Why buy it?
Hundreds of years of shared history have led to Indian food being wholeheartedly embraced by Britain, where it has become a huge part of the culinary landscape. Indian cookery legend Madhur Jaffrey, more recently known in Australia through her TV series Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Nation, offers in her eponymous cookbook 100 recipes that she collected all over Britain, representing at least 10 different cuisines from the Indian continent, including Punjab, Kerala, Goa, Kashmir, Nepal, Bengladesh, Bengal… the list goes on.
You will find classics such as pork vindaloo, lamb meatball curry (kofte) and chicken biryani, as well as other dishes that are the perfect representation of how the British have integrated Indian food into their own cuisine – there’s rogan josh shepherd’s pie, and chicken tikka masala, which is actually a mixture of the original Indian dish chicken tikka, to which a masala sauce was added “to satisfy the desire of the British people to have their meat served with gravy”. We learn that in Wales, chicken vindaloo is eaten “’alf and ’alf” (half rice and half chips) and Madhur even mentions haggis pakoras and haggis curry served at an Indian restaurant in Glasgow!
Lovers of preserves will rejoice at the prospect of making their own mango pickles and coconut or coriander chutneys, while vegetarians are spoilt for choice with a generous selection of dhals and vegetable dishes, which can be also used to accompany meat and fish. You will learn the “dying art” of chapatti-making, how to prepare dosa (the Indian version of crêpes), as well as numerous ways to accommodate rice.
The recipes, which were contributed not only by reputed chefs, but by home cooks as well, are meant to be easily replicated at home. A trip to a specialty or Indian store will be necessary to get hold of some of the spices and pulses, but most of them are available at supermarkets. Pressure cookers lend themselves to Indian cuisine perfectly, and are “commonly used throughout India to save time and fuel”. A blender might also be a good investment, if you don’t already have one, for pureeing vegetables and meat.
The inevitable Chicken tikka masala, or CTM as it is often called, which has now replaced fish and chips as Britain’s national dish!
Most surprising dish
Split pea and tomato sauce with noodle (dal dhokri): we don’t often see noodles in Indian cuisine, and are probably more accustomed to seeing noodles topped with tomato sauce, whereas in this dish, the noodles are dropped into the sauce, which is similar to a soup. Either way, it’s a winning combination.
It’s not before the 19th century that the word “curry” started being used in the British households posted in India. “Not a single dish was called ‘curry’ by the Indians. But the British, having already borrowed the Tamil word ‘kari’, meaning ‘sauce’, for the Indian food they ate and looking for an umbrella term to cover the variety laid out on the table, began to call all dishes ‘curry’ and the entire meal ‘curry and rice’,” says Jaffrey.
Lovers of Indian food, people who want to replicate at home the recipes they enjoyed watching on Madhur Jaffrey’s TV series, and people who are interested in Great Britain, its relationship to Indian culture and how it translates into its culinary landscape.
Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Nation: Britain’s 100 Favourite Recipes, Madhur Jaffrey (Random House, $49.95, hbk)