If you’re yet to encounter the effervescent Urban Rajah, you’re missing out. And you’re in for a treat when you discover his wayward way with a word and a waxed moustache. I could wax lyrical about this man’s lyrical prose for quite some time. But it was time which was of the essence when we worked together to feed the hungry hoards at the launch of ‘Urban Rajah’s Curry Memoirs’.
This is one book that’s far more than a mere recipe collection – collecting together the stories and memories of the myriad men who inspired the Urban Legend himself, Ivor Peters. Although The Rajah’s father has now hopped across the pond and taken up residence in the good old US of A, the uncles were out in force – and forcibly vocal in their desire to be fed well and copiously.
So in the kitchen, we were feeling the heat. Uncle Albert is the King of the Party Pakora Platter – we were, quite literally, cooking for royalty. But having the three-time UK ‘Pub Curry Chef of the Year‘ in our corner meant we stood a fighting chance of making an impression. And, as empty platters flooded back to the kitchen, my impression was that we’d come out fighting and had impressed.
That garlanded Curry Chef is Sri Lankan born Indunil Sanchi, an international superstar who’s worked all over the world and is as capable of making moussaka as moules mariniere. Although I reckon he’d have to go a long way to trump the Sri Lankan specials that earned him his title – particularly the tiny, tangy, hot prawn dish we served. Those blighters start singing the moment they’re popped gob-wise and don’t stop with their sweet symphony ‘til they hit your belly.
Mind you, they had to throw their voices to compete with the noise from growling bellies whose grumbling had not been satisfied by samosas, bulldozed by bhajia, or placated with pakora. Might the mighty mutton korma keep things quiet? Indeed, it induced a moment of silent rapture, but the reverence was a fleeting interlude. The channa chaat got people talking again pretty swiftly.
And the coriander-gravied chicken – a recipe Ivor explained has roots in Uttar Pradesh – was clucking amazing. I’ll apologise more readily for the bad pun more than the almost-profanity. The real profanity came from those who’d not managed to try it all. This was one crowd who managed to make short work of whatever we worked to send their way.
The Urban Rajah’s trademark chilled demeanour is a bit of an urban myth- I clocked him sweating it out waiting on the family feedback. So much so I felt it necessary to administer a few shots of ice-cold mango lassi and Indunil’s stunning watermelon soup to help him retain his cool. He needn’t have worried and I needn’t have bothered. Their warm reception got Ivor all hot and bothered again, and thoroughly warmed my cockles.
Ivor could probably cook up those cockles a treat – along with any other underused and unloved bits’n’bobs. He’s not squeamish in the slightest. The ‘Curry Memoirs’ features recipes for all sorts. It’s a book that can really boast of having true heart… Along with brains AND beauty, and some offal-ly nice preparations that take some real guts to feature.
Something else that takes a lot of guts is his next project – an ambitious affair entitled ‘The Great Indian Food Feast’. Together with Indunil, the Urban Rajah will be turning Urban Ranger to take a tour of the subcontinent, subjecting guests to travels and tales told through tastes from ‘off the eaten track’. No apologies – not my pun this time.
Ivor and Indunil aren’t just about showing off their own skills – these are caring, sharing blokes who want to teach you how to make real meals of masalas and sort a super spicebox that’ll save any sad supper from bland banality. This is one tour worth exploring. That Rajah guy might only just have published his ‘Curry Memoirs’, but he’ll soon have a ton more material to add as a postscript.
- ‘Urban Rajah’s Curry Memoirs‘ by Ivor Peters is published by Headline, RRP £16.99
- Buy now on Amazon
- To taste the food that won Indunil Sanchi the title of ‘Pub Curry Chef of the Year 2013‘, visit The Noel Arms Hotel, Chipping Campden, www.noelarmshotel.com
- The Great Indian Food Feast will be touring various venues from October. To be kept updated with latest details, sign up at www.greatindianfoodfeast.co.uk
- Follow the @UrbanRajah on Twitter and find more tales at www.urbanrajah.com