You will need to start one week ahead, within a fortnight either side of the winter solstice. If you are making kasoundi at other times of the year, adjust daylight calculations accordingly.
Send an SMS to two friends. Select these friends with some forethought. One should have recently concluded a relationship. A short romance is better than any lengthy cohabitation, but take what you can get. It’s good if the other friend is just returned from overseas. Tell them to arrive on the appointed day as the sky is turning to pitch.
Buy all the ingredients. Do this as far out from the actual cooking as possible. You are going to a supermarket, and supermarkets are depressing, being brightly lit and saccharinely soundtracked, and frequented by listless girls in pyjama bottoms festooned with dancing bears. If you perform this rite too near your kasoundi-making, your furrowed brow will reflect in the oil surfacing over the sauce, and the sauce will not recover. Buy early – and buy cheap. Don’t get fancy, just pick out sturdy ingredients that don’t look like vermin has got to them. Any additional investment will count for nought after it has bubbled on a stove for three hours.
At cock-crow on the day, pour out a cup of black or malt vinegar into a small bowl. Into this spoon one hundred and forty black mustard seeds. Try to find a good spectrum of tones, for black mustard seeds are rarely black. Push each seed deep into the liquid. Mustard seeds tend to bobble on the surface. They must plumb the depths to soften and swell.
Spend the day outside, close to water.
As the sun hunkers down over the horizon, or as dark clouds blush, bring a large pot of water to boil. Its bubbling will provide pleasant accompaniment to your toil. If it grows irritating, pour it out. Like a vestigial organ, it once served a purpose in this recipe, but it doesn't now.
Peel and chop a ginger root. Let your nose swing low over the diving knife. After you have chopped whatever quantity of ginger this recipe commends, chop a little more because you really like ginger.
Peel and crush five cloves of garlic.
Select your mix of chillies and slice them up. Separate the seeds from the flesh if you want a milder outcome. Don't try to stir up an edible inferno — you'll bury all those flavours. Look, you should just throw out the seeds.
Find a bowl exactly like your vinegar and mustard-seed bowl, and fill it with the ginger and garlic and chillies. Place the bowls side by side neatly.
Go to the stereo and choose an album that you’ve listened to many times but not in the last month.
Locate a third bowl. Grate the palm sugar into it. Lick your fingers. Before you grate the palm sugar, wash the chilli heat off your fingers, then grate the palm sugar, then lick your fingers. Take a teaspoon, not a tablespoon, and heap into the bowl five wobbly, towering spoonfuls of cumin. Consult a dictionary for pronunciation. Two further teaspoons of turmeric, not towering. Stir it up good. Slide this bowl into place beside your other bowls.
Into the vinegar pour the better part of a cup of vegetable oil. For good measure add several generous splashes of Worcestershire sauce (another, another), or just a palmful of salt.
Now you have a bowl of seedy liquid, a bowl of powder, and a bowl of flesh and root.
Tip all of that into your blender. Press the button and turn the whole thing to mush. The result should have a vaguely unpleasant colour and consistency, but a heady perfume. Stop inhaling it and pour into a large saucepan. Bring it to a simmer and then reduce the heat until the flame is not quite out or the element is glowing evilly.
Stir the admixture occasionally. Relax. Maybe put on some nice clothes. Your friends will be here soon. At three quarters of an hour, the sauce will be dark like congealing blood and oil, it will stick to your spoon and the spicy aromas will fill your abode. The last light of the day is seeping from the sky. Take your tins of tomatoes, pop them, and plunk their contents into the saucepan. Stir vigorously. Make it bubble and burp like lava again, keep your distance watching over it, then drop the heat once more.
Wait for the doorbell to ring. Welcome your friends and seat them. Accept their wine, choose the finer of the two bottles and decant it. Ask them how they are, what they have been up to. Be careful not to probe too deeply the wounds of your lovelorn friend. Not just yet. Not before the wine has done its work. When your globe-trotting guest brings out her photos, stand and stir the pot, lifting off the lid to steep the sauce in richest happy conversation.
Organise a stirring roster. Each one of you is now the cook, and must find time to lift the lid and introduce your cheer and conjecture and good company. As the hours elapse, as midnight approaches, break off chunks of bread and dip them into the saucepan. Chew in silence. Speak with your eyes.
- 2 good friends
- 1 cup black or malt vinegar
- 140 black mustard seeds (or two tablespoons)
- 1 good-sized ginger root – maybe 100 grams or so
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 8 or 9 birds-eye and long red chillies
- 1 handful of palm sugar
- 5 big teaspoons of cumin
- 2 little teaspoons of ground turmeric
- 3/4 cup of vegetable oil
- Worcestershire sauce or sea salt
- 3 400ml tins of diced tomatoes
- 1 loaf of favourite bread