We're a year into The Unpleasantness now, and we've got to grab the good news where we can.
One positive that we can all take from this is that people seem to be looking out for one another. Leith has long been a community that has pulled together and struggled through – its very motto 'Persevere' encourages that.
We've seen community kitchens and gardens spring up, and as we work from home – and no longer have our daily commutes – surveys are showing that we are using this 'extra' time to patronise local butchers and fishmongers. No more supermarket dash at the end of the day.
Keeping it local is all well and good, but not all our favourite restaurants are local – part of the attraction of eating out was going somewhere else, somewhere new. Plenty of restaurateurs have realised that the only way they can continue is to have a decent at home dining option.
But if you can't have a full kitchen working, how do you manage even that? One option is to cook from your own kitchen at home – which is what Leither Tony Singh has decided to do with his ‘cooked for collection’ concept.
What Tony offers is, pretty much, what he and his family will be eating that weekend. These are family recipes and personal favourites.
Each week's menu has Singh family standards, with the starter and main changing. His wife, Bechan, supplies her own pickled spiced onions and his son Balraj – a mixologist to trade – contributes his own cocktails – in our case a sweet and spicy Pondicherry Pudding.
This is almost as though you were going to the Singh's house for dinner.
You eat what the family have prepared for that weekend. (The meals are only available on a Friday and Saturday). And, exactly as though you were going to sit down with the Singh family, this is Tony's meal – and Tony's rules. He decides on the food – there aren't any substitutions. It can only be for two – while you can order as many multiples as you want, you can't half an order to make it for one person only.
I don't know about you, but I'm never sure about what to drink with Indian food. There's the tired old route of Tiger or Cobra lager – but, since we're supporting local businesses here, we took advice from our local beer shop – the Beerhive in Canonmills.
They suggested a pilsner and an IPA from Newbarns Brewery in Jane Street – keeping the entire endeavour a Leith enterprise. In terms of a perfect pairing, we found the pilsner definitely complemented the food better.
We started with the Spiced Fur Fur, colourful, crispy, crunchy, spiced puffs – and these are most definitely colourful. A mixture of bright greens, reds, and oranges – served with dips of tamarind sauce, mint and coriander sauce and chilli and mango sauce. A little divergence from the ubiquitous poppadom and fun with it.
We had these with the pickled spiced onions – Bechan's own recipe – and what a stunner it is. These are soft, sweet – with the perfect note of sourness from her own pickle mix. Unlike those dishes of raw onions that you've forced down in Indian restaurants in the past, it doesn't overpower your taste buds – or make people back away from you when you're speaking to them nearly two days later.
The starter and main course can be heated in either your microwave or your own oven (clear instructions for both are included).
Our starter was chettinad meen kuzhambu, which is a beautiful Tamil fish curry, in this case substantial pieces of salmon, cooked with curry leaves, tamarind and coconut. This was actually the hottest dish of the meal, but not so as to lose the subtlety of either the fish or the underlying spices.
The main was lamb dhansak. This is an utterly astonishing dish. Dhansak – which, incidentally, should only *ever* be cooked with lamb (ok, mutton or goat gets a pass) – is a celebratory dish and, as such, takes some cooking.
The traditional Parsi recipe that Tony uses will normally cook in three different stages and take about four days to prepare and the love and care that has gone into this dish is obvious the second you look at it.
The lamb has been cooked down with the spices, pigeon peas and vegetables until the lamb is the sauce and the sauce is the lamb.
Mr Turner thought he had died and gone to heaven. Frankly, I think the Singh family should prepare themselves for someone to be camped out in their front garden for the foreseeable future. It was rich and moreish.
There's also an accompanying dish of Aloo chole - which is chickpeas and new potatoes that have been slowly cooked with onions, ginger and garlic along with a splash of lime for a pleasantly sharp touch.
The accompanying Jeera Chawal – fragrant Basmati rice sprinkled with cumin seeds – was beautifully light and matched the meal – rather than overpowering it with stodginess.
Truth told, we’re not great rice hands, normally erring towards more bread. Whilst we hankered after extra pratha (six would’ve be great), we could have easily eaten this on its own and gone to heaven. It might seem strange to extoll the virtues of the humblest part of the meal, but just wait tll you taste it.
A Singh family favourite. Gulab Jamin translates as sweet balls of joy. Milk is reduced to a dough-like texture, mixed with a little flour before being deep fried – almost as you would a doughnut, but a much lighter consistency. The balls are then soaked in a light sugar syrup, flavoured with cardamom. No, this is not the healthiest of desserts – but this entire meal is a wonderful indulgence and there's absolutely no point in denying yourself now.
Tony Singh – along with the brewers of Jane Street – are showing all of us what we need to do to get through this – Persevere!
Singh 4 Your Supper
Meal for 2 – £60 with cocktails and additional £15