Friday, December 2, 2011

Ivor's Coconut Fish Curry

Nariyal Macchi (Coconut fish) Recipe
Some, indeed, like it hot. This fish curry is marvelous, and, although I own a personal preference  for Red Snapper or  salted cod(bacalao),  pretty much any kind works. The amount of heat you use can be altered to your taste.  An oily fish like like cod definitely demands something pungent to contrast with the  strong oil of its flesh. If mustard oil is unavailable, use mustard seed in safflower or canola oil, marinating for three or four days if possible.

4 lbs White fish fillets, cut into cubes

For the marinade:
  • 4 tsp (4 g) Turmeric (haldi) powder
  • 2 tsp (8 g) Salt
For the curry:
  • 1 cup Mustard (sarson) oil
  • 6 tbsp Garlic (lasan), finely chopped
  • 4 tsp Cumin (jeera) powder
  • 4 tsp (4 g) Turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 4  tsp  Red chilli powder
  • 40 Curry leaves (kadhi patta)
  • 4  cups Coconut milk, thick, from 1 whole grated coconut
  • 1/2 Cup Tamarind pulp, boiled in 2 cups of water and then strained
  • 4 Green chillies, deseeded
  • 4 Papaya
  • Basmati rice
  • 1 Lemon
  1. Rub the turmeric powder and salt into the fish thoroughly. Place in the refrigerator for two hours.
  2. Heat the mustard oil until it begins to smoke; fry the marinated fish cubes until they’re a golden color. Remove the fish cubes with a slotted spoon, draining the excess oil on paper towels.
  3. Use the same oil to fry the garlic light brown.  Add the cumin powder, turmeric, salt, red chilli powder, curry leaves, coconut milk, tamarind extract, and green chillies.
  4. Stir rapidly and bring to the boil before adding the fried fish cube, lower trhe light and simmer gently  for 5 minutes.
  5. Cut each papaya in half. Skin and seed. Place the papaya in the freezer 30 minutes before dinner will be served. 
  6. When all is ready, serve rice for eight and squeeze the juices of the lemon on the cold papaya.
This should serve eight people well.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

R o g a n J o s h L a m b

Somebody took me to a real Curry dive in Cleveland that had the slowest service  since my old 2 a.m. hangover days  at the infamous Taco Bell in Rogers Park. When the food eventually did arrive it  all--and I mean every single dish-- had a half inch of Ghee floating at the top. This reminded me of my beloved Bubba Rachel who brought  me up in Manchester, England and found a way to use schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) in every dish she made, save, perhaps, the fruit compote. At any rate, this was a night of pure revelation for me. Not all of the people of India and its diaspora can cook! What a crushing shocker. This here is the real deal. Consider the fact that  my lovely lady wife, Elsie, hates the very smell of lamb. The brilliant spicing in this dish will transform  even the most pungent lamb.

         *   Cooking  t i m e    7 0   m i n u t e s
         *   S e r v e s   6

A  2 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
12 Cloves garlic
4 cups pink wine
2 cups vegetable oil
2 Ibs cubed lamb
10 cardamom pods
4 bay leaves
6 cloves
20 peppercorns
1 medium Cinnamon stick
4 medium onions, peeled and chopped fine
2 tsp ground coriander
3 tsp ground cumin
4 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp cayenne pepper (or, if you want to grow hair on your toes, boil, skin and mash 2 habanero/scotch bonnet peppers)
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups natural yogurt
1 tbsp garam masala

Blend together the ginger, garlic, and two cups of ice cold water into a smooth paste. Brown the meat along with one of the onions, two cloves of garlic along with two cups of wine. Once it’s browned, set aside. Heat the oil in your  favorite heavy-duty skillet over a medium flame. Fry--all the while stirring gently--the cardamom pods, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns and Cinnamon in the oil. Add the rest of the onions, stir fry until the onions are golden brown. Then slowly add the garlic-ginger paste and stir in for a minute, then gently add the coriander, cumin, paprika, cayenne and salt. Stir and mix for a couple of minutes. Add the meat and its juices, mix well so it’s all coated with the paste. Add the  tablespoon of yogurt, mixing well on low light before gradually adding the rest  of the yogurt, stir and fry for another three minutes. Add another two cups of water, bring it to a low, rolling boil, while scraping away the sticky bits from the bottom of the pan into the sauce.  If you would like it to taste a little sweeter use more pink wine.

Cover the pan and simmer on a low light for 80 minutes, checking and stirring the pot every ten minutes or so. The sauce should  slowly turn viscous and bubbly, but not too thick. If it is thick enough that the spoon sticks, you need more liquid  and should add wine or water. Finally, spoon off the excess fat, sprinkle the garam masala and black pepper and mix one last time before serving with basmati rice and nan.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

For Elsie

Each night
before I get some kip
I think about
Ebola, Al-Qaida, starving Sudanese,
Barack Obama, pornography and war.

That way
I’m not thinking about You!

Indian Eggplant (Burtha)

I love eggplant. Its taste and texture are totally unique and it  can stand hours of overcooking in a way the fibers of most vegetables can’t.  How would I know that? Well, I grew up in England where Mushy Peas are beloved and vegetables are only eaten after they own no flavor. Anyway, this is a killer of a tasty veg dish that you can add as much extra heat to as your heart desires. Use one large American eggplant or two small Indian ones. Better yet, if available, buy Chinese eggplant. Chinese eggplant  is far superior when it comes to a quick marinade for soaking up flavors and there’s no need to  pre-prep by broiling (as in #1)because you  eat the skin. Burtha is both a fine side dish or a superb dip


 1 eggplant, or 2 large  Chinese eggplant
 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
1 large tomato - peeled, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup frozen peas


   1. Preheat the  broiler in your oven. Rub oil on the skin of the egg plant, or coat thoroughly with cooking spray. Place under the broiler, and cook until the flesh is soft and the skin is bubbling and beginning to blister off, app. 30 minutes. Turn when necessary for even cooking. Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise, scoop the flesh out of the skin, discard the skin; chop up the flesh, and set aside.
   2. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add the cumin seed still they crackle for a few seconds and turn golden brown. Act fast. Do not let them burn!   Add the onion, ginger and garlic; cook and stir until tender. Lower the heat after two minutes to medium. Do not  let the onions get too brown. Stir in the peas and  tomato, and season with turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. Cook and stir for a few minutes.
   3. Place the eggplant pieces in the skillet, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until most  of the moisture evaporates. Taste, and adjust seasonings if desired. Garnish with fresh cilantro, and serve.

Stop Snivelling: Make Your Own Vindaloo Paste

Lamb Vindaloo: Mmmmmhmmm!
I get really irritated when I hear people complain that you  can’t get a “proper curry” in the U.S. That’s silly. I can see it if you don’t live in a big city, but I can’t think of any major metropolis anywhere where  Indian, Pakistani or Bangla Deshi iigrants haven’t settled. At any rate, for those of you who’ve been complaining and moaning on the blogs about getting your fix, reply to this or email me at  Wherever you are in North America, I will fill you in on a quality eating establishment in your vicinity and sites for you to do your long-distance food shopping from.

Anyone who follows my football site knows I just took my youngest  home to England to watch Manchester United destroy Spurs and Arsenal. The second order of business was food. They call it the Curry Mile and us Mancs in exile miss it like mad. So me and me old mate Nobby Patel went on oe of our periodic heat hunts and ended up at the old tried-and-true Moti Mahal on Wythenshawe Road. They make the best Vindaloo anywhere. What makes theirs so  especially good is something which ‘Britishizes ’it. Instead of using plain, white vinegar use malt vinegar.
And, remember, old spices in a jar will not  keep well I use plain old, reasonably priced corn oil. Safflower oil is a good alternative if you prefer something slightly more viscous.

Chopped vidalia onions- 6 cups
Mustard seeds- 2 tsp
Tomatoes- 2 lb
Malt vinegar- 1/2 Cup
Red chilies-25 or  3 oz chili paste
Garlic- 30 cloves
Grated ginger- 5 tablespoons
Cardamom seeds 2 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1 tbs.
Fenugreek seeds- 1 tsp
Oil- 1 cup
Pink Wine-2 cups

Grind the red chilies with half  of the ginger, garlic, cardamom, cumin & mustard.

Mix this into a paste with  the vinegar.

Fry the other half of the garlic and the onions until golden brown.

Add the tomatoes and fry on a low heat for ten minutes before adding the ground spice  paste and wine.  Slowly add the remaining spices and fry until the oil separates from the mixture.

Allow the mix to  cool completely.

Store in an airtight container and freeze. Prepare  your meat of choice, defrost your vindaloo and simmer on a low light for 90 minutes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

An Evening With Paul Thorn

Photos by Kevin Craig
How many rock ‘n’ rollers you know went toe-to-toe with Roberto ‘Manos de piedra’ Duran and didn’t get knocked out? When you go to see Paul Thorn in concert you’re getting something special.  I’ve been going to watch concerts since 1966 and I defy you to name any band on the road, paying its daily dues right now that gives a show as good as the Paul Thorn Band. No ifs, ands or buts!  Caught them June 15 at the Space in Evanston, Illinois and they were awesome.

The word 'showman' may not  mean a lot to you, but to me it’s the ultimate tribute to the live entertainer’s art. I’ve been at great shows where Sarah Vaughan stood there frozen, Dylan mumbled, Miles turned his back on me, Janis Joplin got blitzed onstage and Rory Gallagher off. Stage craft, however, that kind of  “Ladies and Gentlemen, I love you” vibe perpetuated by the likes of James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Elkie Brooks, Ray Baretto, Billy Stewart, Mitch Ryder, the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, Otis Redding with the M.G.s and the Barkays, and, my favorite of all, Little Feat with Lowell George, is very very rare these days, A lot of it, I think is because 'professionalism' is so simple to parodize if it’s done in an insincere cynical manner, Nevertheless, Paul and his band make high art!!!

One thing I’m not going to do is go over his routine. There are plenty of other reviews where you can read the songlist. Suffice to say, he’s funny and dry-witted and relentlessly full of give-and-go and fliratation with his audience. “Getting your money’s-worth” surely is a cliché, but the whole band is the real deal. When they aren’t in one of their cut-away vibes that sound like a power-pop Beatles or Lucinda Williams-ish alt-country’ they are in a consistently Southern-fried synchronized mode. You know, the kind  that the Black Crowes desperately try for, but never quite reach. The very best comparison I can make, because the band is just so-o fucking eclectic, is with Willie Mitchell’s house band at Hi Records featuring the Hodges brothers, They are Jeff Perkins on drums and his partner in synchronicity, Doug Kahan on bass. These two play off each other like they’re caught in a lover’s-lock for lifetime. The keyboard player, Michael ‘Dr. Love’ Graham, is kind of the busy, busy Keith Moon of the 88’s. And then there’s the jaw-dropping, fastidious, poker-faced brilliance of the band’s lead guitarist Bill Hinds. At different moments, I swear to God he was channeling Duane ‘Skydog’ Allman, Lowell George, Ry Cooder, Scotty Moore, James Burton, Roy Buchanan and, beyond that, just a lot of beautiful playing unto himself.

As for Paul Thorn himself, the dude is in shape.  Not 'roidy, but with the body of someone who eats carefully and goes to the gym while on the road. Vanity reigns and Paul, whether he’s playing blues or roots/alt-country is an artist it’s hard to peg. Like many singer-songwriters, even though most folks have never heard of him, he’s had a long career working with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, John Prine, Huey Lewis, Sting and Nashville mainstreamers like Tanya Tucker, Toby Keith and Sawyer Brown: All have covered his songs.  Well, they may  do his songs, but only Paul sounds like Paul. His Mississippi accent oozes with masculinity, sexuality, down-home humor and the attack of a lapsed Pentecostal sex machine. Ah, the old eternal Southern-fried conflict between Man and God, the hard-on and the scriptures. All that ambivalence is couched in so much sincerity and fed to the scores of mature ladies in the audience, who maybe ought to know better but don’t, squealing like horny little platinum-haired pot-bellied pigs at his double entendres and silver-tongued  come-ons (There were even moments where the show reminded me of going to see the likes of  Tom Jones and Lovelace Watkins as a kid with my sluttish Aunty Gina, when she used to take off her knickers, give them a rub down there--you know where--and then throw them at the artist).

There’s nobody like him. He’s out there touring, coast to coast and all over the planet, ten months a year. GO  see the show!

Here’s my Q & A with Paul Thorn. You can’t help but notice that I’m the one who’s running at the mouth.

Q:    I got to be a fan of yours after just hearing one song, “Ain’t Love Strange.” I’m sat in a bar  in Key West with no air-conditioning called the Green Parrot, feeling sorry for myself over a certain girl named Azúcar and I’ve had way too much Maker’s Mark when your song comes on some roots cable station with no D.J.. Band sounds like the fucking Hodges brothers  with Lowell George back from the  dead. And there are like three short-short stories in the song and its sort of like a trilogy of passion movie or a triptych painting. Blew me away. Took me months to hunt you down, Anyway, is there a story about how that one got written? It’s not really typical of your songs which, you know, tend to deal with one subject per song.

A:     Ain’t love strange came into existance when me and my cowriting partner Billy Maddox put a drum machine on and just started making up little mini stories.. It was a fun song to write.

Q:    Your band is really eclectic. I think I heard you say that the band’s been together for 12 years, except for the bass player. There are very few bands that last that long. Like,you’ve got to see these guys more than you see your wife and daughters and, I’m guessing from reading, that you spend even more time than that with Billy Maddox. Are you  that  mellow or do you guys bitch and fight a lot? Further to that, these guys are so fucking good. This Bill Hinds guy is about as gifted a guitarist as I can think of. Is the Tupelo/Memphis area a hotbed of musicians, or did you luck out?

A:    We get along great. Having our own private hotel rooms every night gives us time to ourselves which is important in any relationship. whether its a band or a marriage.

Q:    Is there a story behind  ‘Joanie, the Jehovah’s Witness Stripper’ or did that just come out of your brain as a wild imagining?

A:    Joanie was written about a real person I know who, after leaving home, supplemented her income by dancing topless on the weekends. Her family was all Jehovah's Witness. They never found out about her secret career.

Q:    My dad was a British A.B.A. (Golden Gloves) Bantamweight and Featherweight champion.  He had no punch, but you couldn’t lay a glove on him, so he was a champion amateur but useless as a pro. Boxing is a solitary game. You know, up at dawn doing road work. I remember  my dad chewing on steaks but never swallowing, and no pussy for weeks before a fight. How does that square with you, in that you seem to be a very social animal?

A:    I  disagree that you should abstain from sex for weeks before a fight. A couple days before the fight is plenty. Its hard to focus on training with a pole in your pants. This is boxing not fencing.

Q:     What did you think of the movie ‘The Fighter’? Ha! Do you have a favorite boxer? Mine was Wilfrédo Benítez. He danced away from Sugar Ray Leonard for 12 rounds before Sugar cornered him. Do you have any favorite boxers or particular fights?

A:      I have not seen ‘The Fighter’ but I am a huge Mickey Ward fan. he was a a great brawler with lots of heart.  I actually got to fight my favorite fighter. In 1988, I boxed Roberto Duran on national television. The fight was stopped after the 6th round due to cuts on my face. Everyone always talks about his punching power but, honestly, I was more impressed with his defensive skills. He was incredibly hard to hit. He made me miss a lot. As far as favorite fights goes, there are many I could name but the Hagler-Hearns scrap is one that comes to mind. It was what they call a war.

Q:     Who did you listen when you were a kid?  You know, there’s a white boy named Eddie Hinton who used to play for Otis Redding’s tour band and his songs on an album called ‘Very Extremely Dangerous’ are in the same  damnation/redemption vein as yours. What songwriters did you like as a kid?

A:      I grew up on church music. Holy roller hell fire hymn book songs really molded whatever musical mojo I have. As far as writers go, I like guys like Roger Miller, Tom Waits, and Kristofferson.

Q:    My Grandma, who brought me up, used to say “Count to ten before you throw a stone,” too. In a very general way, with that, “Whatever you believe, you might be wrong” message, you’re speaking for what the Obama man  calls “our good angels.” Thing is, in all the years I’ve been here since  1977, I’ve never seen us all so divided. Any comment?

 A:     I am no longer a religous person. Exclusive clubs that say they possess the absolute truth seem arrogant to me. I dont believe that anyone knows whats on the other side of life. I do believe in a higher power, but I don't think he wants 10% of my income. Paying tithes is something man invented.

Q:      I  really admire how you’re making hay out of being independent. I’ve published two books with so-called legit publishers and had to stand by while my work got butchered by editors and agents. Both times their accounting meant I somehow owed them even after one book was reprinted four times. I’and saving my money to  publish a bunch of already published short stories and  poems, which I’ll need to take on the road.. Anyway, I don’t  know how good your finances are from doing  it yourself, but this do-it-yourself  ethic works for me. If a big label came to you now, would you rethink what you’re doing, or has the game changed too much already?

A:     Being on a major label is like being a competitive pit bull dog. they will keep feeding you as long as you are winning. When you start losing, they kill you. They are in it for the quick buck. They don't develop artists anymore. You either become an instant  star or you fade away. I believe winning fans one at a time is the only way to last in today's musical climate.   I have no interest in major labels. They also make you water down your art to please the masses, which has sadly made most main stream music bland.

I definitely recommend you all sample his work at You Tube or check out his personal website at  or friend him at Facebook. Available along with his new album ‘Pimps & Preachers’ and  a number of other superb albums is a superb concert DVD ‘So Far So Good Live!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ivor Gets Rockin'!

Tom Weiss, who works with my wife Elsie, turns out to be one of those geeky geezers who actually reads the words. He read one of my poems 'Heart's Blood' and turned it into some kind of sweet blues/rock. Thank you, Tom!

Listen for free HERE: