Food by the Book: A day in the life of a crime writer

Berbere chicken is a wonderful addition to your summer menu. Chicken and matching berbere corn can be cooked in sheet pans in the oven or adapted for the grill or smoker.

If you are a fan of Midsomer Murders, you will recognize the name Anthony Horowitz. Aside from being an exceptional mystery writer in his own right, Horowitz originally adapted Caroline Graham’s “Chief Inspector Barnaby” series for the popular television show. To his credit, he was commissioned by the Conan Doyle estate to pen two Sherlock Holmes novels and by the Ian Fleming Estate to write the latest James Bond novel, “Trigger Mortis” (Orion, 2015).

In his most recent novel, “The Sentence Is Death” (Harper Collins, 2019), a sequel to “The Word Is Murder,” Horowitz plays himself in a clever twist on the writer-cum-police consultant theme. When DI Cara Grunshaw is stymied by the curious murder of celebrity divorce lawyer Richard Pryce, the police call in PI Daniel Hawthorne and his sidekick, Tony, who is on the set of his made-for-tv series, Foyles War. Pryce, called ‘the Blunt Razor” because of his high-dollar settlements, was bludgeoned to death with a pricey bottle of 1982 Chateau Lafite. Only one catch, he didn’t drink. The chief suspect is feminist writer Akira Anno, whose nasty divorce had just been in the news.

While at first glance it might seem snobbish to insert himself in the novel, Horowitz’s first person narration is actually quite endearing. Filled with references to literary works and studded with Farrow and Ball paint, Aga stoves, the Delaunay, Hampstead or Fitzroy Park, and the Old Vic, this is a very fine romp through the mostly fictitious day-in-the-life of Anthony Horowitz, crime writer.

While Hampstead is not known for its fine dining, Fitzroy Park, or Fitzrovia as the area is called, has risen in acclaim. For inspiration, check out Berners Tavern. The décor alone will leave you gobsmacked. Recently opened in Fitzrovia is Rovi, a branch of Yotam Ottolenghi’s growing empire. Adapted below are two Ottolenghi-style summer options.

Berbere Style Chicken Wings and Thighs

Juice from 3 oranges

2 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

4 tablespoons Berbere spice rub (recipe below)

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 teaspoons honey, plus a little extra for drizzling

2 pounds combined chicken drummettes and boneless thighs

1 tablespoon coriander leaves (cilantro), finely chopped, to garnish

2 limes, cut into wedges, to serve

Salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the first six ingredients with 1 teaspoon salt and plenty of black pepper. Add the chicken wings and toss well to coat. If you have time, marinate in fridge for two hours or overnight. Empty onto a parchment-lined baking tray, spread out and roast for about 40 minutes, turning chicken halfway, until cooked through and nicely charred in places. Arrange the wings on a serving plate and drizzle with a little more honey. Finish with the coriander, a sprinkle of the spice rub and serve with the lime wedges.

Roasted Berbere Street Corn

4 ears of corn

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 jalapeno, finely sliced into rounds, to serve

1 lime, cut into wedges, to serve

2 tablespoons coriander leaves (cilantro), finely chopped, to serve

Berbere jalapeño cream

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled, plus extra for garnish

1 tablespoon Berbere spice rub, plus extra for sprinkling

1 jalapeno, deseeded and finely chopped

2 teaspoons finely chopped coriander (cilantro) stalks

1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

1/8 teaspoon Mediterranean sea salt from grinder

Rub the corn cobs with the oil and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Place on a sheet pan and cook on bottom rack while chicken is cooking (at 400 degrees). Turn frequently, until cooked through and nicely charred in places, about 30 minutes.

While the corn is cooking, stir together all the ingredients for the Berbere jalapeno cream in a small bowl.

Transfer the corn to a platter and brush liberally with the Berbere cream. Sprinkle with feta, coriander, jalapeno and a little more of the Berbere spice rub. Serve with the lime wedges alongside. Recipes adapted from https://ottolenghi.co.uk/recipes.

Berbere Spice Rub

1/2 cup dried chipotle or hot Mexican red chili powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds or ground

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds or curry powder

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Cracked black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon Maldon sea salt flakes or other

Combine all ingredients well. Store in airtight container. Discard appropriately.

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