If I were to ask you to name some quintessentially English dishes, I don't think curry would be the first thing to spring to mind. Fish and chips? Yes. Yorkshire puddings? Yes. Curry? No. But today English cuisine is influenced with flavours and ingredients from all corners of the world thanks to the Empire. A long history of conquering and immigration have brought new dishes to the English table.
I was first introduced to the glory that is curry in England while visiting Luke at his university house in Rusholme, Manchester. In Rusholme there is a street known as 'Curry Mile' because it is dominated by curry houses, as well as Asian fashion shops, grocers, and Shisha bars. In fact it is thought to be the largest concentration of South Asian restaurants outside the Indian subcontinent. On a hot summer's night with the neon lights, exotic smells, and green grocers spilling out onto the pavements being on 'Curry Mile' is like being abroad.
While I love curry, I've never been able to make an Indian curry at home, trust me I've tried. Sure you can buy a jar of Sharwood's Tikka Masala cooking sauce at the super market but it will taste nothing like a curry from the Indian restaurant AND even less like a proper curry. Enter Mira. Mira works with me and like so many British citizens comes from Indian ancestry. Her parents moved over from Uganda years before Mira was born. (Did you know they have a lot of Indian immigrants in Uganda, I didn't!)
Besides making me laugh on a regular basis with stories about her family (think My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but instead of Greek insert Indian), she has also taught me a lot about Indian culture, which I find fascinating. And the most important part of any culture is, in my opinion, the food! She's brought in lots of delicious treats to try from pau bhaji (a thick potato-based curry on top of a toasted roll or pau) to thepla (a pancake filled with spices).
I've been begging Mira to teach me how to cook a curry for months and finally she sat down and wrote it all out for me which I am now going to share with you. Now curry is a sweeping statement as there are so many different types of dishes with different flavours. Most of them however have the same basic ingredients and you add different things depending on your taste to make them a Madras, for example.
- 1 tsp. Turmeric Powder
- 2 tsps. Coriander Powder
- 1 tsp. Chilli Powder
- 1-2 tsps. Mustard Seeds
- 1-2 tsps. Cumin Seeds
- Fresh or Tinned Tomatoes
- Fresh coriander (Optional)
- Lemon (Optional)
- Your vegetables and meat if you so desire (Many Indians are vegetarians but lamb/chicken curries are also popular. Just don't use beef!)
- Heat up oil in a pan.
- Add mustard seeds.
- When they have popped, add the cumin seeds. Other things can be added here like cardamom sticks, cloves, fresh basil, bay leaves, etc. Be careful it doesn't burn though because this cooks really quickly.
- Add the onions and crushed garlic. (Ginger can be added her too if you like it)
- When they have browned add your masala which consists of coriander powder, turmeric powder and chilli powder to taste (about a teaspoon, you can always add more later). Other spices like garam masala can be added here too - but Mira's family doesn't use it.
- If you feel it is sticking or gone a bit too dry or is burning then add a little water.
- Make sure you cook out the masala on a lowish heat, the oil will start bubbling out a little and when you stir you will see it changes consistency. The more you cook it, the stronger the taste but don't burn it.
- Add in your vegetables and meat. If you're using potatoes of any kind it's good to parboil them otherwise they remain hard.
- When these are nearly cooked, add in chopped or tinned tomatoes and let it cook out.
- Here's your chance to put it right. If you feel it needs anything else like extra salt or lemon if it's too spicy or needs a kick.
- If you want more sauce, depending on how tomatoey you make it then just add hot water and let it cook out. The sauce will thicken.
- Sprinkle fresh coriander on top and serve.
Q: So what do you think of this recipe? Are you going to try it? Send in photos of your curry creation to firstname.lastname@example.org!