Secret recipe revealed: Ed’s Jungle Garlic Chicken Curry

Written by Ed Pitts, Second Chef

This is a curry I’ve adapted from a traditional Bengali recipe. Bengalis are renowned for putting extra onion in their curries, creating curries such as the Dopiaza. As the capital of British-colonialised India, Bengali cuisine has for many years been adored by us Brits and Bengalis have clung to their traditional cooking practices and recipes. Good job too, means we get to enjoy these great, timeless recipes today!

Serves 4, approx 45 mins

Ed’s Jungle Garlic Chicken Curry

Ed Pitts cooking curry4 chicken breasts, diced
4 white onions, roughly chopped
2 red chillis, deseeded
12 cloves garlic, peeled
2cm cube of fresh ginger, peeled
3 tins of tomatoes
250g butter
2 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander
2 tbsp turmeric
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp garam masala
1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
100ml water

1. Clarify butter by melting it on a low heat so the foam of the butter separates from the liquid below. Lift the foam off and discard.
2. Place your clarified butter in a pan, add the onion and cook on a medium heat until golden brown.
3. Drain the onions, retaining the butter mix.
4. Put your onions, garlic, chillis and ginger into the food processor – you may need to do this in stages if the quantities are too much! – and blend to a paste.
5. Add chopped tomatoes and blend these too.
6. Take a large pan, reheat your butter mixture and add the paste you’ve created. Cook for 3 mins on a high heat until the edges start to bubble.

Chilli by Graibeard via Flickr

Chilli by Graibeard via Flickr

7. Add all spices excluding the garam masala and cook for 2-3 mins more. If the curry starts to spit, just add a drop of water to calm it down.
8. Add the diced chicken, plenty of salt and pepper and 50ml water. Turn the heat down and simmer for 20-25mins, adding water if the curry reduces too quickly.
9. Add the garam masala and chopped coriander. Cook for a further 5 mins and then serve.

For a tasty vegetarian alternative why not substitute chicken for fresh veg? Root vegetables such as sweet potato, potato may benefit from a pre-roasting in spices.

This curry is medium to hot in spice but can be made hotter with more chilli, or made milder by stirring in some yoghurt when serving.

Serve with…..

Fragrant Rice

4 mugs rice
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
3 cloves
3 cardamom pods
125g butter
Salt and pepper

1. Wash rice.
2. Add ingredients to thick-based pan.
3. Cover with cold water to just above the surface.
4. Cook for 15 – 20 mins approx. or until rice is of a good texture.
5. Drain and serve.

A final thought from Ed….
Curry is one of my favourite dishes. Many a night of debauchery has been spent in the curry house, larking about and causing mischief with mates. It’s one of those dishes that works well, whatever the occasion.

To try a taste of Ed’s curry, come along to one of our comedy club curry nights or one of our big name comedy gigs (you can get discounts on your curry if you book in advance at the Box Office: 01432 340555). But if you can’t wait til then pop into The Courtyard Cafe Bar this weekend, as Ed puts his Jungle Curry on our specials board. Yum yum!


Designing the Jungle: Carl Davies talks us through his costume concepts

I caught up with Carl Davies, Jungle Book costume designer, to find out what he has in store for our upcoming Courtyard production…

Carl Davies with one of his favourite costumes for Jungle Book, Chil the Kite.

Carl Davies with one of his favourite costumes for Jungle Book, Chil the Kite.

“It’s quite fun to do the Jungle Book because you can do anything with it…. you don’t necessarily just dress them up as an animal, they’ve got their own individual characters which is quite nice…. for instance, Baloo the Bear is going to be a geography teacher in tweed.

“Most challenging costume is probably Mowgli. Mowgli, you’d almost imagine a loin cloth and nothing else but because it’s for the stage you have to… we’ve made it quite ‘patchworky’ and given him a top.

“I think my style is very layered…. especially with the Jungle Book, there’s a lot of fur, a lot of leather, a lot of layers, but it works because everything has to move in the right way.

“The main characters will stand out, they’ve each got their individual colours…. Chil the Kite is going to be an air hostess!”

Written by: Toki Allison, Deputy Marketing Manager

Dashing through the Jungle: Diary of a (rogue) Director

Written by: Grant Brisland, Learning, Participation & Programming Manager

We’re coming very close to the production weeks now where the young people will start their intensive rehearsals, the set will be built and the final alterations to the costumes are done. The process in all takes about a year, once we have been able to agree a title, and the time has flown by. This is my third year in the producing seat for our Junior Youth Theatre production and the process is different every time. This year is particularly special and there haven’t been too many bumpy rides so far (famous last words?!).

Jungle Book rehearsals

Jungle Book rehearsals

I don’t often attend many rehearsals – I tend to dip in and out and mainly ensure that everyone is happy with how things are going. However, this year, whilst David was celebrating a good friend’s marriage, I was not only in the producing seat but the directing one too. For a director to hand over the reign, even for a day, is a difficult one. This is ultimately David’s (metaphorical) baby (his actual one is due during the run!) and it is my responsibility to ensure that this rehearsal is as productive as the previous weeks. After all, the young people only have 48 hours in the rehearsal room before we start the production week and there is a lot to learn in a very short space of time.

So, at 7am on Saturday 23 March when my alarm went off I jumped out of bed and eagerly awaited what the day had in store. Now, for anyone who knows me will know that this level of excitement and anticipation is not my regular response to having to get up early (yes, getting up at 7am is early!). However, I knew that I was going to enjoy getting to know our Youth Theatre members better as well as seeing their talents on display. At the end of an exhausting day with a wine in hand and some time for reflection it was clear that we have another great production on our hands. The commitment, passion, enthusiasm and drive shown to me from the young people throughout the whole day was extraordinary. This has only been mirrored by David and the rest of the production and creative team who are working tirelessly to ensure that The Jungle Book is a huge success.

Jungle Attack

Jungle Attack

The production and design team have been in situ (in a freezing cold warehouse at Rotherwas) for just over a week and the early results are very exciting. Working with Carl Davies, a friendship I forged on another Courtyard Youth Theatre production for Alice in Wonderland in 2005, has been a real pleasure. Originally from Herefordshire but now living in Sheffield, Carl is creating what looks to be our most colourful set to date and although this isn’t a blog entry to thank people I should also credit Richard, Adam, Jules and Les for their assistance in the first week too. Indeed, I even got my own hands dirty on Friday!

I also owe a huge thank you to our Assistant Director, Jack Spreckley, for his help throughout the rehearsal day on Saturday. Having come up through our Youth Theatre and taken on main roles in previous productions, it was great to see him in action with the young people. He has been a great asset to David throughout the whole production and I was very grateful for his support on the day. We’ll miss him later in the year when he goes to Camp America but know that we have trained him in good stead to carry The Courtyard flag on US grounds.

I just hope David likes the alterations I have made to his direction… Mwhahahahahaaaaa

Jen’s Lens – Time Out with Director of The Jungle Book, David Durant

Inspiring confidence and self-belief in children through performance is a notion close to the heart of The Courtyard’s Youth Theatre Director and Education Officer, David Durant.

Jungle Book Director, David Durant

Jungle Book Director, David Durant

Currently directing 200 children from the ages of 4 to 14, David hopes that this Easter’s performance of ‘The Jungle Book’, will be an experience that the children can hold as a lifelong memory.

The Courtyard has chosen a stage adaptation from the Rudyard Kipling novel as their April show for the younger members of their youth theatre.  A fitting text in that the many parts and aspects of the story give every child a role in the play, and allow them to develop their journey through performance along with the journey of the story’s protagonist, Mowgli.  From a narrative point of view, the story deals with the journey and self discovery of man, through socialisation, friendships and challenges, a theme most of us, children and grown up’s alike can relate to.  Particularly “from a directing point of view”, says David, “the text is very exciting as there is lots I can do to develop characters, such as Kaa the Snake and Bagheera the Panther, the way all the characters interact with each other and impact the story”.

When quizzed about the challenges of adapting novel to stage, David admits the first challenge is that despite the text being well known, many people’s first involvement with the story comes from Walt Disney’s 1967 animated adaptation; a tale better known for a swinging Orang-utan and catchy songs.    “It is surprising how different the book is from Disney” he says, “as the Disney story finishes with the defeat of Shere Khan, whereas that is in fact only half of the story.  The original novel even goes on to deal with Mowgli’s journey into manhood and his need to be reunited with the world of man; to not only be Lord of the Jungle but also Lord of Man”.   The beauty of the text however lies in its adaptability, and this is something that gives an inspiring amount of creative vision to someone like David, who is excited to put his own stamp on the much loved classic.  One difference from page to screen he has observed is the “ambiguous” personality put against Kaa the Snake.  The book portrays the serpent as a protector and a friend, whereas Disney paints him as a poisonous villain.  David’s portrayal of Kaa sees them “flit between the two.  So in one sense we see him as the powerful protector that rescues Mowgli, and then he goes after the monkeys.  So you never really know if he is good or bad.”

Not only does working on characterisation aim to keep the production team on their toes, but so does the amount of children involved in the production.  With two casts of over a hundred students each performing over 4 nights, David praises the “kind parents who chaperone” and the great helpers and assistant directors (some of whom are his previous youth theatre members) that keep the children engaged with the production by working through elements of the show in small groups.  This dedication is integral to David who says passionately that he “really believes in the power of theatre to enrich the lives of children”.  He recognises the endless benefits that young people’s involvement with theatre has.  “The obvious one is confidence”, he states “because they realise they are good at something.  And that sense of achievement, leads to them believing they can achieve in other areas too.”  David understands the impact theatrical involvement can have on a child’s maturity and hopes that the work put in to productions like The Jungle Book will be a “memory they can take with them throughout life, and continuously use a reference point when faced with difficult challenges and obstacles.”

Making this particular performance more memorable, are a few unusual and exotic thematic elements, which help identify this performance as original to The Courtyard.  “Without giving too much away”, says David “the theme of this performance is all about the Jungle coming out to the audience”.  He clarifies that during the performance you will not find a monkey in your lap, but instead the building and auditorium will feel immersed within the vibes of the Jungle.  The locality of the story provides more exoticism in that the production focuses on “delving deep in to the Indian culture, which is rooted in the story.”  The aim is to flavour the production elements with traditional Indian dancing and Bollywood influences.  “Letting audience members look through this window into India,” as David describes it.

These foreign elements all develop from ideas to practice through the collaborative process of David, as Director, working with a creative team.  “It is really exciting”, he effuses “as it not only means working with creative people, but it allows you to share an idea and let someone else run with that, and put their own twist on it.”  Sarah Jane Matthews, of the Hereford Academy of Dance is choreographer for the production, and Rab Handleigh (of Feral productions and various pantomimes) will be resuming his seat in the orchestra pit as Musical Director.  “It’s like doing a massive painting and giving everyone a paintbrush, and saying, let’s have some fun here!” David laughs.

David’s teaching and work with young people, both past and present, goes beyond a love of drama and a love of producing, but is also about “giving them opportunities, that I wish I’d had,” he says.  So much so, that he has been involved with youth performance for a number of years, and picking a favourite moment becomes tricky.  “There have been so many highlights for me”, he adds, “certainly working at The Courtyard is one of them, but before I came to Hereford I worked on a project called Shank in Croydon.”  David explains this was a collaborative piece between the Youth Theatre in South Croydon and the BBC, on knife crime.  “Many of the people involved”, he explains “had had a personal involvement with knife crime, and had some fascinating and heartbreaking stories.  It felt really important to show people just how precious life is.”  This project was both poignant and inspiring to David, and was responsible for kick starting his passion for working with young people.  Another high point he lists is directing The Courtyard’s Lion, Witch and The Wardrobe production in 2011, a production that also involved a large number of youth theatre pupils, and that previous experience is why he is thrilled to be doing something on a similar scale with The Jungle Book.

“The Jungle Book is so important in offering the young people of Herefordshire a platform, so community support for productions like this is vital”, says David, “as we are not just trying to build an audience for this particular production, but are opening doors for future generations.”  And David Durant is already looking to the future, as he directs the Senior Youth Theatre in a modern take on William Shakespeare’s ‘The Comedy of Errors’ this summer.  The play, he explains, will focus very heavily on our superficial understandings of identity, how well we actually know others and ourselves, along with a heavy dose of farce.  David is also particularly delighted to be directing the Courtyard’s first fully professionally produced piece (excluding Pantomime) since 2006, Jason and the Argonauts, which will launch later in the Autumn and then tour nationally.

“At the end of the day these shows all come down to these young people,” David concludes, “and I hope that continued support for these shows means that the Courtyard can continue to put on productions with young people for years to come.”

The Jungle Book is on at The Courtyard from Weds 10 – Sat 13 April, and has performance times of 2pm and 7pm.  To book tickets, or for more information on The Courtyard’s Youth Theatre call 01432 340555, or visit the website at

Interviewed and written up by Jennifer Booton, Press & Marketing Officer at The Courtyard.

5 Questions with Mowgli, played by Nick Lane

Nick Lane as Mowgli in rehearsals

Nick Lane as Mowgli in rehearsals

 What are you most looking forwards to in the Jungle Book?  

I am looking forward to working in a team with my friends and gaining experience from the talented professionals.

Why is playing the hero and the main character so good?

It’s good because it’s fun and exciting.  One of the best aspects about Mowgli is that his character changes in a split second.  One second he is raging mad and the next he is sad and solemn.  This gives me the opportunity to perform both characters of the acting coin.

What tricks do you use to get into character?  And what is your character about?

I personally stop what I’m doing and focus on my character.  I think of every aspect and try to mirror them, and eventually I feel that I am that character.

There are a lot of children involved in this performance.  What is so good about working in a large team?

Working with a large team is great because it develops my confidence and allows some of the older members of the cast to help the little ones.  Also the end result is always better to share with others when you have a bigger cast.

What do you like the most about being part of The Courtyard’s Youth Theatre?

Firstly the friends you make being part of youth theatre.  I personally really look forward to the youth theatre because of the experience and fun I have when I’m there.  Secondly, when I was in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, I looked up to the main parts as inspiration and I think that every child should be able to look up to someone and then realise one day someone is looking up to you.

Arts & Older People’s Project Update: Alice’s Diary

It has been an exciting very few weeks within the Arts and Older People Project at The Courtyard, with our Networking Event, the Dementia Action Alliance and probably the thing most people have been talking about – the guest night for Finding Joy.

The networking event brought together those interested in using the arts to engage older people in participatory activities. It allowed a platform for like-minded people to meet and share experiences so they can start their own projects and partnerships. It was great to see freelance artists exchanging numbers with those already working with older groups. The event attracted a real mix of people, from health care professionals to dance teachers.

The Garrick Singers, a partnership project with The Music Pool, is still going strong. Last week again it attracted over 100 people. The Garrick Singers is a new choir on a Monday for those aged 60 and over or retired. The Music Pool and The Courtyard and both thrilled that the choir is appealing to so many people – it is attracting people from all across the country, some attendees coming from Longtown and even Gloucestershire.  Participants of the Garrick Singers don’t need any prior knowledge of being in a choir, they don’t need to be able to read music; they just need enthusiasm for singing. Those who are attending are now staying for lunch and it seems to be becoming a real social event for those at the Courtyard. Why not come along and see what all the fuss is about?


Garrick Singers

Garrick Singers

As lots of you will already be aware, The Courtyard has become the first arts centre to join the Dementia Action Alliance (DAA). This is a really exciting step for The Courtyard and in particular for people and their families living with dementia across Herefordshire. I have spent the last few weeks visiting the memory cafés across Herefordshire, and working with groups who are affected by dementia to gather their feedback on what they would like to see happen, to  enable them to engage in the arts. It’s created a lot of discussion and some really interesting things have come up, that will help us shape our commitment to working with people with dementia. Our front line staff will be receiving dementia awareness training during March; this is a key aspect of our future plans, to enable people to feel safe and supported to visit the venue.

March will see the start of our ‘Red Suitcase’ project, a partnership between Hereford College of Arts (HCA) and The Courtyard’s Arts and Older People Project. It is the vision of Penny Allen who is a student board member at HCA and a third year degree student studying Contemporary Applied Arts. The project will take 12 second year degree students on six week placements in residential care homes across Herefordshire. Each group of students will be taking a red vintage suitcase with sample quilts and inspiration items in to homes. The students and residents will work together to create new quilts  which will then be entered into the Festival of Quilts ‘group quilts’ category (an annual international quilt festival at the NEC in August). The craft of quilting has a history of bringing together groups of people from across the generations to exchange skills and knowledge. It is hoped that this project will allow students and residents the opportunity to exchange ideas and stories and allow all to participate, residents don’t just have to sew to be involved. The students will aim to capture the stories from the residents within the work and over the six week period residents will play a key part in creating these quilts.

Finding Joy by Vamos Theatre

Finding Joy by Vamos Theatre

And finally last but not least the truly amazing Finding Joy. I watched Finding Joy on the opening night and it’s a wonderfully humorous, yet heart-warming piece. What the performance does so well is show us that living with dementia isn’t all doom and gloom. Yes it is a terrible condition, and yes it can affect families in terrible ways, as I know from my own experiences. But what the piece does so well is put a positive spin on one family’s situation, it provides hope for all those families out their who are living with dementia, that along with the bad times, comes the good. This performance doesn’t just allow those who have a connection with dementia to relate to the performance, so many people can relate to different characters on different levels. Coming out of the performance you can hear people saying ‘I was that daughter’ or ‘I was that grandson’. If you haven’t seen it yet and you’re only going to see one piece of theatre this year – make it Finding Joy!

Finding Joy continues to tour after it’s stellar launch night here at The Courtyard:

Written By: Alice Saunders, Arts & Older People’s Project Coordinator

Laugh-in the New Year, live the healthy life… … and raise money for charity!

Did you know? Laughing for just 15 minutes can burn up to 40 calories.

So kick start your 2013 diet plans and book some tickets to see the brilliantly funny Roisin Conaty – star of BBC Three’s Impractical Jokers – who’s bringing her new stand-up show to The Courtyard for one night only on Friday, January 18th.

“Conaty, oddly, has shades of early Russell Brand, but with less misogyny, including a charming flamboyance and a turn of phrase that proves she’s a verbal gymnast as well as a pretty face.” ~ Kirstyn Smith, The List

Roisin Conaty, comedienne

Roisin Conaty, comedienne

Not only will you be doing yourself some good, you’ll be raising vital funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, a cause close to the heart of organiser Melanie Denning who’s been a business development manager at The Courtyard for the last six years. ‘Our 12-year-old son Owain was diagnosed with CF at seven weeks old which was a massive shock. But his dad Chris and I picked ourselves up and decided we were going to do our utmost to keep Owain as well as possible and not let CF dominate our lives. We’re also determined to do what we can to raise money to help find a cure and Chris has done so many mad things, including three marathons, a zip wire at Man United and a tandem skydive while I’ve stuck to organising things like this comedy night, our second at The Courtyard.’

Over 9,000 people in the UK have CF, one of the most common life-threatening inherited diseases for which there is no cure, although much genetic and treatment research is going on, funded mainly by charity fundraising such as this comedy night up and down the country.

The Denning family

The Denning family

Each week five babies are born with CF and two young lives are lost to the disease although improving treatments such as antibiotics mean average life expectancy has been steadily increasing.

Melanie says she can’t wait to see Roisin, a previous winner of Best Newcomer at Edinburgh Comedy Festival, along with young Welsh comedian Dan Thomas who’ll be supporting Russell Kane later this Spring. ‘I’ve also asked Phil Pearcy, our front of house manager, to compere for us… he won our Comedy Festival’s Open Mic competition last year and is very funny so all in all, it should be a great night out for an even greater cause!’ says Melanie.

Book online or get your tickets from The Courtyard’s Box Office on 01432 340555, £15.

Appointment of New Board Members

The Courtyard Centre for the Arts is a registered charity and the primary performing arts provider in Herefordshire hosting an eclectic programme of lives shows, film and visual arts.  It is also home to a vibrant youth theatre and a thriving education and outreach department.  In April 2012 The Courtyard became one of the Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations.

A vacancy has arisen on our Board and we are seeking to appoint a new, non-executive member prepared to bring and share their high-level experience and their passion for the arts.  We welcome applications from individuals who can represent the Board from a cross-section of our wider community.  At this time we would be particularly interested to hear from those whose skills and backgrounds lie in education, social care, performing arts and visual arts.  As well as contributing their time and expertise, Board Members act as ambassadors in Herefordshire, as well as regionally and nationally.  We are looking to appoint exceptional individuals who will be able to contribute to the continued success of our organisation.

The Courtyard building at night

To find out more about The Courtyard generally and Board membership in particular, please visit our website at boardmembership to download the recruitment details, or contact Martyn Green, Chief Executive, on 01432 346500 or  If you would like to have an informal chat with the Chairman of the Board he would be pleased to hear from you and he can be contacted on

The closing date is 12 noon on 17 January 2013 and you should apply by sending a CV and covering letter to: Dr Roger Morgan, Chairman, The Courtyard Centre for the Arts, Edgar Street, Hereford, HR4 9JR.