One of the things I enjoy most about reading biographies is the little personal details, which reveal much of what a subject liked or disliked. For example, Freddie Mercury liked Quality Street assorted candies; enjoyed Stolichnaya vodka; and had a love of spicy food.
According to Peter Freestone, who worked as Freddie’s personal assistant for more than a decade, Chicken Dhansak was one of the singer’s favorite meals. Peter (aka Phoebe) has now written-up the recipe for this mouth-watering dish over at FreddieMercury.com, where he explains:
This Indian inspired dish rose up the popularity stakes because it embraced two separate dishes, a dal which for Freddie was always a moistening accompaniment and a ‘curry’ meat dish which often, on its own, tended to be dryer. Living in Earls Court, both Joe [Fanelli] and I had easy access to supermarkets where every spice known to mankind was stocked as a matter of regular principle. The area was such a melting pot of nationalities that for anyone not to have been able to buy fenugreek seeds would be for the property market in the area to plummet in value immediately!
25 gm channa, 25 gm moong, 25gm red and 50 gm toor lentils
125 ml oil
650 gm boneless chicken 2cm cubes
3 med onions
2 cloves garlic
410 gm tinned tomatoes
1 medium aubergine chopped
1 large potato chopped
115 gm spinach (frozen)
100 gm fresh coriander
50 gm fresh mint
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 brown cardamom
5cm cassia bark
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground fenugreek seeds
½ teaspoon chilli powder
Wash the lentils thoroughly, making sure you remove all the grit and residual husk. Soak together overnight.
The following day, cook the lentils in twice their volume of water for approx. 30 minutes. While the lentils are cooking, heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and fry the meat at a high temperature for 5 – 10 minutes until browned. Remove from the saucepan and keep in a warm place.
Fry the cumin seeds, cardamom, cassia bark and mustard seeds adding the onions, garlic and salt. When they have turned a golden brown, add the tomatoes and cook for about 5 more minutes.
Add the remaining chopped vegetables, mix and cook for 10 minutes.
Add the lentils and roughly mash everything together.
Add the meat and rest of the spices. Mix well and cook gently for a further 40 minutes.
Add the fresh coriander and mint and cook for at least 10 minutes.
Serve with plain boiled rice.
It is more than a decade since I met Peter for a documentary I was producing called When Freddie Mercury Met Kenny Everett. Peter had written an insightful and highly enjoyable book on his day-to-day life working for Freddie. I met Peter in Prague, at his city apartment, where we filmed the interview, before taking some walking shots on the Charles Bridge. Peter was charming, delightful company, and if you are interested, you can ask Phoebe questions about his life with Freddie here.