Monday, 6 April 2009

Classical British Shepherd's Pie (With Some Minor Modifications)

It's been over a year since I wrote about a BBC wireless radio broadcast. It won't surprise anyone to hear that Radio 4 is not exactly my favourite communications medium. Indeed, I don't think I could receive it here at all, except by searching around the web live streaming channels and P2P networks. So I'm grateful for the occasional clip that's sent to me and here's one I really enjoyed.

The Settler's Cookbook, by Yasmin Alibhai-BrownRadio 4's Book Of The Week a few weeks ago was The Settler's Cookbook by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown - one of Britain's best known journalists. A leading commentator on race, multiculturalism and human rights, Yasmin has written for The Guardian, Observer, The New York Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek, The Evening Standard, The Mail, The Independent and the Evening Standard - and still manages to find the spare time in-between to write a few books. In her latest work, she reads her memoirs of childhood in Uganda and the family's move to Britain in the 1970s when Ugandian Asians were expelled by Idi Amin.

It's not a cookbook, of course. It's the story of Yasmin's family migration from India to Uganda and eventually to Britain. But the tale of race, culture and politics during a turbulent period of history is told against the background story of a shared family experience of cooking.

In the section from which this clip is extracted, Yasmin talks of how she received "English cooking" lessons in school from well-meaning but implacably racist teachers bent on civilising the "chocolates". The description of the shepherd's pie as tasting "like milky newspaper" brings back awful memories of my own schooldays. But Yasmin's mother Jena knew how to solve the problem... with a few minor modifications.

If the audio doesn't play first time, click on the play arrow a second time

The wonderfully evocative voice reciting the recipe is that of playwright and actor Sudha Bhuchar.
A tribute to Jena, last seen improving the food in Jannah by adding a pinch of garam masala.


The Boston Foodie said...

Nice! I like Sheperd's Pie but am always looking for ways to spice it up. And btw FRONT ROW on BBC4 is a podcast always loaded up here for my weekly commutes.

Pille said...

How cool! I've actually interviwed Yasmin Alibai-Brown in her home in London few years ago about media and identity :) Will head over to to order the book right now (thanks for the tip!)

Trig said...

I know Yasmin's views can be a bit controversial at times, but I thought the extract I published from her book was just so witty. Right down to the "...until nicely brown on top" comment at the end of the recipe. The bit before that really did refer to a white cookery teacher praising "my little chocolates". At least that's racism you can laugh at.

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