Saving bread by making bread 

As part of my plan to not spend unnecessarily in 2017, I’ve been looking for ways to cut down on our food waste too. We have a terrible obsession with bread. We love it in all its assorted and varied forms. But there are only two of us and buying a loaf a week seems to end with a few slices being thrown out each week. Which is wasteful but I really don’t need any more breadcrumbs in my freezer. And those are alongside naan breads and pitta bread and parathas and any other Indian bread you can think of. 

So with a bit of time on my hands this afternoon and a craving for my Sri Lankan curry favorites (Jaffna chicken curry and paripu), I decided to explore how to make my own naan bread. And it’s surprisingly easy. Well, this version is, I didn’t want to buy anything new with which to make these so just used what was in the fridge and store cupboard. So here it is. I may also share my paripu (Sri Lankan dhal, basically) recipe as it’s perfect comfort food, only uses one pot and can be frozen. But that’s my next post.

Easy Naan Bread

  • 250g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp Caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 130ml milk
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Then mix the milk and oil in a jug and pour into the well. Stir together until the dough comes together and then knead for approximately 8 mins, till the dough is smooth. Oil the bowl and put the dough back in to it and leave it to rest in a warm place for 30-40 mins. 

Preheat the grill to medium and put a heavy tray to heat at the same time at the top of the grill. Take the dough from the bowl and split into six roughly equal pieces. Roll each one out into tear drop shapes (if you can, as you can see mine are less than perfect!)

Cook on the hot grill tray for a minute or two on each side, till they’ve browned. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter. 

Serve warm with your favourite curry. 

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Eating down the freezer…

Did I tell you what I got for Christmas? I don’t think I did. Anyway, I got an ice cream maker. It’s not one of those that freeze on the counter top, it’s one that you need to freeze the bowl and then churn like a churning ocean of emotions (nb, I found a poetry book I wrote when I was a misery teenager today, so forgive any ridiculous turns of phrase…) 

The ice cream maker looks amazing but I haven’t been able to use it as our freezer is permanently full. Full like a bean bag, before the woes of the world drowns its liveliness with hugecrushing asses. Yeah. I’ll stop soon. It’s currently sitting on the shelf, next to the deep fat fryer that we also bought for Christmas, which we love. But more on that in another post.

So in the spirit of my new year resolution to spend too much money on stuff, I have made a plan to eat down the freezer so I can start making ice cream. Today I have taken three chicken legs, chorizo and some chicken breasts out of one of the overstuffed drawers and I’m making a chicken and chorizo stew. Admittedly, I’m making enough for about 14 people and I’m currently home alone (the wino is in Spain for “work” which has so far involved a five course lunch and a lot of fun) so that there’s the fear that I’ll simply cook a shit tonne of stuff and then refreeze it but luckily my sister is doing up her kitchen so can’t cook at the moment, so I’m taking this to her and her family tomorrow. I’m good like that. 

It’s a lovely simple recipe so I’m sharing below. I’ve put the amounts that I’ve used to clear out my freezer but you can make it bigger or smaller. Obviously. 


Chicken and chorizo stew

  • 3 x chicken leg joints
  • 3 x chicken breasts, cubed
  • 4 x chorizo sausages (the type that need cooking not the ready to eat type) 
  • 3 x red peppers 
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced 
  • Olive oil and salt and pepper
  • One tin of tomatoes
  • One tin of chickpeas

Heat the olive oil in a pan. Meanwhile, remove the skin from the chorizo and slice into chunks. When the oil is shimmering hot, add the chicken and brown it on all sides.

Remove the chicken and leave to one side. Add a little more oil (not too much though) and throw in the garlic and chorizo. 

Let the chorizo brown for a couple of minutes then add the cubed peppers and let that cook for a couple of minutes too. Throw in the tin of tomatoes and then fill the empty tin with water and add that too. Stir the chunks of chicken breast in to the mix, then place the chicken leg joints onto the top. Bring the mix to the boil, cover and leave to simmer for around 30-40 minutes. At around 25 mins, add the drained chickpeas. For a thicker sauce, remove the lid from the pan around 20 mins in to the cook. 

Once it’s cooked, chop up some parsley and sprinkle on top. 

Serve immediately, with some crusty white bread. 

One in, one out

I don’t usually make resolutions. I am very good at failing to do the smallest thing on a daily basis and beating myself up about it (eating more veg, doing more exercise etc etc) so randomly choosing the start of the year to come up with a list of stuff that I’m supposed to do for the rest of my life seems silly. 

However. I have been recently kinda driving myself mad with the amount of stuff I own and similarly the amount of stuff I covet. In the last few months alone, I convinced myself I couldn’t live without a pair of  flat-ish, smart-ish, black ankle boots and that I couldn’t possibly make do with what I’ve got already. This is some of my collection of ankle boots (I thought it was all of them but then found three more pairs, and I was too embarrassed to share). There are five pairs of black boots in there (and another two that didn’t appear in that pic), two of which are new within the last two months. Seriously. Why? 

And it’s not just shoes which, if you know me, know is likely. I have 11 striped Breton tops, countless black tops from uniqlo, six pairs of black jeans. 

And here’s the handbags. 

And that’s just the clothing. When I was cleaning out the kitchen for the big refurb, I discovered three bags of red lentils, two bags of rice and I can’t even talk about the herbs and spices (but here’s a pic of some of the bottles I ended up throwing out) 

And then there’s the cutlery collection we’ve amassed. I could host a dinner party for 38 people and still have cutlery leftover. 

So my only resolution for 2017 and life is to stop buying stuff. I literally don’t need anything. And if I do get the urge to get the latest must have shiny thing, I can only get it if I sell something I already own to the same value. Which means, I’ll be doing a lot of car boots and ebaying as the year goes on, probably. But right now, I cannot think of one thing I simply must have. There’s lots I want to achieve. But nothing I want. As a natural consumer, it’s bloody liberating to not be desirous of stuff, I feel lighter already (emotionally, physically I have eaten all the cheese and may never move again). 

What are your resolutions? Let me know, inspire me! 

A love letter to my new kitchen…

About four years ago (on Valentine’s Day no less) my husband and I moved into a house. It was the first property we’d owned together so all exciting and shiny and new. Ish. See, my folks had lived here before us, so whilst it isn’t my childhood home, I’d spent a lot of time here in the previous 15 years so wanted to change some things that I had never liked.

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We got over excited and didn’t take a photo before we ripped out the cupboards, but there were cupboards all along that back wall. Beige cupboards. Yummy.

One of those things was the kitchen/dining room. The people who’d owned the property previous to my parents had built an extension onto the side of the house, leading directly from the kitchen and linking it to the garden and garage. However, they hadn’t knocked the wall through, which I’d always wanted to do (they did put in a  very 1970s hatch though, because why not?) Anyway, we moved in, we got quotes done for the work, we realised we couldn’t afford it (knocking walls through is EXPENSIVE) so we have just lived with it. And it’s fine. But we both love cooking and entertaining and the dining room was not conducive to doing those things. In fact, last Christmas we had friends over who hadn’t visited the house before and one comment involved the fact that it was the biggest laundry room ever (it really was, we’d only ever use it for laundry and leave clothes piling up for weeks… possibly because we’re generally quite lazy but if you’re not really using a room, it just becomes a dumping ground). On top of that, we’ve been using the cooker my parents bought, probably a decade ago. It’s a gas oven and hob. It was shit brown. All the numbers had worn off. The ignition button didn’t work. It was a nightmare and what I haven’t yet mentioned is we have 16 coming to us for Christmas Day.

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horrible old brown cooker.

Fast forward a few months and we’re talking about what I want for my birthday. And I say to Marcel, I want to redo the dining room so it becomes a space we can actually use and I want a new cooker. Now, what I haven’t mentioned is my husband is quite the brilliant amateur at doing DIY shit. I mean, I can hammer a nail into a wall with the best of them, but he’s the kind that’ll measure, and make equations and formulas and drill and rawlplug (or wallplug? I never know) and get the right length screw and hang a painting. So we get to work ordering shit from Screwfix and a kitchen counter company and spend ALL THE TIME at B&Q and then we spend a week doing lots of stuff with rulers and saws and drills and awls. I have no idea what an awl is, apparently it’s Marcel’s favourite tool.

And as of yesterday, the space is almost done. And it’s incredible. So here are some of my favourite bits.

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ta DAAAAAAAAH

We spent a long time talking about shelving. I wanted wall to wall shelving. Now, sometimes I say things like this but kinda just mean like something that looks like wall to wall shelving, even if it is four shelves put end to end to look like one long shelf. But here’s where the wino’s brilliance comes in. He knows of a kitchen counter company that he’s used to make desks before. So he orders in kitchen counters. Lots and lots of kitchen counters. You’ll know, of course, that kitchen counters are a standard width. You didn’t? Wow, embarrassing for you (jokes, I didn’t either). That width was too wide for the shelving we wanted. So we borrowed a circular saw from the neighbour (thanks!) and sliced them lengthways down the middle. And look, wall to wall shelves (and a box to house the washing machine and tumble dryer – clever).

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You may or may not know, I have a tendency towards the dramatic. And I wanted a dramatic wall. So I got to choose the paints, all by myself. And whilst I wanted the glitter addition, I reminded myself I wasn’t 6, so just went for the solid dark, dramatic midnight blue. Yes, it looks black in some pics, but it isn’t, it’s blue. The other walls are in a very bluey light grey so doesn’t feel too much like you’re dining in a box. Also, if you’re going to paint a very dark colour, make sure you don’t decide after you’ve put the first coat on that you can’t live with some tiles you thought you could live with. It makes for a not fun second day of removing tiles and repainting the entire wall.

As I mentioned, I wanted a new cooker – so I got one for myself. A De Longhi range cooker no less. Admittedly, I’m still not used to the size of it, so I only cook on one of the rings, but I’m trying.

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What I hadn’t realised is that lovely wino of mine had also bought enough kitchen counters to replace our other kitchen counters. So we pulled out some cupboards (one gigantic one that made the whole space look really dark), used some of the cupboards from the dining room to replace those, added about another foot of surface to our kitchen countertops and threw in some more shelves for shits and giggles.

And then there’s the light. Oh god, I love that light. I must have seen the light (not like that, fools) in some coffee shop somewhere and it had stuck with me, so I ordered one from eBay. And it was surprisingly inexpensive. Until you buy the Edison bulbs. Then it’s ridiculous. But so dramatic and really warms up the space.

There’s still some snagging to be done (there’s a wire that we’re not sure what to do with), we should probably replace the flooring (I’m trying to convince the wino that a concrete floor will be lovely and modern, he just says ‘COLD’ and walks off. He may be on to something), we need new window dressing (multi shades of green Venetian blinds aren’t really working for me) and I can’t work out how best to display the cook books on the top shelf. Oh, and I am soon to come into my own with a hammer and nails and pictures in frames. But frankly, given how it looked a mere month ago, I love it and I love my wino for being so bloody useful and doing it for me. I’m more than happy to pimp him out, if you need any DIY done.  He’s dead good.

The trouble with crumpets…

I’m British ergo I love me a crumpet. Delicious, bubbly, yeasty crumpety goodness, covered in butter and jam and with a cup of earl grey. What’s not to love?

I went to visit friends in France a few weeks ago – and I was challenged to make crumpets (the French do not love crumpets and my British mates were missing them). Now, I’d never made them before, but hell, I love me a challenge so off I went to my best friend Google who gave me a Paul Hollywood recipe.

We found most of the ingredients in Sue’s cupboard and subbed in some others and started the batter which was supposed to rest for a couple of hours. So we tested it after a couple of hours and whilst they tasted crumpet-y, they did not have that well known bubble top. So we left it another couple of hours. Still no bubbles. We finished the batter the following morning. Still no bubbles.

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See? Bubbles when in the pan…

We did however, see Hagrid in one of the crumpet tops, so any Harry Potter fiends out there, hit me up for your next Potter pilgrimage location.

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Hallelujah/Hagrid

So I’ve been wondering what went wrong (I blame the French ingredients. Obviously. Never my fault) and this weekend, we had a friend over for brunch so I decided to make them again. On my fancy new cooker.

This time, Jamie Oliver was my go-to recipe (thanks Google, I don’t know what I’d do without you). The batter was supposed to rest for an hour and then you make a call based on the bubbles in it. There were NO bubbles in my batter. Well, some but not crumpet levels of bubbles.

So I left it overnight and there were a few more bubbles in it and I cooked it and there were bubbles in the middle but again, there were no bubbles on top.

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Everyone was terribly polite about them and they looked more like crumpets than my french attempt (and tasted just like crumpets) but I need help, bakers, what am I doing wrong?  I think I’m turning them when they’re too wet, needs to be a low temperature for a long time so it’s basically dry on top and you’re just colouring the bubbles?

(I am very sorry for overusing the word ‘bubble’ and ‘crumpet’ but there are very few synonyms for them).

So no recipe yet, I’ll be remaking them again (third time’s a charm?) and if those actually look like  proper crumpet, I might yet post it. But in the interim, HELP ME GET MY CRUMPETS TO BUBBLE. (thanks)

Here’s a picture of the plate of carbs I served for that brunch. Not all bad. Eclairs and pancakes saved the day (PS remind me to tell you about the first batch of eclairs I made that my mum ruined some other time…)

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Cranberry and Orange marscapone sponge cake

Welcome to my Christmas blogging spree. As you’ll have seen from previous posts, I kinda went a little political but I’m back on the food stuff now and frankly, that’s much nicer than being a little bit sad and miserable about the state of the world.

So I had a birthday last month. As you may remember, last year was a big ole birthday, so this year, I decided to keep it low key and went to see a play about the troubles in Sri Lanka at the Arcola. Slight change of pace but lovely fun day. I also indulged in a cronut from the newish Dominique Ansel London. Man, I’m glad that place isn’t too close to home, I could eat one of those every day.

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As part of it not being a big milestone birthday, I didn’t want a normal gift – I’m good at buying myself things and we’ve been complaining for years about how we hate our kitchen/dining room but haven’t been able to afford to do the big works (knocking a wall through). So this year, I told the wino I wanted a nice dining room for my birthday, so we spent a week ripping out cupboards, painting, putting up shelves etc etc. And it’s so very nearly there. I love it very much. But I’ll save that for a future post, when we’ve finished both rooms.

I hosted my inaugural proper Sunday lunch in the dining room last Sunday. We’d had a cheese and wine and drunken dancing party a few weeks before but what happens on a drunken night stays on a drunken night. So I’m just going to talk about the amazing cake I made for the Sunday lunch (in my new fancy cooker).

I love a Victoria sponge but I don’t love double cream that much. Also not a huge fan of butter icing. I may be a little late to the party on this, but I’ve recently discovered the joy of throwing all the icing sugar at a tub of marscapone and adding some orange zest and juice to it and using that as a quick and dirty icing. It’s delicious and simple.

And because it’s Christmas, I’d bought a bag of fresh cranberries and was thinking about making cranberry sauce for gifting (if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen the kitchen clearout unearthed several hundred glass jars – hence the gifting).

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See? Crazy lady jar collection.

But then I had a brainwave. Why not make a cranberry cake? And then I had a second brainwave – why not make a cranberry jam to use in the aforementioned Victoria Sponge cake? So I did. And paired it with an orange marscapone.

My recipe for a sponge cake is well old fashioned but basically, weigh the eggs in their shells, then weigh out the same amount of butter, sugar and flour. And a pinch of salt. I’m a creamer (of butter and sugar) and then an adder but do what you feel best. I’ve just never been able to make the all in one method work for me.

The marscapone is done to taste (god, this is a rubbish recipe, huh?!) But basically, a tub of marscapone, the zest and juice of one orange and a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar – to taste. Mix it all up. Job done.

Now, here’s the cranberry jam recipe. I did it in American units, because I couldn’t be bothered to weight out the ingredients. Is that bad? It might be a bit. Oh well.

Cranberry, mint and ginger jam

  • 300g fresh cranberries – washed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • A handful of mint leaves
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, grated finely
  • One stick cinnamon

Put the water, sugar and mint leaves into a saucepan and bring to the boil until the sugar has completely dissolved. Leave to one side for 10 minutes, to let the mint seep in.

Remove the mint leaves and add the cranberries, ginger and cinnamon. Bring back to the boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes stirring regularly. I’m sure there’s clever things you can do with checking temperatures and things – I didn’t. Cranberries thicken up as they cool so once you’re happy that the majority of the cranberries have popped, give it a quick stir. You want it thick but not jellified. Transfer to a clean bowl and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, make the marscapone as above, slice your cake in half and once the jam is cold, spread a layer of marscapone, followed by a few dollops of jam. Then repeat on the next layer (if you have two layers) or on the top (if you only have one middle cut.

Put some mint leaves on top if you’re that way inclined. Slice and enjoy.

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You can see a bit of my new dining room in the background. How awesome is that colour? 

 

What I think about when I think about being brown

I mentioned in my last post about how this referendum is making me feel like the country  I was born and brought up in doesn’t really want me here.

But that got me to thinking about all the brilliant things about being an immigrant (or child of) and I thought, hell, let’s write a list. Because I’m bloody pleased that I’m a child of immigrants, and I’m (often – not always) bloody proud to call myself British and here are some reasons why the combination of my two cultures is actually a really good thing.

Something to rebel against

I did not have a bad childhood. Far from it, I had a great childhood. But I can only say that now with the benefits of hindsight. Ooh, I was a nightmare child. I mean, probably no worse than most teenagers, but I always felt the need to push against my heritage by way of rebellion, from wearing Doc Martens with saris to becoming vegetarian just to be stubborn (I get that my people generally are vegetarian what with the holy cow and all but the first gen Lankan contingent were committed meat eaters so being a vegetarian did not make them think I was pious and worthy and instead, it simply highlighted my brattishness). Also, weird shit like dressing me up in a sari and inviting all the locals over to gawp at me when I started my period (not even lying – see photo below) didn’t help me feel like being an immigrant was something to enjoy. My white friends just got given a box of feminine hygiene products and left to get on with it – I had a priest, pouring milk over my head, then getting dressed up like a 10 year old child bride in a sari with (fake) diamonds dripping off me and all of the Lankans in the extended family come over to watch the spectacle of me bleeding. Where are they now, eh? Maybe I should revisit this fun time once a month – they can watch me yell at the husband, cry and binge watch TV whilst eating all the Minstrels, I’m sure I could do that in a sari too.

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So this is me, aged 10 with my ma and pa, on the day they dressed me up as a little bride to celebrate my monthly chum. I am not sure why I’m green, when my folks are definitely brown. Let’s go with embarrassment?

So yeah, whilst I love the mad insane lot of them, being a child of immigrants gave me something to rebel against that helped me develop my personality (I have maintained the brattish behaviour throughout my life) when actually, all things considered, I had a very lovely childhood (and I wish I’d appreciated it more then).

(Swearing in)many languages. 

My mum likes to tell a story about the time when I was in a Sri Lankan shop with her best mate who told me to put something down so I called her a litany of swearwords in Tamil. I was 35. Not really, I was like 10. Possibly not dressed like above (more likely to be in some sort of batwing and legwarmer – it was the 80s, after all. Admittedly I still love a batwing).

Oh, they laughed and were mortified all at the same time. Mortified because the only reason I’d know such filthy language was because my mum had used them on me in times of ultimate brattery. Your fault, mother. But in all honesty, more than swearing, I love the Tinglish of my people – you get them in a room and the words flow in all the languages and make a beautiful cacophony of sounds. It’s just great to be able to understand go to India or Sri Lanka or Wembley or Tooting and understand  people talking around you (not all the people, obviously, there’s a lot of languages there)

A naturally built in community

So I have many communities. Friends, colleagues, the people you see when you get the same train every day, I would say the gym/yoga/running club but that’d be a lie. But you get the drift. But what  I love/loathe more than anything is being able to spot a Sri Lankan Tamil at 100 paces. We have a ‘look’ you see. Depending on who I’m with (mostly my dad, really) you’ll then get the whole ‘which village are you from’ conversation – and invariably, you’ll find out that their mother’s second cousin, twice removed’s husband’s sister’s dog was walked by your cousin’s second wife’s sister’s neighbour. And you’ll be like, whoa, small world. But outside of those almost family members, there’s always all the actual aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins as well as the family by heritage (mum and dad’s friends mostly) who turn up to the opening of an envelope. They’re ace. Annoying as all sin, but ace to know they’re there. It’s difficult to be alone when you’ve got a whole race that could potentially have walked your grandparent’s dog (not a euphemism) back in the home lands.

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Some of my fam making merry and a couple pretending not to know us. We’re that cool.

F(orce)feed Me

I have no idea if this is because they didn’t have much back in the home country (I don’t know that this is true for I’ve been force fed there too), but fuck me, we love to feed people. I get anxious if someone just pops in for a visit if I don’t at least have a bag of Doritos to forcefeed down their throats. Honestly, there’s a generosity of feeding that I blame entirely for my inability to fit my fat ass into anything gorgeous and ethereal and elegant, and instead has given me the delightful dumpy figure I endure today. But in all seriousness, I love that I can pop in to my cousin’s to drop off a bowl and be there hours later, eating all the mutton rolls – it shows such generosity of spirit (and food) and makes you feel part of a family. It’s also considered rude to visit someone without eating something. Honestly, I’m just realising why I’m fat.

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Mutton rolls, fish patties. Actually licking the screen right now.

Saris and shalwars

So as I’ve mentioned (once or twice) I am short and rotund. It’s OK, one day I’ll come to terms with this. But the best thing about that is saris specifically are made for short rotund people like me – you get a blouse made to measure to your specific requirements and then acres of beautiful fabric, folded and draped over your womanly curves to make you look as though you have actual womanly curves rather than gigantic sofa cushions stuffed in clingfilm (thanks skinny jeans and lying magazines). Similarly – having a day where you just want to eat all the food and nap on the sofa – throw on a shalwar kameez. Drawstring pants and baggy tops can still look elegant if a cousin pops over to drop something off/get fed till they explode. And being a child of immigrants means that you’ve got all those outfit choices at the back of your wardrobe along with all the clothes of your adopted country too. It’s superficial, sure, but it makes me happy.

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See? Womanly curves, not lumpy lardy bits (sorry about insane face – whodathunk I was excited about getting hitched?)

 

The opportunities

I should probably say here that had I been born and brought up in Sri Lanka, I may be a step closer to the ‘castle/sprog/Indian version of Dior’ dream I had at 11. But having known my parents for like 40 years now, I don’t know that would be strictly true, but it might have been. I may have been less brattish after all. I grew up here, I got educated, I went to university, I lived on my own, I met my own husband (rather than one being chosen for me). I never felt like the world wasn’t mine for the taking – everything was available to me. Sure, I get that some people don’t have that, but going back to my first point, part of my rebellion was to ensure that I could go out and grab the world, and I never felt like I should be held back (and god help anyone who tried to).

 

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve realised that not much is simply down to the fact that my folks moved here in the 60s and are brown. These things: generosity of spirit, community, support, multiculturalism, saris; are there for the taking for anyone at all – we’re one big melting pot of cultures and classes and that’s a bloody brilliant thing in my book. But some people don’t like it. And that makes me sad. So my request for all my tens of followers is that you go out and learn something about your own culture or one you want to be part of and you’ll soon see, that we’re all more similar than you think.

Story telling, bad dancing, much eating.