No James Bond novel is complete without a menu’s worth of food descriptions, and Kim’s Sherwood’s first entry in the ‘Double O’ trilogy, which follows the adventures of Bond’s fellow double-O agents, is no exception.
Double or Nothing sees three agents – Johanna Harwood (003), Joseph Dryden (004), and Sid Bashir (009) – investigate a threat to climate-saving technology created by billionaire Sir Bertram Paradise, stumbling occasionally on the trail left by James Bond, who disappeared during a mission just before the events of the novel take place. With its multiple narratives, complex plotting, topical issues, and themes of betrayal, trust (or lack of it), and corporate greed, the book at times has more cloak and less dagger than we normally associate with a Bond-derived adventure, but readers need not worry: the essential Bondian elements run through the book like the secret communication cables under Cold War Berlin. There are car chases (one involving an Alpine A110 that seriously gives the 4½ litre Bentley a run for its money), a brutal boxing match with deadly stakes, martinis and other cocktails, and enough Easter eggs to keep any Bond fan going till Christmas.
As usual for a Bond story (even one without Bond), food punctuates the story. Dryden bemoans the diet of curried goat in steaming hot Jamaica. Harwood fondly remembers a treat of a dessert during a visit to Berlin in her teenage years of chocolate ice cream topped with a strawberry and a chocolate button decorated with edible gold leaf. Bashir plays waiter to a couple picking at a limp Continental breakfast. Paradise consumes fare fit for a billionaire – a meal of lobsters, steak tartare, smoked salmon, and caviar, garnished in this case by cocaine. And like 007 himself, Bond’s favourite meals are present in spirit, with references, for example, to breakfasts of yoghurt and figs and, of course, scrambled eggs and bacon.
While Kim Sherwood doesn’t linger too long on any dish, the food serves to adds local flavour. There is Bratwurst in Berlin, Turkish delight from Istanbul, and drunken chicken in Hong Kong. And then there are some Bond-novel favourites: doughnuts (last seen in The Spy Who Loved Me), and a steak with an old-fashioned (recalling the steaks and whiskies in previous Bond adventures, among them Diamonds Are Forever).
If all that whets your appetite, then it’s time to sample the dishes yourself. I’ve already published a recipe for curried goat, a dish that Ian Fleming himself used to eat, if not enjoy, at his Jamaican home, Goldeneye (click here for the recipe), so I thought I’d share a recipe for drunken chicken. And no, the quantity of rice wine given below is not a typo. The dish really does call for a whole bottle; when the chicken is marinating, it rather resembles a meaty punch. The result, though, is sublime, and I urge you to try it.
I also thoroughly recommend Kim Sherwood’s debut ‘Double O’ novel. It’s an extraordinary read, and a Bond novel for our time. Most importantly, it fulfils Ian Fleming’s aim of any of his own works: to make the reader turn the page. I can’t wait to find out what Kim Sherwood cooks up in the next instalment.
Double or Nothing is published by Harper Collins. Click here for more details.
- 4 chicken thighs, including skin and bone
- 2-3 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal
- Piece of ginger, approx. 2-3cm long, peeled and sliced into fine strips
- Bowl of iced water
For the marinade
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 bottle (150ml) Shaoxing rice wine
- 100ml chicken stock
- 1 tsp honey or light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp green shoots of one or two spring onions, very finely sliced
Place the ginger and spring onions in a steamer (or colander or sieve if you have no steamer), lay the chicken on top, and put the steamer over a saucepan of simmering water. Cover with a lid and steam the chicken for about 45 minutes, checking that the juices run clear to ensure the pieces are cooked. Fill a bowl with iced water and plunge the chicken into the water. Once the chicken has cooled, remove the pieces and carefully cut out the bone from each. Tip the water out and return the chicken to the bowl.
Put the steamed spring onion and ginger, the stock (created in the bottom of the saucepan during cooking), rice wine, soy sauce, and honey or sugar into the bowl with the chicken and mix well. Cover and place the bowl in the refrigerator, preferably overnight, but at least for 4-5 hours.
Remove the chicken pieces from the bowl and pour the marinade into a small saucepan and place over a medium heat. Boil the marinade until it has reduced by half.
Slice the chicken thighs and divide them between two plates. Spoon the marinade over the pieces (pouring the remaining marinade into a bowl for a dipping sauce), and garnish with a sprinkling of finely sliced green shoots from a spring onion.