I read a much shorter book this week – The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid – so was able to make up time and stay on target to complete my challenge. Phew!
The Reluctant Fundamentalist is not really what I expected, I think perhaps I got it confused in my head with another book and so it was not at all as radical as I was expecting. Funny how your preconceptions of something can colour the way you read something.
A young Pakistani, Changez, sits in a Lahori cafe with an American stranger. Over the course of their evening, he tells the American of his own experiences of life in America – first in his college days at Princeton and then as he makes a career for himself on Wall Street. Whilst at Princeton, Changez falls in love with Erica, who has no shortage of suitors. The two become close and have a relationship of sorts, but she is still in love with her childhood sweetheart who died a few years earlier. Changez is very successful, becoming the star of the prestigious firm he has been hired at. But then the 9/11 attacks happen and life for Changez is never the same – his experiences of being a Muslim Pakistani living in New York drastically alter the way he comes to view America. He becomes deeply torn and his life spirals off course.
It’s a very interesting book – brief in terms of action but yet still loaded with connotations and thought provoking subject matter. I would say that much of the ‘action’ is very much implied, it’s very internal and so it’s left to the reader to interpret the truth – for we only hear Changez’s account of his life in New York. Because we never hear from the American stranger, we never really discover who he is and why he is there. He is untrusting of Changez, but why? Changez himself skirts around the issue, denying any wrongdoing of any kind.
I found it interesting that this book was Booker nominated. Whilst reading it, I did wonder if that were justified. It is very well written, but Changez’s narrative did irritate me at times as it’s very disruptive and I was expecting a huge revelation that didn’t really come. But now that I’ve finished it and had time to reflect, I’ve changed my opinion somewhat. This is a thriller, but a subtle one – and much of the tension comes from what happens off the page. I’d say this is what my old boss would call ‘a literary sorbet’ – short but sweet and goes down well.
To accompany my sorbet, I searched for a kebab recipe (as that is what Changez and the American stranger eat over the course of the evening). However, being a non-meat eater, it was quite difficult to find a vegetarian, Pakistani recipe. However, I did find a delicious looking recipe in my new cookbook Anjum’s Indian Vegetarian Feast which sort of fits the bill, albeit an Indian version.
Tandoori Vegetable Feast – served with tandoori spiced potatoes and Kachumber
For the Potatoes:
– 8 baby potatoes
– 150g Greek yogurt
– 1 3/4 tsp ground cumin
– 3/4 tsp garam masala
– 1 tsp ground coriander
– 1/2 tsp chilli powder
– 3 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
– 7g root ginger, grated
– 1/2tbsp lemon juice
1. Start by halving the potatoes and then putting these on to boil. You need to cook them for about 8mins. Drain and cool.
2. Whilst the potatoes are boiling, make the marinade by mixing together all of the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Once you have drained the potatoes, coat them in this mixture and leave to marinate for about 30mins (I did it for less time as I started late!)
3. Cook in a preheated oven (220deg/gas 7) for about 25mins. The marinade will go quite dry. After 25mins you are supposed to turn them and cook for a further 10 mins on each side, but keep an eye on them as mine started to burn!
For the vegetables:
– 700g vegetables: I used peppers, mushrooms and fennel but chose whatever you like.
– 300g plain yogurt
– 3tbsp vegetable oil
– 3tbsp lemon juice
– 3tsp cumin
-1/2 tsp chilli powder
– 1tsp garam masala
– 2/3tsp ground cardamom
– 4 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
– 15g root ginger, peeled and grated
1. Slice and prepare all your veg. You may need to blanch them in boiling water for a few mins first to soften them depending what you cook (fennel and mushrooms do need it, peppers don’t).
2. Make the tandoori marinade by blending together all the spices, yogurt and lemon juice and then coat the vegetables.
3. Heat the grill on high (if you have a BBQ that would be even better) and grill the vegetables for about 10-15mins, turning as needed until they are tender and lightly charred.
Then serve the potatoes and vegetables! I served mine with kachumber salad, which is a yummy chopped salad of tomatoes, cucumber, radishes and red onions in a lemony, coriandery, minty dressing. So delicious. I also whipped up a green chutney which is basically fresh coriander, mint, yogurt, toasted cumin seeds, some green chilli and a little sugar all whizzed up in a blender to make a vivid green sauce – just like the sauce you get with poppadoms in an Indian restaurant. SO tasty, fresh and definitely a feast…