Restaurant style Indian Curry
So the million dollar question: How do you make Indian takeaway/restaurant style curry at home?
Myself and Andy had a good idea of how it was done but didn't know the trade secrets of cooking the curry we all love, so we went in search of someone who did.
That someone is Mr Craig Zerf and here's what he has to tell us all. Enjoy.
How to make Pukka Restaurant style Curry at home by Craig Zerf
Curry…a word that was once synonymous with far-off exotic climes, the Taj Mahal and the Raj. Punka wallahs and Pagdee. You know…foreign!
But now it’s as English as Fish & Chips or Sunday roast. No longer can the French refer to us as ‘le ros bif’, now we should be called, ‘le bif curry’, a name we shall wear with pride!
It’s arguable when it became commonly accepted that Curry had become our most popular national dish although the food itself has been around for ages. I actually found a mention of the use of curry spices in an ancient cook book written around the time of Richard II (late 1300’s). However, it seems to be generally agreed that the curry boom (as it were) started in 1810 when British Bengali entrepreneur, Sake Dean Mohamed, opened the country’s first curry house. The Hindustani Coffee House in Portman Square, London. This was an upmarket establishment that was often frequented by luminaries such as Edward VIII when he was still Prince of Wales. As well as this there was always an influx of Maharajahs whenever the ships from India berthed at the London docks.
On the whole, all of the first Indian restaurants were opened to attract the patronage of ex-pats from the Southern continent. However, around 1927, an Englishman by the name of Edward Palmer opened a restaurant in Regent street called; ‘Veeraswamy’s Indian Restaurant’. It was here that native Londoners began to fall under the spell of exotic Indian cuisine.
And then…Bam! – The Queen’s coronation, 1953. A 67 year old cook and florist, Constance Spry, was asked to prepare a dish especially for the foreign dignitaries at the Queens coronation and she came up with the ubiquitous…Coronation Chicken. Basically a dish consisting of poached chicken with mayonnaise and curry powder. The popularity of this dish caused the sales of pre-mixed curry powder to more than triple overnight, ensuring that almost every household in Britain had, lingering somewhere in the grocery cupboard, a tin of curry powder. Our initial flirting with the heady spices of the Southern continent was starting to develop into a genuine love affair and, over 50 years later, we are all still head-over-heels!
But…what are we in love with? Sounds like a stupid question but it’s well worth quantifying. When we say that we love Indian food…what exactly do we mean? Put it this way – Take a look at a world map. India is about the same size as Europe, and it’s landscape is as varied. Coastline, mountains, desert and marshlands, all of which make a difference to the basic flavours and specialities of local cuisine (after all, seafood won’t be popular in places that are over 1000 miles from the sea). As well as this, one’s diet is also determined by religion and caste. Over 50% of the population is vegetarian, the Parsees are influenced by the Persians, the southern Muslims by the Malaysians; some southern Christians by Irish missionaries; and the Jains won’t even eat anything that grows underground. So let’s face it…saying that we love Indian food is like saying that we love European food when what we actually mean is Italian or Greek cuisine.
OK, great lecture…so where does that leave us? Well, the first thing to note is that the majority of "Indian" restaurants in England (almost 70%) are owned and run by Bangladeshis. So, it stands to reason that when we say Indian food what we actually mean is; Bangladeshi food…or do we?
You see, the food that is served in the average Indian Curry house that we all know and love is actually a hybrid developed over the years to accommodate both western tastes and ingredients. In other words; It is Indian food that has been customised to our exact specifications…no wonder we love the stuff! This has resulted in what is today identified as the "BIR" or British Restaurant Curry. (I know, it should read BRC, but it doesn’t, it’s always referred to as BIR in the trade….so there!)
Cool – so how can I make this awesome, customised, curry at home or maybe, more to the point…why doesn’t the curry that I make at home taste like the stuff that I get in a restaurant?
Simple…we overcomplicate things. In the restaurant business you have to turn out consistent, good food at reasonable prices and with a quick turnaround time. When you consider that the average Indian curry house menu can stretch to as many as 200 separate items it is obvious that the chef cannot prepare such a vast array of sauces separately…your average dish would take over 2 hours to get to your table!
So, how do we get around that? Read closely because you are about to be told the closely guarded secret of…“The British Indian Restaurant Curry Recipe”. (Cue trumpet fanfare, roll of drums and general folderol).
Our great journey starts with the preparation of 2 bases or FUNDAMENTALS.
BUT - This is where it gets AWESOME! Here is how we cater for individual curries…
For Pathia click here
For Jalfrezi click here
For Pilau Rice click here
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