Pareidolia is a Greek word for the psychological condition that causes us to see faces in objects. The phenomena originates from an inbuilt survival instinct, activated at birth that allows us to recognise the human face in a fraction of a second and determine that person’s intentions towards us. The side effect of this ability to distinguish friend or foe from a distance is that it causes us to see faces in shadows, clouds, and countless inanimate objects, including hills and mountains The other day I went along with Dean to check a couple of them out.
Dean Hines obtained his degree at Goldsmith College before attending Portsmouth University where he completed an MA in art history.. He works in heritage retail at the Wordsworth Trust and has a keen interest in art and literature. He’s currently working on a historical novel and can often be found down at Tweedies with a pint and his notebook. He’s also an accomplished pianist. When I told him of my plan to inspect a couple of these places, he was happy to come along with me.
Wild Boar Fell is in the Howgills, a range of fells bordering Eastern Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales. Sweeping up from the Eden valley they form a dramatic backdrop against the fertile river wended vale. Six miles south of the market village of Kirkby Stephen stand the ruins of Uther Pendragon’s castle, an early Norman structure allegedly built on the site of King Arthur’s father’s house. In the twelfth century Sir Hugh de Morville, Lord of Westmoreland, occupied it. He was one of the four knights who murdered Thomas Beckett, and, after initially fleeing to France, took refuge there.
He was a troubled man – haunted at night by the moonlight on Wild Boar Fell: its outline baring an uncanny resemblance to the face and mitre of the murdered archbishop.
Closer to home stands Stone Arthur an anthropomorphic peak that from certain angles resembles the reposing king. Like Wales and Cornwall the area possesses a strong Celtic tradition. The mountains Helvellyn and Blencathra, the rivers Derwent and Eden along with the town of Penrith, retain their names from that early period. The legend of Arthur is also strong here. Aside from the castle there is Arthur’s Round Table, a Bronze Age earth ring at Eamont Bridge where the king is said to have held council. Close by is the Giants’ Cave where Tarquin and Isir devoured human flesh. The poet Tennyson was convinced that Excalibur was in one of the lakes and composed his poem King Arthur while staying at Mire House on the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake.
The legends tell of him being a good king. Our benign Stone Arthur here in Grasmere is waiting, as the story goes, for the day when the country is in dire peril, and then he will rise again and come to our assistance.
Dean’s recipe for: Townend Ruby Murray without the hurry, aka Chicken Tikka Masala
Right you lovely people, get your filter tips ‘round this old chestnut.
Serves 1 – 4
What ya gonna need:
Right, get yourself down to a respectable butcher or deli or Booths and get yourself at least 4 good quality skinned chicken breasts (experience dictates that purchased elsewhere, breasts might disintegrate in the pot!)
1 x thumb size portion of fresh ginger (okay, so some thumbs are bigger than others but the bigger the better!)
1 x medium size red chilli
A good handful of fresh coriander
2 x medium size onions
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g tin of coconut milk
½ 283g Patak’s Tikka Masala Paste
1 x lemon, 200g carton of yoghurt and a handful of crushed almonds (for serving).
A good knob of butter.
Rice (I’ll come to that at the bottom).
To start off with…
On a chopping board (preferably bamboo, as less wear on your knives) deseed and finely chop the chilli and ginger and add to a plate.
Pick the leaves from the coriander leaving the stalks. Finely chop the stalks and add to plate with ginger and chilli. The leaves will come in use later so please set aside.
Finely chop the onions.
Cut the chicken breasts into a reasonable size, 2cm length by 1-2cm wide (the chunkier – the better).
Down to business:
In a large frying pan (non-stick is better) or cooking pot add the knob of butter and heat until melted. In Townend we only use electric hobs so Mark 4 is pretty good, a medium to high heat, but the law of physics might dispute this.
Add the chopped onions and stir regularly until they start softening and brown.
Add the chopped ginger, chilli and coriander and keep stirring so the ingredients are well mixed.
Add the chicken and keep stirring until the chicken begins to brown.
Add half the jar of masala paste and stir thoroughly letting it blend in with the chicken until well coated.
Add chopped tomatoes and coconut milk and stir well.
Using one of the cans, add between a quarter to half a tin of fresh water (depending on the thickness) and turn the heat down to allow the mixture to simmer.
Add a reasonable dose of sea salt and pepper.
Allow to simmer for at least an hour or until excess water has boiled off so that the curry sauce is thick but not too runny. Add some of the coriander leaves to the simmer for that extra punch. Please stir regularly so that the meat and onions don’t stick and burn on the bottom of pan.
The proof is in the eating…
Rice is not a speciality of mine so I tend to go with a two bags of boil in the bag basmati rice allowing 12 – 15 minutes in pot of salted boiling water. Afterall the taste is in the curry itself.
Better still, if there’s no rush, put the curry mix in a fridge overnight and let the chicken marinate – lovely jubbly!
However, if your punters are waiting and feeling peckish why not wack some naan bread in the oven, warm, then serve up with a good dollop of roughly chopped cucumber, fresh yoghurt and coriander – beautiful!
Time allowing I like to, using a small straight edge cup, fill with rice and turn upside down on plate to make a tower. Add the curry sauce and sprinkle with the remaining coriander leaves and crushed almonds (optional with yoghurt) and serve with a slice of lemon and a choice of wines. White is better.
Get it down ya!
Next week: Of Sorcery.