Yusuf Islam, the Cat of Old

You ever had one of those days when you get home from work, your tired, but you carry on working because there always seems far more to do than time to do it in? you feel like you want to find a way of picking yourself up out of whatever temporary rut you feel yourself in? Well yesterday was like that I think I must have stopped around 11ish. Rather than hit the sack I made myself some tea ( courtesy of Zach ), and started to flick through channels. I’ve noticed that I have a tendency to do that, a lot! there’s nothing you actually want to watch, so you just flick through until something vaguely interesting catches your eye. And something did, I stopped on BBC Four and caught the last few minutes of Alan Yentob’s Interview with Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens), from 2006.

I’d never seen the full interview before, and yet the image I was confronted with on the screen, of this bearded man playing this acoustic guitar and singing in this beautifully melodic voice just made me want to listen (at the 45 minute mark). It was curious I suppose that I’d tuned in just in time to listen to Alan Yentob ask him the question”:

“After all those years of resistance you’ve now picked up the guitar again. Do you think you have allowed yourself to sort of take a position you didnt feel this literalism about Islam which a lot of people find difficult to accept. Some people might say to that extent you’ve been brainwashed perhaps?”

Yusuf Islam:
“The positions that I took previously, I held fast to them because I believed them to be true. However, one only has to look at history, it wasn’t long ago when we discover, guess what, the guitar was probably introduced to Europe, through Spain by the Muslims. Now I’m saying, hang on, What? you know… and thats a reality. When I learned something better I moved, and that’s what you’ve got to do. I think we must not, ever, take the position that we know it all. God may show you something you never knew yesterday,we’ve got to be ready for that” …

Alan Yentob:
“Is there a message in these songs as you pick up this guitar again?”

Yusuf Islam:
“There is certainly a change in the wind and the way in which there is now a chance for a new understanding of the moderate middle path of Islam because the extremes have been exposed. A lot of people have missed the whole point, including some Muslims, who have gone off on some kind of..their own..strategy of trying to improve the world through some kind of devious means that has nothing to do with Islam, and yet is supposed to be in the name of Islam. The word Islam itself comes from the word ‘peace’ now that is the heart and soul of this religion. I discovered that, I’ve done that journey and perhaps I can help others to feel a bit more assured that in fact a lot of Muslims in this world, the vast majority just want to live a happy life and be at peace with the rest of the world”

I think there’s something wonderfully uplifting in his words, and in his music. His sentiments are nothing new to many muslims yet sadly social the perception of Islam and Muslims seems to be growing more and more negative as the actions of an extremist minority are used to label all Muslims are radicals. In fact I remember storming off in a rage as I watched the European election results and listened to Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, explain that stopping the spread of radical Islam was one of the reasons people had voted for him.

After the interview ended the BBC aired a hour long ‘BBC Four Session’ featuring Yusuf singing a number of his songs, both old and new, from a concert in Porchester Hall several years ago. I stayed up and watched the show and found myself being moved more and more by his songs and their message. I even ended up downloading several of his recent albums on iTunes as I watched the performance on tv – although I’m not sure if my colleagues appreciated that since I was humming, and singing along to them as I worked in the office today 🙂

Rather than pick up the laptop and work this evening, I decided to see if I could find that interview and watch it all, sadly BBC iPlayer doesn’t have it, however it does still have the ‘BBC Four Session – Yusuf Islam‘ which is available to watch – it’s a wonderful concert, an inspired performance which I certainly recommend.

After searching on Google I did eventually find the Interview, there’s a copy hosted on Google Video ( disclaimer: it’s hosted by an organisation called ‘Turn To Islam’. I have no idea what this organisation is, I simply wanted to link to the video). I’m glad I watched it all Yusuf describes his early life, his celebrity status, his, his conversion to islam, and his return to performing. Perhaps the most moving part of the interview is when he describes his battle with tuberculosis – which will resonate with anyone who has ever found themselves lying in a hospital bed reflecting on their life, and where they are headed, particularly when he says “.. in that hospital I developed some insights which then later fed into my music … into my journey” … a poignant sentiment that touched me deeply given my own experience.

Yusuf Islam is an amazing man, who truly inspires.

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade

It’s not often I watch an anime, or any movie, that not only moves me but forces me to ask questions about society and our shared humanity. Jin-Roh is a title that has hovered around my awareness for years but I’ve never gotten around to watching it, at least not until today. It’s an exquisite work that transcends genre.

The story is complex and full of depth and some strong characterization, this a very serious movie; so for those who Ilike your robots and bikini girls, with hyper-guns and the whoosh of rapid-fire manga, this is probably not for you! This movie is thoughtful and contemplative … and will leave you feeling introspective.

The story is set in an alternate reality in which Japan has emerged from the second world war as Totalitarian society… The population riots, a group called the Sect creates havoc, and the armored Special Unit of the Capitol Police Organization (CAPO) plots to acquire more power. A soldier named Fuse, who was once one of the most formidable men in the Special Unit, agonizes over the death of a young girl who worked for the Sect and in doing so he becomes a neurotic mess intent on befriending the dead girl’s sister.

The opening ten minutes of the movie hooks you, it begins with a chase under the streets of a rioting city in whic two groups, Sect and the CAPO, which represent two diametrically opposed points of view come into violent conflict. Away from the riots, and killing, a heavily armed trooper hunts and corners a mule, a young girl carrying explosives for use against the police forces. The rest of movie is revolves entirely around the question of why the soldier does not shoot her, its a question that occupies the lead character, his co-workers and us as the audience as we watch him and wonder we can’t let go of her self imposed death. This is a slow serious story, about suicide bombings, and blindly following orders, and humanity’s growth or lack of growth.

What surprised me the most was how much this story borrowed heavily from the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, it’s difficult to go into examples with ruining the rest of the story, however the female terrorists who carry bombs for the Sect are known as “Red Riding Hoods,” and Kei, reads a bloody version of the tale to Fuse throughout the film. The dialogue is fully of ethical question and moralistic observations, consantly question what it means to be human, for example when Fuse superior observes:

“We aren’t men disguised as dogs. We’re wolves disguised as men.”

and he also when another of his superiors makes observation with regards to society:

.”.. apparently some animals when they dominate a group kill all the offspring of the other males under them, sometimes organisations do the same”

In my opinion Jin-Roh is a true masterpiece, and anyone who watches it will not be disappointed.

Anime Reviews: Afro Samurai Resurrection, plus more.

Afro Samurai:Resurrection
Last September I reviewed Afro Samurai which was one of the best anime’s I’d seen in a long time. By the end of the first movie Afro had avenged his father and found a life of peace. In this sequel that peace is shattered by the arrival of a woman from his past (Sio, voiced by Lucy Liu) who is intent in schooling Afro in the same brutal lessons he dealt those who stood in his way as he searched for the number one headband. In a revenge fuelled attack, Sio steals the number 1 headband as well as the skull of Afro’s dead father. With this she intends to resurrect Afro’s late father and torture him. This movie sees Afro restart his journey, he must first find the Number Two Headband so that he can earn the right to challenge Sio. Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as Afro and again provides the voice of ‘Ninja Ninja’ Afro’s imaginary who symbolizes his inner feelings and always acts as the voice of Afro’s conscience.
Like the original series, Afro Samurai provides some great action with plenty of gore and limbs flying around the place, as well as the usual bittersweet, and often tragic drama that asks some pretty profound morale questions. The visual style of the animation is stunning, as is the musical score, which was performed once again by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. It’s a great continuation of one the best anime series I’ve seen in a long time.

Hellsing – The Collection
The Hellsing Organization is a supernatural collective dedicated to protecting mankind from a war that rages in the Earth’s shadows in which humanity is only a pawn. Able to keep the dark forces at bay for so long, Hellsing has recently been coming across artificially spawned vampires so powerful that they can do nothing to stop them. So, the Organization calls in Alucard, a rogue vampire who combats this army of the undead with Seras Victoria, a female companion he rescued from death by vampirising. Whilst I found this series entertaining, and I did enjoy it a lot. It didn’t really feel like it had any depth. The series tries to build an aura of mystery surrounding Alucard and yet never really succeeds in explaining why such a powerful vampire decided to become a servant to a human master. Everyone should also also realise fairly quickly that ‘Alucard’ is an anagram of ‘Dracula’.

Mysterious Cities of Gold
Ok, so this isn’t really what I’d class as anime, but it is animation 😉 I recall how much in enjoyed this series as a child and couldn’t resist purchasing it when it became available last year. It’s take a while to watch it all, and I can report that it is still as wonderful now as it was then. For those who have never seen this or even heard of it, I recommend it thoroughly. This series comes from an era when story telling was paramount, watching it again I was surprised at how the series, although humorous and fun, required more maturity on the part of the audience than the sort of vacuous cartoons kids seem to watch these days. Plus I’ve always loved the opening score …

… i’m married :)

Many people have been mailing me and asking why I haven’t blogged in a few months, and where I have been. Well in short I took a month off to get married to Sadia 🙂 We are both very happy ;-). I’ve started putting pictures of our wedding into a set on flickr here, as well as some general scenic shots taken around Kashmir into a different set here. I have around 3,500 photos to organise and upload so you’ll have to bear with me 😉 Here’s a couple from the wedding pictures set:

Seth Godin on the tribes we lead

Seth Godin argues the Internet has ended mass marketing and revived a human social unit from the distant past: tribes. Founded on shared ideas and values, tribes give ordinary people the power to lead and make big change. He urges us to do so.

This is a great talk by Seth Godin, here’s how he describes Tribes …

What tribes are, is a very simple concept that goes back 50 thousand years. It’s about leading and connecting people and ideas. And it’s something that people have wanted forever. Lots of people are used to having a spiritual tribe, or a church tribe, having a work tribe, having a community tribe. But now, thanks to the internet, thanks to the explosion of mass media, thanks to a lot of other things that are bubbling through our society around the world, tribes are everywhere.

The internet was supposed to homogenize everyone by connecting us all. Instead what it’s allowed is silos of interest. So you’ve got the red-hat ladies over here. You’ve got the red-hat triathletes over there. You’ve got the organized armies over here. You’ve got the disorganized rebels over here. You’ve got people in white hats making food. And people in white hats sailing boats. The point is that you can find Ukrainian folk dancers. And connect with them … You can tell when you’re running into someone in a tribe. And it turns out that it’s tribes, not money, not factories, that can change our world, that can change politics, that can align large numbers of people. Not because you force them to do something against their will. But because they wanted to connect … That what we do for a living now, all of us, I think, is find something worth changing, and then assemble tribes that assemble tribes that spread the idea and spread the idea. And it becomes something far bigger than ourselves.

The talk resonates deeply with me at the moment particularly given that I’m currently thinking long and hard about what leadership actually means, how to build teams, what to look for when recruiting people, how to ensure everyone feels that they are empowered and that their contributions are valued. However the more I think about it the more I’m beginning to believe that whilst its possible to create an environment in which people can have the freedom to affect change it ultimately requires the individual to first believe in what they are doing, to have committed to it and to the people around them. They will then want to move things forward, improve things, affect real change and want to break the status quo. Seth crystallizes this sentiment beautifully in this talk when he says …

What all these people have in common is that they are heretics. That heretics look at the status quo and say, This will not stand. I can’t abide this status quo. I am willing to stand up and be counted and move things forward. I see what the status quo is. I don’t like it. That instead of looking at all the little rules and following each one of them, that instead of being what I call a sheepwalker, somebody who’s half asleep, following instructions, keeping their head down, fitting in, every once in a while someone stands up and says, “Not me.” Someone stands up and says, “This one is important. We need to organize around it.” And not everyone will. But you don’t need everyone. You just need a few people (Laughter) who will look at the rules, realize they make no sense, and realize how much they want to be connected.

You don’t need permission from people to lead them. But in case you do, here it is. They’re waiting, we’re waiting for you to show us where to go next. So here is what leaders have in common. The first thing is, they challenge the status quo. They challenge what’s currently there. The second thing is, they build a culture. A secret language, a seven second handshake. A way of knowing that you’re in or out. They have curiosity. Curiosity about people in the tribe. Curiosity about outsiders. They’re asking questions. They connect people to one another. Do you know what people want more than anything? They want to be missed. They want to be missed the day they don’t show up. They want to be missed when they’re gone. And tribe leaders can do that. It’s fascinating because all tribe leaders have charisma. But you don’t need charisma to become a leader. Being a leader gives you charisma. If you look and study the leaders who have succeeded, that’s where charisma comes from, from the leading. Finally, they commit. They commit to the cause. They commit to the tribe. They commit to the people who are there.

This is a great, passionate and deeply profound talk and I recommend everyone take the time to watch it.

2009 an update …

During a conversation with a certain cat loving friend of mine earlier on in the week it was suggested to me that its been a while since I’ve blogged anything other than short pieces highlighting bits of news or content out there on the web. She’s absolutely right. So here’s an update on 2009 so far, and what the next few months hold …

The last three or four months have been particularly busy for me. I took a long holiday before Christmas in order to give myself time to reflect on everything that happened in 2008. As far as year’s go it pretty much sucked! I had a lot of personal stuff to deal with most of it around coping, or failing to cope, with the deaths of a number of people who were close to me – including my father. I’m pretty good at burying myself in work as a way of not having to deal with other things unfortunately that only works for so long, in fact I’m surprised I actually got to the end of the year before finally accepting that things were broken inside. I’m lucky though, I have a lot people around me who keep an eye on me, and care enough to give me a kick when I need it – and they did. I was convinced to switch off from work and everything related to work and focus on dealing with the things that I knew I needed to.My hiatus over christmas was spent with my family trying to understand everything that had happened last year which inevitably meant finally accepting that I needed to grieve.

I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel;
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.

     from In Memorium, Alfred Lord Tennyson

So I wanted to firmly place the events of 2008 in the past and move forwards again. 2008 was painful and difficult yet I also enjoyed a number of personal and professional successes. In 2009 I want build on those successes, and leave the past firmly where it is.

In terms of my personal life there are already some big changes I’m in making but I’ll leave discussing that for another day, suffice to say that I think I’m happier now than I have been in years :).

Professionally I was appointed Head of Development for our Xiphos Division at Talis. I’m still trying to settle into the role which brings its own challenges 🙂 . However leading up to christmas our division had successfully entered into piloting a new product called Aspire at Plymouth University and since then it’s also been deployed as part of a wider pilot at Sussex University. Functionally Aspire is a resource lists product that helps lecturers and students make best use of the educational material for their courses. Technically Aspire is a Linked Data application built directly on top of our Talis Platform, a platform that provides the infrastructure for building Semantic Web applications. I’m loving the work, its technically very challenging there’s so many different things that need to be considered. Lots of people and organisations are talking about the semantic web but there’s only a relatively small number of organisations that are actually building real world products and solutions using these technologies – products and solutions that are actually targeted at end users – for me this is primarily why the work is both exciting and hugely rewarding.

Building Aspire is forcing us to innovate and explore ideas and possibilities that we might not have otherwise considered. A case in point is the way in which we have embedded RDFa into the our list page and our editing tool manipulates this model directly within the HTML DOM simplifying the process. This is discussed in a W3C Case Study, and was commented upon by Ivan Hermann last month. Much of the work we are doing at the moment is around adding more features to Aspire during our beta phase. Whilst part of this will be around specific features aimed at users, we are also looking at linking to other data sets and exploring what we else can do within this ecosystem of rich semantic data.

Finally, I mentioned on several occasions last year about work I was doing in my own time around building a tool that aided in visualising and exploring the socio-semantic web. That work got shelved towards the end of 2008 largely because I couldn’t focus on it with everything else that was going on. However a new year, a new beginning means that project now has a new lease of life … and it finally has a name: Omnius. It’s named after a thinking machine from the Legends of Dune series which I was re-reading around the time I was thinking about a name for this project. I had actually wanted to call it Erasmus but that name had already been taken on google code ( and erasmus_browser sounded sucky! ). I’ve created home for this project on google code, I’ll be adding more information very soon. However please remember I am only working on this during my spare time, for me its both a hobby and an interesting technical (and UX) diversion … it hasn’t yet turned into an obsession so the rate at which I’ll be adding to it is limited in terms of the time I’m able to devote to it 🙂

… so watch this space.

The Palestinian Perspective: What the world looks like from the West Bank


When I first visited the Palestinian territories, I was afraid I would have to hide my identity as an American and possibly wear a headscarf. To my surprise, I was warmly welcomed exactly as I was, and after more than two years living and working there, it remains one of my favorite spots on earth. The people are charming and generous, the landscape is gorgeous, and the parties, concerts, and beer gardens in Ramallah are world-class.

But behind all this looms the conflict, the occupation, and violence. Since September 2000, more than 5,500 Palestinians and 1,100 Israelis have been killed. A series of walls, fences, roadblocks, checkpoints, army bases, and settlements keep the Palestinians in the West Bank under an almost constant state of siege and strangle the economy of many towns and villages, including Bethlehem. Gaza has been turned into an open-air prison whose desperate inmates can only get vital supplies through smuggling tunnels — which also transport weapons that Palestinian militants use to target Israeli civilians.

Using photographs, stories, and statistics, this presentation colors in the Palestinian experience, with all its complexity and contradictions, as it is rarely shown on the news or in books. It is a fascinating world of beauty and terror, of hospitality and homicide, of the absurd and the sublime constantly together — a microcosmic view of a little-understood human story with global implications.

Speaker: Pamela Olson
Pamela Olson graduated from Stanford in 2002 with a major in physics. She lived in Ramallah, West Bank, for a year and a half beginning in the summer of 2004 and worked as a journalist for the Palestine Monitor. She interviewed the first elected female mayor in the West Bank, witnessed the 2005 Disengagement from inside the Gaza Strip, and served as the foreign press coordinator for Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi’s Presidential campaign against Mahmoud Abbas in January 2005. She later worked for a year at the Institute for Defense Analyses in Washington, DC. She is now writing a book about her time in the West Bank called Fast Times in Palestine.

This was an unusual subject for a Google Tech Talk, part of me thinks it might have been more appropriate under the authors@google series, largely to head off the kind of flame wars this topic seems to illicit. That being said it is an incredibly moving talk about life in the West Bank. There are parts of her talk that fill me with hope and others that fill me with despair. Her description of the west bank as a huge ‘open air prison’ is a heart breaking image.

Wolverines Archers, first shoot of 2009

Last weekend waf fairly tumultuous it began with me discovering that my kitchen had been completely flooded, and ended with me winning my first ever archery medal. I’ll be honest I was pretty upset when I discovered my kitchen was under four inches of water, fortunately my younger brother was on hand to help sort it out, as was the rest of my family, even Richard rushed over to help out when he heard what had happened. Thankfully the damage wasn’t too bad after a week or so of drying out and removing the flooring it looks like all that needs doing is to re-floor the kitchen and it should be right as rain 😉

The following morning Richard picked me up pretty earlier for out first official archery shoot of 2009. It was a special invitation only shoot hosted by our friends at Wolverines Archers near Stoke. Im guessing there were at least a hundred or so archers there, all the pegs were pretty much full. I ended up shooting in a group comprising of three compound archers and me with my HT recurve and wooden arrows. I don’t have anything against compound archers, in fact I quite enjoy shooting with them it tends to make me more competitive and consequently I concentrate more. An archer shooting with a recurve and wooden arrows is never going to keep up with a compound with carbon arrows, but the fun is actually in trying to keep up with them. Richard always says the same, that trying to keep up with them makes you focus more.

That certainly worked for me, at the end of the day I came third in my category and was awarded a bronze medal! I know a lot of the other archers in my category, you get to know everyone since its often the same crowd of people at the same events. Many of them are far more experienced than I am, so I was pretty proud – still am 😉 Everyone in the team cheered me on which was a great feeling!

Looks my next shoot is on the 8th of Feb, lets hope I do as well. As always pictures from the day are on my flickr account here.

Jerusalem – James Fenton

Alan and Fiona gave me a copy of Being Alive for Christmas. It’s an anthology of poems dealing with many themes and written by many many different authors. It is a wonderful gift and one that I’m really enjoying 🙂

Within the covers of this book I found a poem entitled Jerusalem by James Fenton. It seemed apt to share this poem given the current crisis in Gaza.

It’s hard to watch such scenes and remain dispassionate. It’s a conflict, and indeed a place, that polarizes opinion. Yet it disturbs me that Israel as a nation seems to have forgotten that no nation in history has succeeded, through force of arms, to subjugate an entire population forever. During the second world war Hitler came to the same realization and devised his ‘Final solution to the problem of the Jews’ which culminated in one of the most barbaric and evil acts in human history – the Holocaust. Yet sixty years on we now hear of Israeli ministers talking about a their own final solution or Holocaust in Gaza. It strikes me as paradoxical that people are often doomed to become the very thing they loathe the most, we are doomed to become what we behold. I recall vividly the moment when a Jewish friend of mine told me that in her opinion

the only the thing the leaders in Israel learn’t from the holocaust was how to become Nazi’s themselves.

I recall how shocked I was at that statement, it felt wrong. It felt especially wrong that a Jewish person could make such a comparison. As I watch the news reports though, and as I listen to the rhetoric coming out of Tel Aviv – I wonder if history will prove her right?

Getting back to the poem, I think it is extremely poignant and made so by the conflicting claims the city inspires which are expressed in the poem as alternating, mutually exclusive statements – this structure is a striking metaphor in itself.

Stone cries to stone,
Heart to heart, heart to stone,
And the interrogation will not die
For there is no eternal city
And there is no pity
And there is nothing underneath the sky
No rainbow and no guarantee –
There is no covenant between your God and me.

It is superb in the air.
Suffering is everywhere
And each man wears his suffering like a skin.
My history is proud.
Mine is not allowed.
This is the cistern where all wars begin,
The laughter from the armoured car.
This is the man who won’t believe you’re what you are.

This is your fault.
This is a crusader vault.
The Brook of Kidron flows from Mea She’arim.
I will pray for you.
I will tell you what to do.
I’ll stone you. I shall break your every limb.
Oh, I am not afraid of you,
But maybe I should fear the things you make me do.

This is not Golgotha.
This is the Holy Sepulchre,
The Emperor Hadrian’s temple to a love
Which he did not much share.
Golgotha could be anywhere.
Jerusalem itself is on the move.
It leaps and leaps from hill to hill
And as it makes its way it also makes its will.

The city was sacked.
Jordan was driven back.
The pious Christians burned the Jews alive.
This is a minaret.
I’m not finished yet.
We’re waiting for reinforcements to arrive.
What was your mother’s real name?
Would it be safe today to go to Bethlehem?

This is the Garden Tomb.
No, this is the Garden Tomb.
I’m an Armenian. I am a Copt.
This is Utopia.
I came here from Ethiopia.
This hole is where the flying carpet dropped
The Prophet off to pray one night
And from here one hour later he resumed his flight.

Who packed your bag?
I packed my bag.
Where was your uncle’s mother’s sister born?
Have you ever met an Arab?
Yes, I am a scarab.
I am a worm. I am a thing of scorn.
I cry Impure from street to street
And see my degradation in the eyes I meet.

I am your enemy.
This is Gethsemane.
The broken graves look to the Temple Mount.
Tell me now, tell me when
When shall we all rise again?
Shall I be first in that great body count?
When shall the tribes be gathered in?
When, tell me, when shall the Last Things begin?

You are in error.
This is terror.
This is your banishment. This land is mine.
This is what you earn.
This is the Law of No Return.
This is the sour dough, this the sweet wine.
This is my history, this my race
And this unhappy man threw acid in my face.

Stone cries to stone,
Heart to heart, heart to stone.
These are the warrior archaeologists.
This is us and that is them.
This is Jerusalem.
These are dying men with tattooed wrists.
Do this and I’ll destroy your home.
I have destroyed your home.  You have destroyed my home.

     by James Fenton

Mutton and Potato Curry

In response to being tagged by Rob, I’ve decied to share a family recipe. This is a not so traditional way of making a curry that is a staple in any Pakistani/Kashmiri household. A few years ago my sister, Salma, who is a far better cook than I am, showed me an easier way to make a curry than the traditional method I learned as a youngster. Her method results in the same exceptional flavours and tastes but the early stages don’t feel quite so laborious (no burning/toasting spices etc. ). I was quite amused as I jotted down notes while making this dish, I’ve done it hundreds of times and yet never thought about it. In fact writing out a recipe just feels wrong! I never learned to cook this by following a recipe, I learned by watching my mother cook when I was a kid, it’ bloody hard trying to quantify the amount of ingredients or spices since I just normally do it by instinct – something my sister didn’t hesitate to comment on by saying:

Your instructions will be hard to follow, why do you want to write it as a recipe on a stupid website, it’s easier to invite you friends round and just show them how to make it, by cooking it for them.

I’m hoping some of you prove her wrong, else I’ll have to start inviting people round, as a matter of honour!

Mutton and Potato Curry ( serves 4-6 )


  • Diced Mutton Shoulder (2lb)
  • 4 medium sized onions
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • Table Spoon of grated Ginger
  • 1 Red Pepper
  • 1 bunch of Corriander
  • 1 bunch of Methri ( Fenugreek )
  • Half a dozen small green chillies
  • 4 table spoons of Sunflower Oil
  • A cup full of Passata
  • Curry Powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground Corriander
  • 1 teaspoon of Garam Masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • A dozen small new potatoes
  • One jug of cold water
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  • Start off by chopping up onions into either a rough dice or fairly course slices. Also chop up the chillies and the garlic and place in a large cooking pot. Grate the ginger into the pot it’s up to you how much use, as is the case with garlic and chillies, these amounts reflect how much I normally use when cooking 2lb of Mutton. Add the meat to the pot. Also add 2 tablespoons of curry powder ( or less if you dont want it too hot ), add the passata, the sunflower oil, some salt and pepper. Stir the pot well making sure the meat is covered evenly by the passata, oil and curry powder.
  • Place the pot on your cooker and turn the heat all the way up! ( trust me! ) cover the pot with a lid and leave it there for a few minutes. What should happen is that as the heat quickly builds up in the pot the meat will start to release its own liquid and juices and within about five minutes if you take the lid off you should see theres enough liquid to almost cover the meat, without you having to add any extra. At this point chop and add all the corriander stalks you have to the pot, and stir. Then cover, ensure the lid remains on, and the heat high for about a quarter of an hour. Then take the lid off and stir well before, replacing the lid and simmering on a low heat for about 40 minutes. During this period you might want to stir the mixture a couple of times to ensure it doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom.
  • After forty minutes the meat should be tender(, if it isn’t you might want to add some water, bring to the boil and continue to simmer until it is tender). With the meat tender, remove the lid and turn the heat up. You need to continuously stir to prevent the mixture sticking to the pan and burning since you need to completely dry it out. You’ll know you are done when the oil has completely seperated from any residual liquid and the meat with its viscous spicy coating takes on a dark color. Also at this stage the onions and other ingredients you added should have completely dissolved and disappeared into the mixture.
  • Chop up and add the fenugreek, also add the ground corriander and the garam masala at this stage and stir well into the viscous mixture.
  • *Note: This used to be stage of cooking where, as a kid, I’d sneak into the kitchen and pick out a piece of meat, put a sprig of corriander on it and pop it into my mouth before my mom caught me. The explosion of spices with the corriander will blow your head off if you aren’t used to hot spices but it tastes divine. By the way the process of stirring and drying out all the liquid is what we refer to as ‘Bhuna’, if you’re ever in an Indian/Pakistani/Kashmiri restaurant and you see a ‘Bhuna’ dish on the menu it’s effectively a curry served at this stage.
  • With the bhuna dry and the spices mixed in, add the potatoes and stir in.
  • Cover the entire mixture with a jug of water, and bring to the boil. Leave it boiling for about 5 – 8 minutes. Then simmer on a medium heat for a further 15.
  • After simmering add all the chopped up corriander leaf and stir in. Also sprinkle the cumin on and either leave it to rest, or leave it on a very low heat. At this point you are ready to serve, which you can do so with rice or chappati’s.


Given that my instructions might not be the easiest to follow :p I took a load of pictures as I was cooking this and have posted them, with captions, in a set, on flickr!

Hope you enjoy it!