Everyday Indian Food
Indian restaurants in the UK have moved on a long way from the 1960s and 70s when everything – from the chairs to the menu – was decked out in deep red velvet. Not to mention that embossed flock wallpaper, the dizzying carpets, and the kitsch curtains with gold brocade and tassels. It was all meant to set the scene for the opulent meal you were about to experience.
Indian restaurants also used to conjure up images of lads ‘going out for an Indian’ and ordering the “hottest curry on the menu” to demonstrate how macho they were. Tellingly, a real live Indian person would be cooking and serving the food, but you would never actually see one eating it. (Which reminds me of that brilliant Goodness Gracious Me sketch with Indians in Mumbai ‘Going out for an English’!).
Most Indian restaurants in the UK are actually a slight misnomer because they are owned and run by entrepreneurial Bangladeshi families. This means of course the methods and spice blends are heavily influenced by the cuisine of India’s south Asian neighbours.
Moreover, the food is often ‘tailored’ to apparently better suit the British palate. This usually meant more tomatoes in the sauce, extra chili, and quicker cooking techniques.
I’m sure old school Indian restaurants are still out there, but the Indian food dining experience has certainly become more sophisticated these days in the UK.
Flock wallpaper has now become trendy.
And an Indian curry is the nations favourite cuisine, with more than 8,000 Indian restaurants across the country and the average Britain eating an Indian inspired dish twice a week. Indian restaurants have become cool. Dare I say it, Indians have become a little bit cool/er.
As if to demonstrate how much things have moved on from the old days, National Curry Week is coming up this month. Indian restaurants, who have been nominated to represent their local government councils, will compete for the prestigious award of Britain’s Curry Capital. Interestingly, the award itself was started to help promote community cohesion, and to highlight how immigrants to this country make a positive contribution to their cities, and vice versa. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more and am excited for the restaurants competing!
There is of course nothing like home-cooked food (Indian or otherwise) if you can make it yourself (or get an invite to an Indian home with a good cook!).
Home cooked Indian dishes are often slow-cooked to sweeten the onions, release the flavours, and fuse the spices. It can be a real labour of love. (A curry always tastes better the day after it’s cooked; the spices have had a chance to get to know each other and make sweet spicy music).
At home, if you have time, the spices are roasted and then ground from scratch, and this care and attention to detail can really make an astounding difference to dish.
North Indian food is rather famous for its spice blends – particularly “Garam Masala” – literally ‘hot spice mix’. The ‘hot’ in the Garam Masala refers to the depth of spicy flavour, rather than chili led piquancy.
While the restaurants all fight it out with each other this month, (Go Glasgow!) I hope you’re inspired to make a home-cooked curry and celebrate Indian food too. Start by perfecting your own Garam Masala mix. Here’s my home version.
You’ll need this for my slow-home-cooked Channa Masala recipe (Spicy Chickpeas), coming soon…
The basis of most Garam Masala recipes seems to be all of the spices you can think of beginning with the letter ‘C’.
and Cardamom (for this mix I have used black cardamoms, green is an optional extra).
I’ve also added the beautiful Star Anise
and Bay Leaf.
Recipe: – (You can increase and decrease any of the spices you love or like less, and add more spices to the mix):
- 2 inch Cinnamon stick
- 1 tbp Coriander seeds
- 1 tbp Cumin Seeds
- 1tsp Cloves (approx)
- 3-4 Black Cardamom pods (crack them open. Keep the inner seed, discard the shell)
- 1 Star Anise
- 1-2 Bay Leaf
Take a skillet, griddle or frying pan.
Heat up the empty pan.
When the pan is hot, add in all of the spices.
Drop in the spice mix for literally a few seconds to release the oils and flavour.
Enjoy the aroma.
When done, throw the mix into a grinder (electric or hand) and flick the switch or pound away!
* Don’t over grind, leave the spice a little coarse to really maximise the flavours!
Store in a clean jar with a tight lid to keep those flavours fresh.
Or prepare smaller amounts, as and when you need Garam masala for your dish. Done.