Our occasional London dining partner, good friend the Doctor Businesswoman and we have an unwritten pact. Whenever we are in London and our diaries match, she plans a dinner party. The object is that we go to her home and cook the meal for the dinner party. In the past we have had Kache Gosth Ki Biryani, Dhansakh and Kebabs with Brown Rice, Laganiya Sheekh (a Bohri Meatloaf) and so on. The way it works is we plan the meal jointly; send her an ingredient list in advance, she buys everything and we cook. She invites her pals, who over the years have become our pals too, she serves great wine and a jolly good time is had by all.
This time, following our cooking course in Goa, we decided that Pork Vindaloo would be the centre point of the meal. As a starter we would make Prawn `Chops’ or masala Prawns filled in a potato case – Prawn Pattice. Along with this we would have a Salad Nicoise with `Bombay Aloo’. Bombay Aloo of course does not exist in Bombay or India; it is a British dish which is a simple `Batata Chi Bhaaji’.
The party was on Friday 24th October. So on Thursday the 23rd we went the Doctor Businesswoman’s house and spent a good 6 hours cooking. I must say the fiddliest part of making the Prawn Pattice was painstakingly done by HRH the Queen of Kutch.
Once cooking was complete we went back to our apartment had showers opened our own bottle of wine put on some music and got set for a relaxed Diwali evening. We had planned on cooking our own dinner that evening, Pork Chops with a Cider & Cream Sauce, Gnocchi and Boiled Broccoli. By 9.30pm, the Chops were marinating, the Stock for the sauce was reduced, the Cider added and reduced and kept ready but for the final addition of cream. Life was good, music was purring and we were nice and relaxed when suddenly the fire alarm went off. Horribly loud. I opened the room door and could smell the very strong acrid odour of electrical cables burning. I told HRH the Queen of Kutch to grab a shawl, I grabbed my jacket and we both left the apartment by the fire exit.
The complex was vacated. It was fairly cold out in the open. This was a genuine fire. Soon the London Fire Brigade arrived. The area was cordoned off and we were led to an assembly area. Here our names were taken and crossed off from the list the staff had. In the meanwhile, the staff had given the fire department the floor plans for the entire complex, each room, passages, corridors everything. We were told to go to the neighbouring hotel and wait. Drinks and food were on the house.
While we waited, across us on the sofa were three dowagers who looked like us – Indian. Conversation ensued, they were Pakistani. One of them was a Parsi from Karachi with relations in `Woodlands’ at Pedder Road. We joked about how if we lost our Passports in the fire it would only be the Pakistani and Indian authorities that would give us a hard time. How really similar we are. You do realise that we are just one people separated by a border!
Anyway, to cut a long story short, at about 2 am we were let back in. The fire had been put out. It was an electrical fire. The next morning we were shifted to an apartment on a higher floor as the fire had been on our floor. What impressed us the most was how well this was handled. A well thought out fire plan, good training on what to do and the fact that the staff acted in accordance with the training. Most impressive was the fact that the Fire Brigade was given floor plans. Can you imagine that in India? I mean can you imagine floor plans ever matching the floor? Was that not the biggest complaint that the NSG Commando’s had when dealing with Kasab and gang at the Oberoi and Taj? No one had floor plans. This is India my friend, where we have invented the zero and sent a spaceship to Mars.
Next day was the dinner party. I am happy to say, the food was delicious even if I say so myself. The Vindaloo does not photograph well but the other two dishes looked magnificent and tasted even better.
|Salad Nicoise with Bombay Aloo|
|Prawn Chops - Prawn Pattice|
|Pork Vindaloo - Told you does not photograph well|