James Poulter: Reuniting friendship through food

As part of this month’s theme, ‘you are what you eat’, we have a fantastic recipe for food (and friendship) from James

Throughout 2016 my mental health was extremely poor. I was suffering from anxiety and depression. It was hard for me to even go to the local shops to get provisions. I was isolated and lonely and struggling to make even basic human contact.

Towards the end of the year an old friend contacted me out of the blue via Facebook. This was my best friend when I first got to high school, aged 12 to 13. He wanted to meet up. Deep in my being I knew that I had to take this opportunity, however excruciating it was for me. We decided to go out to see a gig, a local band playing at Yellow Arch. My friend was coming round to pick me up, so I offered to make dinner first.

I decided to make one of my favourites – beef curry with saffron rice. My friend is from Pakistan, so I really felt the pressure to make the curry nice! I was severely lacking in confidence and anxious about how my meal would turn out. In the end it went down very well and my friend finished every grain of rice on his plate. This is the recipe.

– Beef – either stewing beef from the supermarket or a good handful of boneless cubed beef from the butchers or halal store

– Spices – cumin seeds, coriander seeds, ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, saffron

– Herbs – you can choose any, this time I chose fresh basil

– Flavouring – garlic, ginger, chillie

– Vegetables – onion, tomato, pepper, potatoes, green beans

– Rice


Saffron is a precious spice that needs time to infuse, so the first thing you should do is take a pinch of saffron threads and soak them in a small amount of water.

I spent a lot of time with Jamaican people so I am in the habit of washing the meat. Give the beef a quick wash under the tap then leave to soak in salted water.

Next, put your pot on to heat and add the cumin seeds and coriander seeds.

After a while add some oil and when the oil is hot add the chopped onion, garlic and ginger.

When it is fragrant, add the beef. Mix together.

I would now add the chilli, pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander and turmeric, as well as a small pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper. Mix together.

Chop the tomato and add to the mix (a couple regular tomatoes or one beef tomato).

Next, put in the potatoes and green beans, add water to just below the level of the contents of the pot, and bring to the boil. We are now going to cook this for a long time, so let it simmer without a lid.

When you are ready, cook the rice. Add the saffron water at the same time you add the water.

Final touch before you turn off the heat, add the fresh herbs to the pot.

Serve and enjoy.


  • Blue

    Good for you. We must take these opportunities when we can, they lead to better things. But it takes courage.

  • Julie Thorn

    James I think it is really nice when old friends get together and good on you for cooking a meal :-). It is a very brave and kind thing to do especially as you had felt low, I wouldn’t know where you would get Saffron from in Sheffield though sounds very exotic. Iran is a long way to travel for it 😉

    • James Poulter

      Hi Julie, thanks for your comments 🙂 Actually I bought the saffron from Beanies in Crookes, it is very good quality and a good price as well. They keep the saffron behind the counter. The brand is Brindisa, it is a Spanish company but the saffron is from Iran. I used to work with saffron so I know a little about it. Take good care 🙂

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