|I stood in the doorway. Fabric everywhere! Diaphanous reds and blues and pinks and mauves and turquoises in the shapes of head scarves, shawls, and saris, lovingly wrapped around happily bubbling women. Like a blessing on the packed room was a child-familiar scent as plates of food brought from the tiny kitchen by more fabric-edged smiling faces. From the middle of the medley I saw friend Fatema’s arm hoist into the air, gesticulating to an empty seat at one of the tables. I sat down between two unknown women as a plate was plunked in front of me. Fortunately a white plastic spoon also appeared. (My ability to eat with fingers, as the others were doing, is still at the toddler level.) No introductions, but as usual with women, the talk soon flowed. This time the unlocking device was food. Mondays are for the women for this predominantly Asian part of Luton Community Centre, and I was privileged to join them because I was teaching English here, a place dedicated to learning, social meetings, and citizenship support for all ages. My lunchtime companions, I discovered, were Indian and Bangladeshi. We soon got into a conversation about meeting our in-laws for the first time. Reminiscences from three different cultures had us all laughing at our younger selves, in our new-bride confusion. Meanwhile the curry with its curiously comforting mixture of golden rice, egg and potato nourished the talk into conviviality. Everyone has a story to tell. I was grateful to two strangers-turned-friends who were willing to share theirs with me.
Egg and Potato Curry
I have tried this twice, after two long conversations with the Centre’s crinkly-eyed bearded chef who finds my food interest amusing. Put 4 eggs in a saucepan of cold water, bring to boil, and cook for 7 minutes. (They will not be hard cooked yet.) Place in cold water for 10 minutes. Carefully remove shells. (Some say that blunt end first is easier.) Then, with a sharp piece of shell, or knife, puncture the white all over (to prevent eggs from exploding). Roll in 1 tsp turmeric mixed with pinch of salt. Meanwhile gently heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large frying pan. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and fry on low heat until they are beige. Carefully fry the boiled eggs until brown, stirring them constantly. Remove. Now, to the frying pan add 2 finely chopped onions (or chopped in a food processor) . Add 1 tsp salt and 1 teaspoon grated fresh gingerroot. Fry gently until almost golden. Add 2 teaspoons coriander powder, 1 teaspoon cumin powder, ½ teaspoon (or more) of chilli powder, and any leftover turmeric from the eggs ( to make up 1 tsp.) Fry gently until the spices do not smell raw. Add ½ cup water, and stirring constantly, cook until water has evaporated. Do this two more times. Then add about 2 cups cubed potatoes (I used new potatoes). Cover, steam until potatoes have absorbed the curry flavors, stirring occasionally. Now add water (approximately 1 ½ cups) to make the sauce. Return the eggs, and let all cook and steam well stirring gently from time to time. The curry is complete when the oil resurfaces. Serve sprinkled with coriander (cilantro) leaves.
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