"Take one camel hump and mince finely. Add diced shallots, capers, Tabasco and a raw egg and mix thoroughly..."
I have a morbid fear of being the first person to arrive anywhere. It's nothing to do with being fashionably late - more to do with awkwardness and not knowing what to say.
And so it is that my husband and I find ourselves overshooting Number 1, Somewhere Street*, London as we're 10 minutes early and there's no way in hell I'm walking through that door till it's at least 5 past the hour.
As we trot past, I turn and see someone go up the steps, and I hiss to the hubby, "That's Henry" and he replies, "Who?" and I say, "The guy from Leon" and he replies, "Oh, Dimbles - you should have said" (sorry Henry - it's that Harry Hill's fault).
And then I begin to laugh, embarrassed, and my husband says, "He's going to hear you and spot us and think we're mentals. Pretend to be on the phone".
So we stand next to a skip and I pull out my mobile and I gesture wildly.
A few minutes later, I say to my husband, "What time is it now?" and he says, "It's still only eight", so we wait a little longer and then stride confidently back towards the house only to be caught by another guest, who says, "Which way did you guys come from?"
"Around," I say, my face turning red, and I run up the steps into the home of ...
Writer and presenter Stefan Gates is the Gastronaut. A food adventurer if you will. He's eaten walrus in Canada, sea slug in Korea and cane rat in Cameroon.
And so when a group of brave souls decide to cook camel, of course he offers his house as the venue. Even if he doesn't initially tell his lovely other half, photographer Georgia Glynn-Smith.
There's ten of us - Stefan and Georgia, Paul Hart from How Not To Do a Food Blog, writer William Leigh, Spanish food expert Rachel McCormack of Catalan Cooking, Becca Rothwell from How to Make a Mess, photographer Tom Bowles, Henry Dimbleby from Leon, my husband, and me.
Exotic meat suppliers Kezie Foods have kindly sent us a gratis consignment of fresh camel steaks, camel burgers and diced camel.
I've gone for Cinnamon Camel Curry - a variant of the Burmese Cinnamon Chicken dish which went down a storm at my Wild Garlic pop-up.
Stef's making camel kebabs with sumac and aubergine, Henry's grilling the camel burgers as well as camel steaks with garlic and thyme butter.
Rachel has all the fixings to make camel empanadas - a delicately spiced filling of minced camel meat, rosewater and almonds, plus the pastry ingredients.
It's all a bit too many cooks, but good fun as Rachel instructs us using her entirely Spanish language recipe book and we all take turns to try to make the empanadas. Georgia and Becca daringly embellish them with camel shapes - Georgia's is possibly a little more successful (Henry asks, "Who made the jellyfish?").
Paul has made the base for the African stew potjiekos and intends to add raw, diced camel to start cooking now.
I mention that my camel has been simmering for about five hours, so he decides to make camel tartare instead. As you do.
Rather a lot of tasting occurs.
The steak, kebabs and burgers never make it to the table as we all dive in. The rarer bits of steak are wonderful, the rest less so. The kebabs are alas rather chewy, and the burgers resemble bouncy beefballs - like the ones you get in Asian noodle soups. Which I like but no-one else seems keen on.
The empanadas are also demolished early on - they're a little like Cornish pasties but better - fragrant with a good depth of flavour.
So what's camel like then?
The upshot is this - camel is good stuff (quite gamey) only when braised to b*ggery or virtually raw.
I know this sounds mad, but the point is that it has zero fat and is incredibly fibrous so, whilst my five hour treatment renders the meat tender-ish, my curry is loved despite rather than because of the camel.
The tartare on the other hand is spoon-scraping-bottom-of-bowl good - I actually lick the bowl clean.
It's so delicious it's almost as good as the heavenly venison version I had at Launceston Place.
Becca's dessert is brought out for us all - a thankfully 100% camel-free flourless chocolate cake topped with whipped cream and blackberries.
A triumphantly chocolatey end to an excellent camel adventure.
Anyway, if you fancy making Burmese style Cinnamon Camel Curry (and why wouldn't you?), here's the recipe.
Cinnamon Camel Curry
- 1 kg camel, diced
- 6 medium white onions
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp garlic granules
- 1 tbsp ginger powder
- 1 tbsp cumin
- Handful of curry leaves
- 4 sticks of cinnamon
- 1 tsp Marigold bouillon
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp chilli powder
- 1 tbsp pepper
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
Sauté the diced onions in oil. Add 400 ml water and all the other ingredients except for the camel, and then simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the camel and stir, so the meat is thoroughly coated with the sauce, then simmer again with the lid on for FIVE HOURS, topping up with water when necessary to avoid it sticking.
(or use the same amount of goat, beef or lamb and simmer for 2 1/2 hours).
With thanks to Kezie Foods for providing the camel
*not the actual address, oddly enough