Saturday, August 05, 2006

Better late than never.....arghhh, its been days since my last blog, dear reader please forgive me. It has been worrying me that there don't seem to be enough hours in the day to fit everything in, never mind writing a blog. I am going to have to set myself some kind of timetable and NO Gin & Tonic will be allowed if I don't stick to it. Something else will have to give - cleaning the downstairs loo for example!

Just like my blogging, reading has been relegated to the sidelines by the number of visitors, the number of court sittings, the bathroom renovation etc etc. Having said that, I have enjoyed "Freakonomics" by Steven D. Leavitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Easy reading, it presented fascinating ideas , statistics and a sideways look at how the world works from a maverick economist at Harvard - ably assisted by a top-rate writer. You might not agree with all the ideas that are presented in the book, but you will certainly have lots to think and talk about. It is a very different perspective on things that is presented in this book. For me the most fascinating section was the one on the primary reason for the rapid decrease in crime in New York...if you thought that that was a result of Mayor Guliani and his zero tolerance policies, think again. Well worth reading.

Here in England the outcome of a court case in which a drug dealer was charged with a double murder has been receiving a good deal of press coverage. Three years ago Bertram Byfield, a Jamaican drug dealer living in London, and seven year old Toni-Ann, the little girl he considered his daughter, were shot dead by another violent drug dealer, Joel Smith. The child was shot in the back by Smith, presumably to prevent her being a witness to his having killed her father. A truly henious crime, to shoot a child in cold blood. Smith has been tried and found guilty and will serve a life sentence.
It transpires that Toni-Ann was in the care of Birmingham Social Services at the time of her death, and they have been getting a lot of criticism/blame for what happened to her. What none of the media have really addressed is WHY was this little girl in the care of a local authority in a country far from her mother and other close family? Her mother, who lives in Jamaica had sent her - as a four year old - to the UK on a 'holiday' . Having had a 10 year relationship with Bertram Byfield (who was serving a prison sentence himself when Toni-Ann arrived here) the mother must surely have had some inkling of his involvement with the criminal drug culture. Neither Bertram Byfield nor Toni-Ann were British citizens, and correctly speaking neither of them should have been here at all. Toni-Ann was passed from one set of people to another in Birmingham until she ended up being taken into Care. Byfield then started to make applications to have her with him. Birmingham Social Services were lied to by him, and by his ex-girlfriend who claimed to be Toni-Ann's aunt, and so they permitted the child to move to live with the so-called aunt in London, who immediately passed her over to live with Byfield himself.
Nobody has questioned all the adults - particularly her mother - who used and abused the benefits and advantages of British residence, as to why THEY should not be held to account for what happened to Toni-Ann; why they allowed a man most of them must have known was a violent drug dealer with a criminal record to have her with him. For the press to focus on an overworked social services department is not helpful, they should cut to the root of the problem and condemn the whole Jamaican drug culture which is so damaging our inner cities, THAT is what killed Toni-Ann.


Cumin is possibly my favourite spice, it is used so widely in cooking, from India through the Middle East to North Africa, and I can't get enough of the taste.
I also love meals which consist of lots of small dishes. 'Meat and two veg' is all very well from time to time, but I prefer tapas, meze, dim sum. Tonight we are having just such a meal and one of the dishes I've made is:


2 425g cans chick-peas, drained
2 fat cloves garlic, crushed
1 bunch spring onions – white parts only, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 large fresh green chilli, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons plain flour
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Seasoned flour for shaping
Vegetable oil (NOT olive) for shallow frying

Lemon wedges and fresh coriander for garnishing

Tip the drained chick-peas into a food processor or blender, and process until smooth. Add the cumin and ground coriander, garlic and spring onion whites and process again until well mixed.

Turn the mixture into a bowl and stir in the chopped chilli, fresh coriander, beaten egg and flour, mix together well. Season. Mixture should be fairly stiff, if it is too soft add some extra flour and mix again. Cover the bowl and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up.

Using floured hands, shape the mixture into small balls the size of a squash ball, roll each one in the seasoned flour and flatten slightly to make into a patty.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and shallow fry the patties in batches for about one minute each side until they are crisp and golden. Drain on crumpled kitchen paper.

These are delicious served with a tzatziki style dip made from yoghurt, garlic, mint and grated cucumber.

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