and it only just makes my Top 10. The Bookies and fan clubs, however, have this as one of the favourites to win. Called ‘Goodbye to Yesterday’ and sung by another male/female duo. It’s up-tempo and will probably get Nordic support plus they are very much emulating the Dutch entry last year which came runner-up and that may bode well. Performed by Stig Rasta and Elina Born.

Australia

imageWhile all the ‘yah boo sucks’ acrimony rages that the Aussies have been allowed to enter at all (and there is a lot of resentment both here in Vienna from what I can make out and across the fan clubs where the song was blanked by voters) I for one am glad the Aussies are here. After all they deserve a good pasting. Kidding. This is probably the most marketable song in the set and for that reason it probably won’t do as well as some might think. Singer Guy Sebastian is something of an idol down under and won their X-Factor a few years back. He’s also a committed Christian having cut his musical teeth leading worship in one of Australia’s mega churches. It deserves to be in the Final and I hope it does well, though doubt it will win. Song is called ‘Tonight Again’

Sweden

imageEurovision would not be Eurovision without a Swedish entry among the favourites. Finding the best song for the contest is almost a national obsession over there so a lot of weight will be on the shoulders of singer Mans Zelmerlow. That said, he will have a lot of support behind him from the Nordic, female and gay voters as the chap is rather camera-friendly (and he knows it). Nonetheless this is a strong song and my second favourite to win, though I actually anticipate no higher than 5th place in the end. Watch out for a very cleaver stage act. Song called ‘Heroes’.

Italy

imageAnd so to my choice for the night. My mum actually spotted these chaps some years back on YouTube when they were spotty teenagers with amazing voices. They have grown up into the smarmy Italian stereotype quite well and still with amazing voices. They are Il Volo and they do ‘pop opera’ This got my vote the moment I heard it. It’s a rousing operatic anthem that builds to a huge crescendo AND they have the advantage of being last to perform. Once this one has ended you will be hard pressed to remember any that have gone before and it will bring the house down. You have been warned. Song is called ‘Un grande amore’.

So that’s my tip and next year in Rome (or maybe San Remo from where the contest can trace its roots 60 years ago this year).

So what about the UK? Brace yourselves guys…it’s going to be painful viewing for us. The song was blanked by nearly all the 40 or so fan clubs in the pre-contest predictive voting and they usually cumulatively predict the winners and losers. I don’t think people don’t like it or us…it’s just very bland and un-memorable. I’m hoping for 25 votes for the UK in total and if we get that much, then we will have done well.

And what of the rest? Any dark horses like that bearded sausage ‘woman’ from last year who I still can’t stand? The Finns were tipped to do this with their middle-aged punk band who swear while they perform and have learning difficulties. They were a real rebel’s choice. There was a lot of media hype around them and they were at one time an early favourite to upset the apple cart. They never made it through and neither did seven-times winners Ireland. The Irish seem to have lost their way in recent years, even more than us and Sweden is determined to snatch their crown as most successful nation of all. If you have Irish blood in you then you need to vote tactically for Italy as the main contender to stop the Viking advance (and thereby help my chaps win).

If there is a dark horse this year who will move hearts then keep an eye on the Polish entry. You’ll see why when she performs.

Got it covered: Vienna #1

imageWhat can you tell about a city and country you’ve never ever visited before after just a day? I’ve had just about a day here in the Austrian capital. Flight got in for 0915 and I was able to check into my hotel by 1045.

First impressions count. I know this from business in the way I make decisions on who I want to do business with and as I imagine my clients and prospective clients size me up too. So how is Vienna doing?

Pretty much a city that is ticking over with the precision of a neighbouring Swiss watch and with a similar quiet ease. I’m here on a Friday and experienced the evening weekend rush hour and wondered when it would become the frenetic haze I’m used to in London. Ok I’ve only been here about two minutes, but I can say I’m impressed. There is a sedate and refined ease here and people stop to
help each other. I witnessed this a number of times today and found myself getting caught up in this too, sticking out my limbs to hold open tram doors so an elderly lady could get on board not knowing if the tram would drag me and her along in its rush to get moving as might be the case back home.

I’ve been riding the trams here, catching taxis, shopping at supermarkets for my supper (no evening restaurant in the hotel or any nearby) and the German I was once kind of Ok using in my last job started flowing back and I’ve held at least two short conversations auf Deutsch to get places, buy stuff or just explain why my Deutsch is pretty rubbish.

So to Eurovision and part of the reason I’m here. They are bonkers for it here…but in a sedate and refined bonkery way. You can’t escape it. They are treating it here with the same seriousness Londoners treated the London 2012 Olympics (eventually). There are Eurovision ‘greeter’ people everywhere from the airport baggage reclaim to the tram stops, station platforms and city squares kitted out in Eurovision 2015 gear just to help the public and all fluent in English. My hotel is just outside the city centre but with the biggest and best hi-def TV screens with the widest choice of channels of anywhere I’ve stayed in the last 2 years – and that’s saying some considering the amount of travelling I’ve been doing. I get into my room, unpack, turn the TV on and within 4 clicks of the programme console, I’m watching the recent semi-finals – not just highlights with Nortonesque quips – but whole show repeats.

ALL buses and trams are flying Austrian and Eurovision flags. Abba is playing out in shopping malls and train stations. This is the biggest thing to hit Austria since that singing Nun and the Von Trapp sprogs illegally migrated from Austria to Switzerland.

The State broadcaster, ORF, is providing everyone with free plastic rain macs as we are in for 3 days of heavy rain, so I got mine and am covered in the event of the torrents. Oh…and that pic is of me in my Mac btw. The sound system and multiple giant TV screens at the park are awesome. Just more than a bit worried about being and standing out as Johnny-no-mates in the midst of a party full of highly weird but happy people. Believe me if you think I’m weird for my love of Eurovision, you need to step into my shoes right here and right now.

Tomorrow I’m going to pay my respects to Vienna and seek out the culture and sights that have made it a highly desirable city to visit long before and long after Eurovision ever darkened its doors. In the evening I’ll head back to the Rathaus to be among the throng and be a ‘ dirty stop out’ til the wee small hours for the first time since I learned there was a decade or three after 29.

Do I have any firm hunch on who will win Eurovision? Yep I do.

Herzlich Grüßen aus Österreich x

Monaco…oh no.

imageMonaco is the world’s second smallest country after The Vatican. Home to a population of 37,000 people and their toy dogs (a must-have accessory for ladies wot lunch it would seem) these inhabitants, pets and their luxury cars cram into just two square KM of real estate on the northern Mediterranean coast. Monaco is the most densely populated country on Earth.

(Click on pics for full view)

Despite its diminutive size, the Principality ruled by a imageconstitutional Monarch (currently Prince Albert II) punches well above its weight in world fame as home to one of the world’s most challenging and glamorous Formula 1 races, the world-famous casino and Cafe de Paris on the Rock and the legacy of Princess Grace, the original Princess Diana, her magical wedding and her tragic death. As it is only 13km away from Nice where I was recently staying I knew that I could not come so close to this ‘playground of the rich’ with out a visit so I caught the train from Nice-Ville station to Monaco-Monte Carlo.

imageThe journey takes about half an hour to forty minutes in impressive double-decker rail cars hugging the shoreline with the view annoyingly frequently interrupted by the many tunnels. Monaco is not the final destination of the train which is actually on its way to Italy but the station is impressive like a giant marble vault carved beneath the city. On arrival there are two exit routes from the station – either up a number of escalators plus a high-speed elevator or down one escalator to the lower exit. If you plan to go, take the lower exit as it will lead you straight to the finish line of the Grand Prix race, which all visitors want to see. I and the very many others took the upper route…only having to walk all the way down when we got there to get to the same finish line.

First impressions were how subdued everything was. Around 90% imageof all the shops were closed, which surprised me. I thought Monaco with all those millionaires living there or on mega yachts in the marina plus all the incoming tourists would be a 24/7 party town with people splashing the cash almost as long but no. Monaco of Millionnaires observes the Sabbath and the only shops open were the eateries and souvenir shops and, of course, the Casino. The lack of commercial hubbub gave the place a very eerie feel not helped by the brooding mountains which crouch around the tiny Principality with their heads shrouded in low hovering cloud.

imageOnce down in the Marina, you can then take a view back up at the city and my immediate thoughts were that this is the Hong Kong of Europe and not in a good way. With only two square km of land to build on it was inevitable that Monaco had to build both up and down to house its increasing population so it has become Europe’s high-rise capital. But they are building down and out too. Only one-third of the new convention centre here is visible above ground. They are also reclaiming land from the sea spreading the city eastward where a whole new district has been built in the last 40 years.

The other thing that made the place feel odd was that they areimage preparing for the Grand Prix next month and so the wire fencing to protect the spectators is up all over the place making it hard for newbie visitors to navigate around – very frustrating. It also gave me a sense of being caged in. Monaco starts preparing for the race two months ahead of time when believe it or not the population of the place increases from 37,000 to 100,000 for a week. Though there are no borders or passport control when you enter or leave I felt somewhat claustrophobic after taking the 1 hour bus ride around that left me with the impression – is that it? I’ve seen all there is to see in an hour? What about all those towering suburbs up the mountains? It’s then that you realise that when you look up from the Marina to the sprawling districts high up that these are actually in France, not Monaco and so I got to feel even more claustrophobic. If I felt this way in Monaco, I wonder how I would feel in Gaza?

I must admit that while I’m no fan of Formula 1 racing, having ridden around much of the course on the tour bus I can’t believe that a race actually happens there at all or at such speed. The roads are not exactly broad and the famous tunnel and hairpin bend defy logic that men would race around them at such velocity. Needless to say I will, for once, tune in to at least a few laps in May.

There is no litter in Monaco. No graffiti, no scruffy people, no ugly people (apart from economy tourist peasants like me) and no beat-up vehicles. If I didn’t know what the ‘Jet Set’ was before I came I do now only they’re not just the Jet Set but the Mega Yacht Set, Mega Sports Car Set and Glamourous Ladies with Toy Dogs Set. I have never seen so many people out and about dressed up to the nines just so others could look at them.

imageI didn’t bother with the Casino apart from outside photos as I was afraid I might be barred from entering because I was not visibly wearing a designer brand. Same with the Cafe de Paris which was rammed with beautiful people eating at beautifully inflated prices. Even the shopping mall here was lit by crystal chandeliers for goodness sake.

Sounds like hated Monaco doesn’t it? That would not be true. imageThanks to the presence of the royal family with a heritage and history dating back to the Middle Ages there is a sense of refinement and culture here. Compared to the most brash and brazen place I’ve ever been – Dubai – Monaco is Baluga Caviar to Dubai’s diamond-encrusted breaded fish cake with pickles on the side. It was well worth a visit to people-watch in the Playground of Millionnaires but it was also good to get back to the warm, relaxed hospitality of Nice, which I found still dangling its toes in the slowly warming Med with a greeting as if to say…”I told you so.”

Easter Monday Lamb Jalfrezi

I know we’re past Easter but did this on Easter Monday holiday.

imageDisclaimer: this is not an authentic Indian recipe. It’s ‘Anglo-Indian’ cooking that my parents’ generation tried and slowly perfected after emigrating to an England devoid of Asian spices and foods back then. Anglo-Indian (mixed European-Indian) immigrants to the UK not only had to learn to cook dishes like this for the first time in some cases but also how to cook at all. In India many had Indian servants who cooked, cleaned, washed and ironed for them as did my parents. I even had an ‘Aya’ or child nurse who looked after me while mum and dad were working when I was a baby. Enough with the history. To the food.

Lamb Jalfrezi became an occasional Easter Monday tradition in our home to use up the left overs from the Easter Sunday leg of Lamb roast without putting it into sandwiches. If you Google ‘jalfrezi’ it will describe a dish remotely related to this one but with the integrity and principles of Indian cooking intact.

So to the dish.

It’s made of 3 parts: a rice bed, a Dhal or curried lentil side and fried dry lamb meat with crispy bits on top.

Getting the rice on

imageFor special meals, we still cook rice the traditional Indian way. Takes longer but is heaps more satisfying. We always use Basmati, the prince of all rices. Fill an average tea mug almost to the brim with rice grains and that should provide enough for 4 people. If you like very generous portions, add a quarter mug more but make sure you eat it within two days as it goes off real quick.

Pour the rice into a DEEP cooking pot – seriously it must be imagedeep. You need to wash the rice. Fill the container half way with cold water and with your hands swirl the grains around. The water will start to cloud as you lift off the starch. Drain and repeat two or three times until the water is clear when you swirl the rice. Drain one last time and then fill the container so it’s two thirds water to rice. Bring to the boil and simmer. Watch over it! If you leave rice unattended during this process it may quickly turn to stodge. Test the rice by lifting a few grains out every so often. They need to be al dente: not hard in any way but almost chewy. If soft and squidgy…you’ve ruined it. Turn the heat off immediately and drain the boiling water. Rinse the boiled rice ever so quickly by pouring in cold water to stop further cooking and then drain. Find a wide shallow dish and spread the rice out in it. Leave it open and uncovered at room temperature to dry offby natural evaporation. Don’t be tempted to cover it. You should then have beautiful white, fluffy rice ready for re-heating when the meal is done.

Dahl

imageLike the rice, the red lentils that will become Dahl need a good wash first. Again a mug and a half of lentils in a container, swirl and rinse 2 – 3 times in cold water and leave soaking in clean luke warm water until needed. Pour about 2-3 table spoons of vegetable oil into a cooking pot and heat. Add half a sliced onion and cook until transluscent but don’t let it brown. Add 1 large crushed garlic clove, a quartered medium size tomato and a quarter teaspoon of Haldi (Turmeric). Don’t put too much Haldi in or it will imageoverpower all else. Watch over this as if you burn the Haldi it will turn bitter and you will have to start again. The key is to SMELL the dish. When the Haldi first goes in it has a raw pungent smell. As it cooks the smell mellows as the onions start to brown. At this point add the lentils and water to two thirds full plus some ginger. Just take a root, slice it thickly, put 2-3 slices in, skin on and just pull them out later. Add 2 beef OXO cubes (vegetable will do but as this is acompanying lamb…). Bring to the boil and then lower to just below stirring occasionally. Froth will appear on the surface which you can skim if it bugs you but you have already washed the lentils so there is no need. The red lentils will turn yellowy greeny when cooked and will start to absorb the water. It should then take on a loose porridge consistency and be quite rough and rugged. Now the dahl is done – in 10-15 minutes. Take it off the heat and leave it be.

Fried Potatoes.

imageIf any of your roast potatoes made it through to left overs (never a possibilty in our house as dad made THE most awesome roasties I’ve ever tasted) they would play an awesome part at this point. If you have any then cut them into bite sized cubes. Even if you only have 1 or 2 left over do it any way. Find another 2 med-large sized raw potatoes and cut them into bite sized cubes. Fry them. However you want to do it – deep or shallow -but get them golden brown. Don’t add the left over roasties with them. Once the raw ones are done, lift them out of the oil and dry on kitchen paper then fry the roasties. You will taste the difference between the raw and the roasted and I know for sure which people will go for the most.

Crispy Bits.

imageThe crispy bits are falvoursome garnish and you need to cook them before you tackle the lamb. They will add flavour to the finished meal but will also flavour the fried lamb that will be cooked last. Take a wok and cover the base with oil. You need to be generous because imagethis same oil will also fry the lamb. Heat the oil and when sizzling add some thinly sliced strips of ginger and two chopped garlic cloves. Fry until golden brown then lift out and rest on kitchen paper. Leave the oil on the heat. Once the garlic and ginger are done, slice half an onion and fry in the same oil until darkly golden brown. Lift out and dry on kitchen paper. Leave uncovered to cool and harden but leave the oil in the wok and still on the heat.

The Lamb.

imageSo to the lamb. Cut the left over slices of lamb into cubes or bit sized pieces. Turn into the sizzling ginger, garlic and onion infused oil. At this stage those who like their food spicy hot can add sliced green chillies. I don’t as I can’t do hot spicy food – ironic seeing I was born in India. Jalfrezi is traditionally a green chilli dish. Add what you want at this stage but on your head be it. The rule in our family in judging chilli heat from the outside was that the smaller and more compact the chilli is the sharper its bite. A good rule in life for all people who dare to mess with smaller (shorter in mys case) spicy things. Thinly slice the chillies and add, seeds and all.

This is a fairly quick fry but not a flash fry. Let the meat absorb the flavours in the oil and keep watch over it. Lift out pieces that look like they might burn and drain on kitchen paper. Drain all the meat on kitchen paper.

Jalfrezi is essentially a dry dish that some will add stuff to to make a sauce. There’s no real need for that as the Dahl is there to provide the liquidity. Anglo-Indian friends of ours who shared this meal would also add Tamarind Water (go Google) to add to this meal. It’s a spicy hot-sweet-sour liquid served at the table in a pouring cup that diners add sporadically to the dish. I don’t do the Tamarind Water but my recommendation as an accompaniment is a teaspoon of Lime Pickle on the side of your plate – my favourite pickle with most Indian meals.

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