Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Fish and chips. Bangers and mash. Chicken Tikka Masalla. *Screeches to a halt* I thought I was talking about our great nation’s favourite traditional dishes, so how did that mouth watering creamy, spicy little number sneak in there?
It sneaked in, of course, because Chicken Tikka Masalla is one of Britain’s favourite meals (although, it has apparently been knocked off the top spot now by … a Chinese stir fry!)
For curry lovers like myself visiting a local English Festival recently, it was somewhat satisfying to find that in between the stalls of fruit chutneys and wines, beers and fudge, there nestled a stall full of tempting Indian snacks. And totally at home they were too, with as big a throng around them as at the fish’n’chip van or the Women’s Institute tea tent.
And this is because nine out of the top ten dishes that Britons cook regularly are Asian, with curry (including vegetarian) recipes easy to follow (unless you’re me, but we’ll come to that later) for a full and satisfying meal. Add in the accompanying rice and vegetables and it’s also a lot healthier than the stodgyness of a shortcrust steak and kidney pie and chips.
The latest survey reports that three out of seven meals a week in the average British household now originate from Asia, with our children much more open to trying new and different tastes than our parent’s generation. I certainly don’t ever remember having anything like that cooked by my mum and we would only occasionally be treated to a takeaway.
‘Curry’ is a generic term, meaning any meat or vegetable cooked in a spicy gravy and I have to admit, my favourite part of my Indian meal is wiping up the leftover sauce with a Peshwari nan bread; then there’s the swamping of the king prawn butterfly or the onion bhajias in raita dip and hearing the sizzle of onions and peppers with the chicken shashlick … I may have to hit the shops again this afternoon now, I’ve made myself hungry.
Do we ever manage to capture the full flavours ourselves though? Being somewhat culinary challenged, only once have I been truly satisfied with what I’ve prepared. I’ve resorted to the bottles and jars but it’s never, ever tasted the same as my local restaurant – and I find that sometimes, a shop bought tikka masalla is hotter (I invariably find the chilli and bite right into it!) than the real thing. And I don’t do hot, not at all – korma and masalla are pretty much my limit! I like to taste the flavours and not have to wash them down with gallons of water! I even bought a spice rack, with one of everything I may need but, gradually, they ran past their sell by dates. It’s an ongoing desire I’m scared I may never fulfil: To prepare an Indian banquet I can enjoy as much as one prepared by an expert.
Quite apart from that, cooking at home can also be a lot less embarrassing than eating out: Picture the scene – a quiet table for two in a romantically lit Indian restaurant, a selection of spicy delicacies placed before a couple on only their second date. And me, manfully (or rather, ladyfully) yet elegantly, trying to slide the shish kebab off the skewer but succeeding only in shooting a plateful of rice and vegetables across the table into his lap … *blushes at the memory* The waiter asked if there was anything else he could get us. “A clean table cloth would be good” mumbled the soon to be ex …