Friday, March 20, 2009


Luciano Pavarotti


Bombay - or Mumbai as we are now supposed to call it - is a huge city with a vast
population nearly half of whom live in slums. The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar is set in Bombay and the two women who are the central characters epitomise the contradictions to be found there.

Sera Dubash is a Parsi widow who lives in a spacious, modern appartment. Bhima is her servant, for over 20 years she has worked for Sera and her family, cleaning their home, shopping at the market, preparing food, and although neither of them would ever acknowledge it, a bond of trust and a sort of friendship has grown between them.

Despite her comfortable life, Sera has had a difficult married life with an unpredictably violent husband and the mother-in-law from hell. Since her husband's death her adored daughter and charming son-in-law have moved in with her and she is beginning to enjoy life.

Bhima on the other hand lives a life that is almost unimaginable for anyone living in the west. She has a room nearby which she shares with her teenaged granddaughter Maya, for whom she would sacrifice everything she has. Maya is attending college and Bhima hopes that her education will enable them to escape the slums, where they have little privacy, no running water, and have to share the most primitive of communal latrines.
But something happens to Maya which puts a strain on Bhima, and eventually it reaches a crisis point which fractures the relationship between herself and Sera.

The lives of the two women are told in flashback and the reader slowly becomes aware of the events that have formed their lives into what they are today, what divides them and what brings them together. Sera and Bhima are both strong in their different ways, but it seems that even in modern India the accidents of birth, class and cultural traditions still shape a woman's life more than anything else.

A really interesting and absorbing book which was both informative about contemporary Indian life and a moving story of two individuals.

Rated 5*


I thought we were supposed to be in the middle of the worst economic recession known to man; banks are collapsing, house sales are stagnant, the unemployment rate is rising rapidly and the news media are lambasting us with doom and gloom, local councils are warning us that rates will have to rise and services will have to be cut.

And in the midst of all this, how does Leicestershire
County Council decide to spend £6000 of rate payers' money?
Fitting sophisticated Satellite Navigation Systems to 14 of the council's lawnmowers.

I'll just repeat that.

They have spent six thousand pounds fitting Sat Navs to fourteen lawnmowers.

I know, I know, you couldn't make it up.

Apparently the council employees who use the lawnmowers to keep the parks, fields, road verges and other public open spaces trim and tidy have been complaining that they might get lost in the long grass.
Have they been cutting the grass or smoking it?

I have steam coming out of my ears....I think I should go and lie down until I have become calm again.


The Scotch Egg has got a reputation for being one of the worst examples of take-away fast food which is such a shame as a proper Scotch Egg is perfect for picnics, padkos, and packed lunches. There is no comparison between a home made Scotch Egg and the horrible, orange-crumbed travesties that are produced commercially and which can be found in the chiller cabinets of supermarkets, motorway service shops, not to mention cafés and pubs up and down the land.

Nobody seems to know where the name comes from, but Fortnum & Mason's,
the Queen's grocers in Piccadilly claim to have invented them in 1851. Maybe they did, but I suspect that the recipe had been around for quite a while, probably in Scotland, and so F&M called them Scottish Eggs. Anyway, whatever their history, they are a doddle to make and apart from vegetarians everyone seems to like them, particularly children.

You can add any number of things to the sausage meat to change the flavours. I've had SEs with crumbled Stilton or finely diced black pudding added to the mix, not to mention chili and herbs. The one thing you MUST have is good ingredients; top-quality sausage meat (or buy the best available sausages and slip the skins off), fresh free-range eggs, and proper toasted breadcrumbs are all essential.
Although they are usually made with hen's eggs, you can also make dinky little ones for canapes if you use quail eggs. Serve them hot with homemade tomato sauce and mashed potato, or cold with chutney and salad

Makes 4 large ones

5 large free-range eggs (4 for the SEs and one for coating)

450g good quality sausage meat
3 spring onions

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 heaped teaspoon finely chopped herb of your choice ( chives, thyme or sage)

A good pinch of ground mace

3 tablespoons plain flour

Salt and pepper

Dry breadcrumbs for coating

Sunflower oil for frying

Put four of the eggs into a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil, then simmer for exactly 9 minutes. Remove the eggs and plunge into cold water.

Finely chop the spring onions, and add them to the sausage meat together with the chopped herbs, mace and some salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix everything together really well then divide the mixture into four and make into patties.
Put the flour onto a plate and season with salt and pepper.

Break the remaining egg onto a plate and beat lightly with a fork.

Tip a good quantity of breadcrumbs onto a plate and spread out.

Shell the eggs and roll each one in the seasoned flour then wrap a patty of sausage meat round it, stretching it and pinching any gaps together so that the egg is evenly covered.
Then roll it in the beaten egg and finally roll it in the breadcrumbs pressing them on gently so that it is completely covered.

Put about 5 cms of the oil in a deep casserole or saucepan and heat until a small piece of bread goes brown within a minute of being dropped in it. Carefully add the SEs and fry in the hot oil for about 6-7 minutes, turning them often until they are evenly brown.
Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper towel.


Marj said...

and there I was thinking Sat Navs were for navigatioal purposes - to find their way to the various grass verges, parks etc!! unbelievable - whatever next???

herschelian said...

"to find their way to the various grass verges,"

grass verges? verging on the ridiculous if you ask me, Marj!

jan said...

nice recipes...

Anonymous said...

That book sounds great, straight on my wishlist. And I cannot believe that about the satnavs, how ridiculous! To think what that money could have been put towards.