A King's Feast Before the Battle of Pangbourne

Friday 10/12/2004

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Diary and Notes

When I die and go to wherever people like me go (Basingstoke I believe), I hope that I get the chance to meet the spirit of the once great king, Xerxes of Persia. Now I must confess, I'm not a great expert on Xerxes, nor Persia (ancient Iran) for that matter, but what I do know is; if we meet and I get to cook him dinner, this is what he will get. I will lay before the man who once led an army of a million men into Greece, sacked Athens and burned the Acropolis, a feast so glorious, that he will name me as his head chef in his quest to conquer Reading (not far from Basingstoke where we will be living) and regail me in fine raiment, give me camels and horses and offer me twenty virgins to make my harem. (I am an optimist you must realise).

How do I know that old Xerxes will be so generous? And after only one meal? Because I have eaten this meal and I doubt Xerxes ever had one finer. Yes, he may have had more choice at dinner. Yes, he undoubtedly had great chefs who could roast whole bulls over giant fires, make delicate flavourings from the herbs of his vast kitchen gardens (Xerxes will have already defeated the people of Newbury and turned the entire town into a great herb garden) and all the sweetmeats and delicacies of Wokingham will be his to command, but he will have nothing so tasty as this Persian style curry that I will offer him.

It will bring a tear to his eye to be reminded of all the flavours of the East in one simple dish.

If this were not the Nosh-Blog challenge I doubt I would ever have made this. My necessity for variety forced me to experiment a little and this was the result. The dish isn't really Persian, but it is Persian inspired. I was planning to make something using pickled Iranian lemons that you can get from Asian grocers in Britain, but I couldn't find any here, so I cooked something else instead. A chicken and cream curry with dried apricots and figs. It sounds a little strange, but is just fantastic.

And was it really that good Jon? I suggest you cook it yourself and see.

I used chicken on the bone and thus made up for the chicken breast fiasco of yesterday. I didn't make the vegetable paratha but bought some frozen ones, they were really quite excellent. The rice cooked with loads of bay leaves was simple yet tasty. If you have a go at this curry, try to get the apricots and figs that aren't really dry and hard, the ones that are still squidgy are just right. I also had a pomegranate lassi to drink as well and although there was no dessert, I think my new best friend Xerxes wont complain.

All hail King Xerxes, ruler of all Hampshire (except of course Mapledurwell, where the crazy, wild men live).

Cake Blog

A very sad apple and almond cake. The worst one I've had since arriving in Germany.


  • Lentil and Chicken Soup.

  • Persian Style Chicken,
  • Vegetable Paratha,
  • Laurel Rice.

  • Pomegranate Lassi.


  • Soup: Brown Lentils, Chicken Stock, Curry Sauce, Chicken, Garam Masala, Salt, Black Pepper.
  • Chicken: Chicken, Lemons, Vegetable Oil, Cardamon Pods, Cinammon, Onion Seeds, Turmeric, Black Pepper, Fennel Seeds, Dried Apricots, Dried Figs, Curry Sauce, Cream, Chicken Stock, Garam Masala, Fresh Coriander, Fresh Chillis.
  • Rice: Basmati Rice, Lemon, Bay Leaves.
  • Lassi: Pomegranate, yoghurt, milk, lemon zest, black pepper.


  • Joint the chicken, take off the legs and breast (still on the bone) and remove the skin. The legs and breast are for the Perisan style chicken, the rest is for stock and soup. Start bubbling all the soup chicken in some water (with a lid on) before you start everything else, this way you'll have a chickeny flavoured base for the soup. When it's been boiling for a while, remove the chicken bits, clean off any remaining meat for use in the soup. It's not necessary to boil this as long as for normal chicken stock, what you really want is just chicken flavoured broth.
  • Soup: Boil some lentils until quite soft. Drain and rinse well. Simmer gently in some chicken stock and curry sauce for at least an hour. When the lentils have been cooking for a good while, add any bits of meat left on the stock chicken, some salt and black pepper. Using a spud basher, mash the soup until most of the lentils are broken (leaving some for texture), taste and add more garam masala, curry sauce, salt and pepper if necessary. Leave to simmer. The longer it's cooked, the better it will be.
  • Chicken: Rub the skinned chicken joints in some vegetable oil, place in an overnrpoof dish. Over the chicken sprinkle some turmeric, lots of green cardamon pods, some stick cinammon, a few fennel seeds, the onion seeds and some black pepper. Chop the lemons into chucnks and place in with the chicken. Mix everything together to make sure the chicken is covered with the spices and lemons. Bake in an oven for 3/4 hour. When cooked, take the chicken out and dust off any of the spices. Drain the liquid (which should be very lemony), discard the spices and lemons. Chop the dried aprocots and figs into halves (remove the tops of the figs if they are hard) Place the chicken back in the dish with the chopped dried fruit and pour on the lemony juice. Make a sauce by mixing some curry sauce, chicken stock and cream (about 1:1:2 proportions) and pour over the chicken. Bake for another 1/2 an hour. When cooked, sprinkle with fresh coriander and some finely chopped green chillis.
  • Rice: Rinse some basmati rice. Simmer gently with the juice of a lemon and loads of bay leaves. When cooked drain, remove the bay leaves and fluff up with a fork.
  • Lassi: Chop the pomegranates into halves and using a lemon squeezer or your hands, squeeze as much juice out of them as possible. Zest a lemon and place in with the juice, a very small grind of black pepper, some natural yoghurt and milk. Mix and chill in the fridge.