Steve Spill is an ace photographer, bon vivant and, as it turns out, can whip up some mean curries when he wants. And he wanted to last week, in the professionally equipped kitchen of the King Street bungalow he shares with his Sylvia. Munching pappodoms and an array of lip-numbing chutneys and sambals, we watched as Spill simultaneously surfed a dozen dishes bubbling and roasting and stir-frying on six burners and two ovens. Was he completely in control of the situation? Is any chef? It was often difficult to tell, as everything needed continuous stirring, browning, and turning. From a wall of spices lining one section of the kitchen, floor to ceiling, Spill had retrieved the ingredients that mysteriously merge into the perfumed results. Onions and lamb had been chopped and seeds toasted and crushed, earlier in the day. Thanks to a large trove of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and a few choice zinfandels, a dozen of us worked through the appetizers and then at exactly 9pm, dove into fragrant dishes the color of sunrise and sunset. My favorites included the crisp chicken kofta, the elegant, fiery mint, cilantro and chili chutney and a sensuous dal that would have done any London curry house proud.
Homemade mango chutney, chili and lime chutney, a South African tomato chutney – these zippy dips were cooled by a succulent cucumber and yogurt raita. To spoon over Spill’s perfect jasmine rice, were fat roast new potatoes – curried of course – a sauteed okra dish called bhindi bhajee, crunchy long beans with tomato, a delectable, tender lamb bhuna and rogan gosht. The latter was a splendid stew of lamb, laced with cardamom and cinnamon and tons of garlic and ginger. Probably many more spices as well. Heady stuff! Can you say “ambitious”? Steve had made even more but my palate eventually gave out after so many big flavors.
I can’t remember the last time a “civilian” chef produced such an impressive line-up of brilliant flavors. The atmosphere was wonderful too. My compliments!