Nothing does grow like wild young cilantro...

I have just cleaned some cilantro and need to chop it very finely with the mezzaluna, but first I have to strip the leaves from their stalks. It will take a few minutes, so, in a time-honored literary device, if you want to go and bone up on raita in general, do feel free.

OK, all done. Now let's get to it. The jalfrezi's all but ready to eat, most of the supporting cast is at hand, naan bread, mango chutney, peppered poppadoms in profusion, but one thing still needs to be thrown together; the right raita.

Although, as with another dish, I first ate this variation in Greece (Athens in this case not Crete) and while it's certainly a wonderful sauce to accompany a fresh young lamb cooked in the Mediterranean style, it is best (in this mouth) when made to alleviate the ravages the boldest curries often deliciously precipitate.

Essentially, in any order or none at all, combine all of the below in a bowl of your choosing and present with a spoon so your fellow diners can serve themselves.

Two notes: (1) If I feel the stuff needs more legs and less body (as it were) I forgo the cayenne and switch out the lemon in favor of lime juice. (2) In response to a friendly note that suggested my kitchen must surely resemble a television chef's and that I obviously have all day to do nothing but cook, I must demur, albeit with a smile. I wish I had all day and nothing else in need of fixing but food, but like for most that's just not the case. However, and perhaps this is in my nature as a chemist, I have evolved a number of work arounds or tricks that can make things happen faster if the clock is ticking particularly loudly. For an Indian-style spice mix (my own in-house garam masala if you like) I keep a large (formerly salt) shaker into which I add spices as I use them for other things. Thus if I am putting some black mustard seeds into the pestle for grinding, I will remember to add a few more and then mix this remainder into whatever is currently in the shaker.* This is an on-going and (obviously) evolving mix that I could, for example, now dust on to my raita to give it that something extra without needing to make the same from scratch. Is it as good as completely fresh? Maybe not, but you really would be that person with all the time in the world and a very fussy tongue indeed to protest the difference as you ladle some of this refreshingly tart raita on to your plate to do battle with the fiery lamb jalfrezi that awaits you there.


*In answer to a further question, currently in my shaker there are elements of black mustard seeds, crushed red chiles, ginger, cumin, cardamom and Tellicherry black pepper.

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