In case you hadn’t noticed, it is International Curry Week. It has been called our “national cuisine” and is undoubtedly a big player on the British cooking scene, with the UK curry industry worth in excess of £1 billion a year. The name curry itself hailing from the Tamil word ‘kari’, meaning ‘sauce’. Heck, curry has captured the hearts and minds of the nation to such an extent that the England 1998 World Cup anthem (Vindaloo), was named after a dish first concocted on the other side of the globe. No matter if you’re a curry maven or not, here’s the Hello Fresh currypedia- a brief foray into the wonderful world of curries and Indian cooking. Second to Naan!
Vindaloo. If vindaloo were a person, it would be the hot-tempered, unpredictable and pungent teenager. Forget subtle spicing and delicate degrees of taste: this is a culinary fireball. In Britain, vindaloo seems to be more the ultimate test of virility than a dish to be desired. On a Friday night, after the mandatory three pints of lager, scores of men around the country will dare each other with the vindaloo challenge.
Vindaloo originated in the Portuguese dish vinho d’alho (meaning wine and garlic), traditionally served with meat (typically pork), it was brought to Goa in south-west India when the Portuguese used it as a popular trading port. A typical vindaloo will include a glorious range of spices, including garlic, vinegar, chillies, coriander, cumin, onions, ginger, peppercorns and tomatoes. The meat is usually marinated in a vindaloo masala for hours – sometimes even days – to give it maximum phwoar. Although it contains red chillies, those traditionally used are Kashmiri chillies, which are mild and add more colour than heat. If this lights your fire, make sure to have some naan bread to scoop up the scalding cinders.
Tikka Masala. Cucumber sandwiches and strawberries and cream may grace the Queen’s table at lunch, but what could be more British than the chicken tikka masala? If you consider yourself as a bit of wimp in the spice department and flinch at the thought of anything spicy dancing on your tongue, then the magnificent masala is a good place to start. Its exact origins are sketchy. Legend has it that chicken tikka masala was invented in a Glasgow curry house after a customer complained that his chicken was dry and demanded some gravy for his meat. The chef, in a moment of desperation (or divine inspiration?), prepared a sauce using yoghurt and spices soaked in a tin of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup which he had been eating while recovering from a stomach ulcer. This mild curry is colourful and creamy – the tikkas (little pieces) are marinated in a tomato-based sauce with coriander and a mixture of spices including chilli powder, cayenne pepper and turmeric to add an orange-yellow colour. Tikka masala is cooked tandoori style in a charcoal-fired oven. There are more than 50 versions of this dish and the only common ingredient is chicken. Spice and easy does it.
Saag. Saag is the name given to a dish of green leaves of certain edible vegetables which is cooked on its own with butter, garlic, turmeric, cumin, coriander and other spices. What better way to disguise Popeye’s favourite snack than to pep it up with thick sauce?
Saag, the sumptuous green mistress of curries, is common to the Punjab region of India and Pakistan, using mustard leaf, spinach and other greens cooked slowly in spices. Some of the famous saag dishes you can expect in your local Indian would be Saag Gosht (with meat), Saag Paneer (with a curd cheese) and Saag bhaji. In some places they might refer to a saag dish as saagwalla.
Jalfrezi. A basic jalfrezi recipe consists of green chillies, peppers, onions, herbs and tomatoes mixed with marinated meat, oil and spices in a dry, thick sauce. The jolly jalfrezi is a good all-rounder with a zesty spice to it- it can be as hot as the big boys like madras, depending on the chef’s interpretation but on the whole it shouldn’t blow your socks off and will leave a pleasant tingling sensation on the tongue. The dish has its roots in the Calcutta region of India at the time of the British Raj. It isn’t a traditional Indian recipe, but rather a popular indigenous way of cooking – simply put, it is somewhat the Indian version of the Chinese stir-fry made with curry spices. Literally translated as “hot-fry”, it is better translated as stir-fry; it is a great way to pack in some nutritious veggies and the recipe can easily be adapted. Jump for jalfrezi!
Bombay Aloo. Ah the Bombay potato! This dish is the perfect marriage of two basic foodstuffs – potatoes and spice . Even the most dogged carnivore can’t resist this aromatic side dish –what a wonderful way to dress up the humble spud. Seldom will a curry house menu not this dish included in some incarnation. The vital ingredients are potatoes, onions and cumin seeds and then a smattering of spices – the beauty of this dish is that it can be spruced up with a variety of spices.
Phal. Phal was allegedly invented in Britain and is a notch up from its cousin, Vindaloo, on the strength-o-meter. Umm, a word of warning though. It will hurt.
You won’t enjoy it. If you must eat one, remember to refrigerate your toilet paper before you go to bed…the chilli is not broken down by your digestive system.
What is your favourite curry dish? Do you stick to your tikkas or are you more adventurous?