By Anya Betina Phillips a guest of the Urban Rajah
I love gastronomic indulgence especially if it can help good causes. I don’t mean charity dinners where ‘nouveau riche’ wannabes attempt to hobnob with minor nobility, faded celebrities, and egocentric arty types for undisclosed eye-watering sums in the name of a charity which only a few remember – not my scene. I’m talking about succumbing to the seduction of a black forest gateau at my son’s nursery fundraising event. Keeping it real and honest.
A few weeks back though I had a completely different experience – as colourful as it was sumptuous, a taste bud feast and a gloriously warm evening. It was one of the Cash n Curry supper club events run by a dear friend of many talents. The evening was like the TV Campaign advertising Incredible India with the fare as far from the local Indian Curry House as Chennai is from London (Chennai is where the funds raised from the evening go to support children in slums). The Urban Rajah descended on the capital with his Cash n Curry Supper team and it was a tour-de-force of gastronomic performance.
Invited to the supper at an unfamiliar location with a bunch of strangers, we were a bit nervous, up until the point of being treated to sublime mango bellinis and before I caught a whiff of those Chappli Kebabs - little balls of heavenly chopped lamb steak. Their texture was amazing - forget the concrete smoothness of your regular kebab, these seemed to be finely chopped pieces of lamb, mixed with the smouldering spices, moulded into just the right bite-size “popcorn” proportions (begging me to carry on popping them in my mouth) all served with sweet and sour tomato chutney, which made me want to lick out the bowl and hunt for more. Having bonded over the kebab experience with other guests, we went down for a table service, my mind firmly fixed on that last kebab in the bowl (I should have finished it, no one would have noticed).
The sparkling sets of 5 little thali dishes on a metal tray sat on a gorgeously laid table – it felt that we were on a treasure hunt, having just opened the first key (kebabs!!!) and proceeding onto the next one. It promised a great adventure. The menu read Uncle Stan's Lamb Quorma, Prawn Tang, Aloo Ghobi, Baby Aubergines stuffed with sweet and sour mint, cardamom scented rice – all to be placed in the gorgeous little bowls sitting on my tray. The eyes and nose went into the sensory overdrive with marigold, dark purple/brownish, green, white and intense brown colours all in those thali dishes. I was eating like it was no tomorrow.
Uncle Stan obviously knew a thing or two about lamb. The quorma was super tender and delicate in flavour, and the prawn tang was beautifully rich and warm, bursting with zing in the mouth. But the absolute champions for me were the incredible baby aubergines covered inside out with the glorious mint masala. Gorgeously compact plump brown and indigo creations they were sweet and spicy at the same time. We soothed our fiery throats with the freshest cucumber raitha in between the dishes until all sat back in gastronomic exhaustion.
But that was not all. Our host then produced Carrot Halwa shot with pistachios and sultanas – luscious and gorgeously fragrant. I halted my approach for seconds as the fresh mint tea arrived served with Indian fudge (five or six different types!!!)
Somehow we still found some capacity not to just digest but also to laugh and have great banter with other quests and our amazing Cash n Curry team, who made us feel like maharajas. It was a hugely satisfying experience on so many levels. So if you hear of a Cash n Curry supper club happening near you, book yourself in immediately, it will be one of the best evenings you’ll experience whilst making a difference to vulnerable children in the land which gave birth to this great culinary tradition.