Book Eighteen: Pigeon English



When one of his school mates is murdered, 11 year old Ghanaian immigrant Harri takes matters into his own hands and with the help of his friend Jordan, turns detective and launches his own investigation into the death. Harri is a charming narrator, he describes his world in an innocent and bumbling way, often interpreting the English language very literally (for example, he understands ‘sucking off’ as kissing someone very hard!) and is peppered with funny phrases like ‘bo-styles’ and ‘advise yourself’. It’s rather like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas or Room – a dark and terrible situation made light through the eyes of a child.


There’s a lot to like about this book – Harri is just so endearing but I did find it hard to stay engaged with the story, due to the meandering nature of the story. Something about it just didn’t quite click for me, meaning that while I enjoyed it in small chunks, I found it quite a chore to get through. The author is obviously talented and despite presumably being white and middle class (I surmise from his author bio), manages to maintain authenticity. I also liked how some gritty issues are woven into the story so subtly that it didn’t feel contrived at all – like gang war, illegal immigration, knife crime. All in all, I’d say this was a well crafted and original book – but there was still something missing for me! I can’t quite put my finger on what that is, except to say that I’ve come away feeling like I’ve not really gained anything from reading it. What a shame.


To complement this book, I decided that I would play on the title of the book and cook something pigeon related – without actually being pigeon as I don’t eat meat! Pigeon peas (yellow lentils) and rice seemed a good alternative! Problem is, I haven’t felt much like eating lentils lately, so another cop out I’m afraid! I’ll just post the recipe and will actually cook it another time!!

So the recipe is as follows and it’s taken from Prasad by Kaushy Patel:

You need:
150g pigeon peas (dried)
200g basmati rice
75ml sunflower oil
1/2 tsp turmeric

To make:

Rinse the lentils at least 3 times in hot water and then leave to soak for at least 10mins in hot water before draining. Rinse the rice a couple of times too and drain.

Heat the oil in a large pan then add the lentils and rice and fry for a minute. Add the turmeric, some salt and 925ml of boiling water.

Bring to the boil then simmer uncovered for 10-12mins until the water has mostly evaporated. Reduce heat to it’s lowest setting then put a large square of foil over the pan and then put a lid over the top and leave to cook for 6-7 minutes. Take off the heat and leave for 5 minutes.

Stir gently with a spoon then serve!

Sorry I’ve not actually made the recipe this week but do give it a try and let me know how it goes!!


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