Not for the first time, I’m somewhat puzzled by the food of Roger Moore’s James Bond. In A View To A Kill (1985), there are reasons for suspecting that Bond didn’t make the quiche des cabinet himself. In Octopussy (1983), I’m struggling to see how the sheep’s head, served to him at a dinner hosted by Afghan prince Kamal Khan, could have been stuffed.
Having bought a whole lamb’s head from a specialist online butcher in order to recreate Bond’s exotic meal, I discovered that, with the lamb’s tongue and brain still in situ, there was nowhere to put any stuffing, at least not without practising some of the grislier techniques of mummification, and Bond’s sheep’s head was most definitely whole.
No matter. Much of the rest of the dish can be recreated without too much bother, although it’s perhaps not one for the squeamish. The sheep’s head, apparently glazed, is served on a bed of rice and accompanied by what could be onion bhajis or perhaps some sort of kofta. The dish is garnished with fresh parsley or coriander. The sheep’s head served to Bond retains its eyeballs, as did the lamb’s head that I bought, and now having seen the eyes close-up, I can confirm that the eyes staring vacantly at Bond and making him lose his appetite most certainly belonged to the sheep. On cooking, the eyes of my lamb’s head unfortunately went rather squidgy and didn’t make quite the tasty morsel that Kamal Khan relished so much. I wonder whether I should have removed the eyes and gently cooked them separately. Something to try for next time.
As for the glaze and rice, and given the location of Kamal Khan’s palace – in reality the lake palace of Udaipur in Rajasthan – I was inspired by the flavours and fragrances of Mughlai cuisine.
And the result? Well, the rice was lovely. Actually, I rather enjoyed the cheeks of the lamb’s head. They were so tender, I could cut them with a fork. Not for the faint-hearted, but this was an culinary experience every bit as exotic as Bond’s Indian adventure.
- 1 lamb’s head, whole and skinned
For the glaze
- 3 tbsp apricot jam
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp cumin
For the rice
- 100g basmati rice
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 25g cashew nuts
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- Approx. 10 cardamom pods
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- Pinch saffron
- 1 tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp paprika
- 1 tbsp raisins
- Generous pinch black pepper
- Pinch salt
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- Water or stock
- Handful of fresh coriander
Wash and scrub the lamb’s head well. Put it in a large saucepan and fill up the saucepan with water. Cover the pan with a lid and bring the water to the boil over a high heat. Turn the heat to low and allow the water to simmer for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, transfer the head to a roasting pan and allow the head to cool. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 190C (170C fan; 375F) and prepare the glaze by mixing together the jam, ginger, paprika and cumin in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Remove from the heat just as the glaze is beginning to bubble.
When the head has cooled, brush the glaze liberally over the lamb’s head. Place the head in the oven for about 30 minutes.
While the head is roasting, make the rice. Heat the oil in a saucepan, then fry the onion for about 2 minutes until it has softened. Add the cashew nuts and spices, stir well, then add the rice. Stir again to ensure that the grains are well coated in the spices, then pour enough water or stock to cover the rice by about 2cm. Cover the pan, allow the liquid to come to a fierce boil, then remove the pan from the heat and allow to stand for about 10 minutes, by which time the rice should have absorbed the liquid. However, if any liquid remains, drain the rice.
Take the lamb’s head out of the oven and transfer to a bed of rice. Garnish the plate with fresh coriander.