“Darling,” she said, and arced her back, pushing her belly button towards an imagined sun. I catch a glimpse of a small white breast and look away, concentrating fiercely on my wine. “It is really very difficult for those poor souls who are both beautiful AND intelligent. Rejected by both tribes. So sad.”
“You would. So contrary.”
“I think it’s like having the best from both tribes. Half eagle, half lion. Those ‘poor souls’, you included, might be a little more alone, but you’re griffins. Mythical beasts. Forgive me for not shedding a tear.”
“That may be the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me. But it will not offset you burning the poussin. Pay attention,” she smirks. And she’s right, of course. The skin is perhaps a little more than desirably charred already. I flip it and swig.
Lucy’s is the only mouth I know in which “darling” is not an unbearable affectation. She has a boyfriend called Pony and together they run a photographic studio in between forays to Essex and Middlesborough in search of trouble and life. She has been, by turns, a font of adventure, opportunity, mischief and solace. I owe her much. Right now I’m making a gesture of repayment by cooking her a meal, but she’s distracting me with statements absurd in their scale and scope.
One of her kittens – it’s either Withnail or Iris, but I don’t know them well enough to tell the two apart – prowls into the kitchen and mews.
“Bugger off Withers. The grown-ups are talking.” Lucy drags deeply on her roll-up and turns back to me. “Tell me everything.”
“I don’t know. You haven’t told me yet. That usually gets a reaction.”
“Not from me. Nothing to tell.”
“What utter shit. Don’t lie to me. Tell me about Ali. You’re itching to.”
I smile and launch into a spiel. Nodding encouragingly, she smiles in the right places and finally tells me that it all sounds beautiful but “why on EARTH are you living in Whitechapel?”
“I like it. I like how it’s different and the lights are low. I like how when the sun’s going down the air is all full of Ramadan.”
“Lovely. But you could live near us. There’s a fishmonger in Broadway Market. I think the art director of Clash is looking for some new housemates. E-mail him.”
I decide to let the assumption that I know the art director of Clash pass and plate up. It’s raining outside so we sit on the bare wooden floor and eat our picnic poussin with our hands. I recommend you do the same.
- 2 poussin, spatchcocked
- One or two birds eye chillis, de-seeded and finely chopped
- One stick of lemongrass
- A couple of tablespoons runny honey
- A good big dash of white wine vinegar
- One lemon
- A handful of fresh coriander leaves
- An handful fresh mint leaves
- Three or four cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
Anyway, combine the chillis, fresh herbs, garlic, pepper, honey and vinegar in a bowl. Slice off the base of the lemongrass and peel off any dry leaves before giving it a bit of a smash with a rolling pin, pan or fist. Add to the marinade. Mix the poussin in with your hands, making sure that the birds are completely coated. Leave to marinate for a couple of hours, at least.
Shortly before removing the birds from the marinade, add half a lemon’s worth of lemon zest and a big squeeze of lemon juice. Mix in again and leave for another half hour before getting the griddle really hot. Also heat the grill to its highest setting.
Salt the poussin’s skin and carefully place the birds skin down on the griddle. Cook for three or four minutes or until the skin is starting to blacken in stripes. Turn and cook for another 5 minutes or so before transferring to a foil lined tray and basting with the remaining marinade. Grill for another 10 minutes (ish) until the juices run clear.
Eat with something cold and crisp.