Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ballay from Baltistan (Tuesday, Aug 22)

Tuesday is booze day.
When I am forced to come into work a whole 84 hours before our deadline (give or take) then I feel I'm entitled to some liquid refreshment. I mean, having done a 16-hour Saturday shift (insert violins here please) I normally get Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to recover.
But it's a busy week on the sporting calendar. The Welsh (well those butties south of Builth Wells anyway) worship an oval ball and a game in which the players must push their noses up each others backsides. It's called rugby and starts in Wales next week.
As usual it's a big fanfare, loads of anticipation and then a season-long inquest into how it all went wrong. Still, I'm told it will be different this year. We'll see.
Tuesday involves a meeting on how much we should do to preview this great event, which stories we should write, who we should interview and how we can best use a picture of four beautiful models in rugby kit. Roberts reckons they would look best on his wall (at home). And the picture would look equally good there, too.
Roberts is the rugby writer. He's alpha male but still finds time to do wonderful things with butternut squash and a few cherry tomatoes. He spent yesterday in Ireland for the launch of the Magners League with his fellow cronies. They will have talked into the early hours about the merits of one young hooker against those of an older, more experienced one. In their spare time they probably talked about rugby, too, bathed in the warm glow of their hosts wonderful Irish hospitality.
You will notice that we on the sports desk, like our heroes, all have those shortened nicknames. Rather than Becks, Lamps, Giggsy and Gabbs we are known as Rippers, Rosey, Roberts, Shutts and Owenov.
Anyway, Roberts was away and our deputy editor the Prince of Darkness (who can always be relied on to sound the pub rallying call) has spent the weekend at an outdoor music festival and is resting his liver at home. That means it's Withers, Becks (not David, but Chris), Mark and the new boy Mac (who was once in Goldie Lookin' Chain, nuff respect). Rosey's around but he's gone home to do his nails, I think.
We head for the Yard pub for a swift couple before Becks drifts away (to meet girlfriend) and Mac has to head back to the office (being the new boy he is afraid his absence may be noted).
Funny how the drinks slip down easily as you relax and watch the world go by on a Tuesday afternoon (or watch the lovely Polish barmaid Agata pass by, in my case). The thought of cooking is a mile away, but I know it must be done.
Withers knows he should be off, too. He's going to a gig tonight. He set up this blog for me because in the middle of our fifth pint we thought it would be a good idea. Could end up just being a fad, though.
Eventually we drift towards home, only to stop off "on the way" for a couple in the Goat Major. Lovely relaxing chairs, a couple of cold ones, my mind ponders the attraction of the local takeaway.
But finally I haul myself off home. The walk does me some good, as does a cup of tea. I decide to enjoy a bit of culture by watching Howards End on Film4, only to drift off to sleep for an hour. Still, it does me good and it's time to hit the kitchen.
What have I got in the fridge? Well I bought one of those cooked chickens (reduced to £2) on the Sainsbury's hot counter on Tuesday. I ate half of it in fajitas with a cajun dressing and peppers last night so I'd better eat the rest now.
I've two options. A kind of chicken stew thing from my Sopranos cook book with some small pasta that resembles rice called Orzo or Ballay from my Balti cookbook (A Taste of Baltistan by Sabiha Khokhar).
I plump for Ballay because it is a one-pot dish and I can leave it to simmer while watching the footie: Not Liverpool v Maccafi Haifa but Gillette Soccer Special on Sky because I want to monitor how the Coca Cola Cup first round games are going and my team, Bristol Rovers.
But I digress. I've got to admit I didn't even know there was a Baltistan, but apparently it's in the north east corner of Pakistan and is known as "Little Tibet". It's a difficult place to get to in the Himalayas. It's income comes from tourists and mountaineers, most of them looking to climb K2.
According to the book, this is a prominent traditional dish in Baltistan that is quite fiery and nourishing. Locals drink dollops of it in the winter evenings to keep warm.
It uses raw chicken, but I've only got cooked chicken. it uses Chinese noodles, but I find spaghetti is a bit more filling.
As I am using cooked chicken it only takes about half an hour rather than an hour.
So this is what you need:
Left over cooked chicken with bones
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon chilli powder
three whole tomatoes (preferrably the vine ones)
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons Garam Masala
2 Cinammon sticks (or Cassia bark if you're lucky enough to find any)
4 whole cloves
1 tsp peppercorns
31/2 pints water
spaghetti (lots of)
This serves four or five or, in my house, one because I am a confirmed batchelor (not that I did any of the confirming).
The other day I bought a mega big pot from Sainsbury's for the purpose of boiling one whole chicken. I used this pot last night.
First you put in the chicken, the bones, everything else bar the spaghetti.
Then bring it to the boil.
Simmer for about 20-30 minutes while watching football, doing hair (not in my case I can assure you), having a go at Sudoku or reading a good book. If you're really sad, you can watch Eastenders.
Return to pot and get a spoon with some holes in it to ladle out the chicken onto a big plate while leaving most of the liquid in the pot. Remove bones from the chicken (this is the time consuming, annoying bit) then return chicken to pot and throw the bones away.
Rinse the dried spaghetti quickly under a tap, then add to the pot. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 minutes while returning for the half-time analysis from Peter Reid and Paul Merson or giving up and shouting because you've gone wrong at Sudoku.
Return and dish up into a bowl or onto a big plate with a high lip.
You won't use it all up unless there is more than one of you but you can return regularly during the evening for little nibbles. If you're really adventurous you can heat up a small nan bread under the grill (flick with water then do one min each side).
After that it's back to the football, followed by Big Ron Manager, the new series on Sky One. As Roberts would say, fantashtic!

1 comment:

andy rose said...

what a load of shite!