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Another dinner, another story

July 26, 2021

Sunday dinner with Khurrum Rahman. Asparagus risotto. Soundtrack by Leonard Cohen. 

Leaving the book aside for the moment, let me comment on the asparagus risotto. Or rather, the asparagus and fresh herbrisotto. 

It’s a summertime favourite of mine.  I found the recipe in the G2 section of The Guardian sometime in the late 2000s when I was living in Walthamstow. One of the nice things about living there is the twice weekly market which, in addition to many stalls selling clothes and shoes you’d never wear at prices anyone could afford, there were a number of stalls selling a wide range of fruit and veg. In the summer this included asparagus at half the price you’d pay in the supermarket. I’m not a vegetarian, but I had a good friend who lived not all that far away who was, so I tried out the recipe on her. It was a big hit and there were a number of times after I’d been to the market that I’d send her a text saying “I have too much asparagus, fancy risotto tonight?” She always said yes. 

The recipe calls for mint and parsley, but, as anyone knows, a recipe calling for parsley can generally only be improved by swapping it for basil. My success rate with gardening may generally be going in reverse, but if there’s one thing I do have in abundance in the summer, it’s fresh herbs which grow in pots by the kitchen door.

Rosemary (available year round), oregano, thyme, mint, chives. Lots and lots. 

As for basil… Well, as anyone knows who’s ever planted it in the ground or in a pot placed on the ground, basil is slug bait. God knows why it is their absolute favourite thing to eat (demolish), but apparently it is. Some time ago I figured out how to solve this problem: put the basil in hanging pots where the slugs cannot reach it.

Every summer basil flourishes in this and another hanging pot. So much so that I always have enough left as the cold weather approaches to make and freeze (in ice cube trays) a big batch of pesto. (If only things in the actual garden did as well.)

Now, last night’s soundtrack…

If you’ve read Rum Do, you’ll know that Leonard Cohen (or at least one of his songs) puts in an appearance near the end. 

I finished Rum Do – or thought I did – in 2010 with Louie’s surprise appearance at Jessica’s party. And then I did nothing with it, because I didn’t like the ending. It was just too pat. It needed something else, but it took me months to figure it out. Then one day it came to me: Bill! I needed to bring Bill’s voice back into it. Bill to summarise events since the original ending in 2005 to the present in 2010. And then it became apparent to me that I needed to add a fourth narrator, Louisa, to round things up. A song for Louie to sing to Jessica, a song that said everything about their relationship. I knew immediately what it had to bel 

The CD was already playing last night as I finished making the risotto. With perfect timing this song came on just as I was sitting down to eat. 

As for last night’s dinner companion, a quick search confirms that I haven’t yet bigged up Khurrum Rahman. 

Last night wasn’t out first Sunday dinner together.

Three weeks ago I sat down with his first novel. 

I discovered Khurrum Rahman thanks to my friend Heather, who mentioned him in our Facebook readers group, saying when she did that the novel brought Mick Herron to mind. That was all I needed. Ordered the first book immediately from the library. In East of Hounslow we meet Jay, a not-terribly-devout-Muslim, low-level drug dealer who is recruited by MI5. That’s all I’m going to say, other than Jay is a very amusing narrator. (If you want to know more, here’s a review.)

A rather surprising ending prompted me to investigate, which led to the discovery that East of Hounslow was the first novel in a trilogy. Immediately ordered the second, Homegrown Hero, which arrived at the library this week. (As I’m pretty sure not many readers in Canada have discovered him, there was no waiting list.) Things are certainly ratchetting up for Jay.

The third novel, Ride or Die, has just been published. No sign of it yet at the library, so I suspect I’ll be purchasing this one. 

This isn’t quite as thrilling as discovering Mick Herron last year when he had an extensive back catalogue, but it’s definitely the most fun reading discovery so far in 2021. 

From → Blog

One Comment
  1. Susan Yates permalink

    Read this with breakfast and now I want asparagus risotto for dinner tonight and every night until I am weary of it. And I’m envious of your dinner companions Rahman and Cohen; I could perhaps invite them to my place later in August when I clear all the crap off my dining room table and don’t have to eat at the kitchen counter.

    One thing slugs devour more quickly than basil – beans of any kind – not a chance for those first tender shoots to even produce/keep one leaf. I grew 2 bean plants in a pot on top of my tomato cage – 5 feet above the ground. If I see any aerial slugs I’m going to chop them in half with a pair of garden shears like my neighbour does (she takes no prisoners).

    Susan >

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