The night of Sandra Dickinson’s 3 Nicks Charity Cook-Off began with a fantastic sunset. I attempted to Instagram it, but couldn’t quite do it justice. Later, I tried capturing my curry, but it was a bit blurred. Must have been the heat of the kitchen tension affecting my phone I took one blurred picture of Nik Kershaw and one clear picture of Nick Beggs throwing a rock shape, but couldn’t get the colour right. So, I didn’t Instagram those either. This isn’t a blog about not Instagramming pictures, by the way. It’s about the (old) spice of life.
Nik cooked a lovely beef bourguignon, Nick B cooked a lovely vegetable chili and I cooked a lovely Sri Lankan salmon curry. There’s cooking for two at home and then there’s cooking for 89. It’s quite something. This was the first time I’ve chopped up 10 enormous onions in one go, but thanks to our helpful assistants, I know now how to chop one properly.
My original recipe was based on Rick Stein’s Sri Lankan fish curry. Loved his programme. He was so passionate about curry and visited unpretentious local restaurants. I’ve only been to India once, but the programme has inspired me to visit again – this time to explore all the nooks and crannies and back yards like Top Cat.
Fortunately for this Nick, one of the chefs happened to be from Sri Lanka, and this helped give my curry a new coconut twist and transform it into something more authentic and fragrant than I’ve made at home. Tragically, I didn’t have my newly acquired spice grinder with me, so I didn’t crunch up my cinnamon sticks properly and had to pick all the bits out one by one. Treat others as you wish to be treated I say. I wouldn’t want big chunks of cinnamon bark in my mouth!
When our cooking time was up, we all had our pictures taken and began mingling with our lovely diners. I felt great in my apron – kept it on all night.
Bigger Than Mary, led by Mark Osmond (Sandra’s husband), who had been entertaining us all night, invited us up to play a few songs after dinner. First up was Nik with Wouldn’t It Be Good. I sang along during the choruses and it felt … good! Watching the chord structure unfold like an origami swan was fascinating. Ben, or was it James(?), handed me his fabulous Gibson SG. So, with some slight distortion on it, I launched into Fantastic Day like it was the very first time I sang it to my chocolate brown bedroom wall. I never tire of singing this song (unless somebody wants to play it one more time in rehearsals!) Nik might feel the same with I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, which he sang next. I’ll have to ask him, but when he began singing it, it smelt as fresh as a fantastic daisy. What a cracking chorus. I somehow managed to find myself singing the high harmony – must have sung along to it on the car radio at some point because it felt nice and easy. Nick B was Too Shy to play any of his own stuff, but suggested doing a funky jam which turned into Favourite Shirts, which turned back into a funky jam. What an amazing musician this man is! Ability, rhythmic synchronicity and passion, that’s what he is. It was an honour to play with these guys. It was our first time and totally unrehearsed, which always puts hairs on your chest.
The food was a three-way draw, but Nick B got the biggest cheer. Lots of money was raised for our charities and that will be a three-way split too.