I make at least two curries a week because I am a curry fiend. In France the curries are mild so I often long for the classics I grew up on in the UK – Butter Chicken, Passanda, Tikka, Madras, Vindaloo. I have practically begged waiters in Indian restaurants in Paris to add some spice and make the vindaloo hot but alas only a hint of chilly hits my palette. I like spicy curry, goddammit, and so I decided to literally take things into my own hands and start making my own curries.
Fortunately, I was not a total novice as I could already knock up a basic curry from scratch and haven’t bought a jar of curry and pasta sauce since I was a teen. Having lived near the ‘curry mile’ in Rusholme, Manchester, as a student, I crave the fragrant aroma of spices on a regular basis. Curry has always been a big part of my life; my family love it and ate them at least weekly and going for a curry is a tradition amongst old friends. Trips to the curry house are always the perfect way to catch-up with people in the UK. The curry house is the ultimate meeting place – pre-party curry, the post party stop (again the ‘curry mile’) and the Sunday hangover Indian buffet. Curry meets and discoveries were a big part of my life in the UK, with finding Lahore in White Chapel, getting very excited during trips to Dishoom and, being vegetarian and vegan for years, savouring all the veggie curry options. Adventures in curry started young and I continue onwards in my quest for spice.
Nowadays, I live about ten minutes walk away from La Chapelle, a vibrant, often chaotic and diverse area behind Gare Du Nord that Parisian estate agents have started calling “Little India” (cringe). In this area, I feast on Samosas and Thalis in the Sri Lankan restaurants but I am mostly there to wrestle my way through the packed shops and stock up on spices. I also love the Indian shops in Passage Brady for spices, tea, incense, henna and hair oils but now back to the curries.
Curry refers to both the spice mixture and the dish and basically, curry is any dish that is richly spiced, whether it’s veggie or meaty. The definition covers many cuisines and cooking styles from all over the world such as Indian, Pakistani, Thai, Sri Lankan, Cambodian, Malaysian, to name a few. Curries can be either ‘dry’ or ‘wet’ (childish giggles). A basic curry powder consists of turmeric, bay leaves, coriander, chilli, pepper, ginger, cumin and cloves, but there are many variations. Curry is one of the most stimulating, fragrant and colourful dishes but the origins of the British love affair with curry has a murky past with the word curry being taken from ‘kari’ in the Tamil language and the concept of curry having originated from colonialism in the 18th Century.
One thing worth noting is that curry is not just ridiculously yummy, it can also be quite healthy. Tipping lots of ghee into an Indian curry might not be a nutritionists fave idea but by switching up ingredients – i.e. keeping the fat and sodium levels low – curries can be pretty guilt free and then there are the spices. Oh, the spices. They always make me have a Homer moment. Turmeric, cumin and coriander are all delicious and they are anti-inflammatories that detoxify the body – win! A turmeric tea is a perfect treat if you are feeling sluggish and popping a bit of cumin in any dish adds flavour and health benefits so go spice up you life.
Curries have a lot of ingredients but the process of making one is pretty simple once you get to know your ingredients. I am far from an expert but I have stopped burning the mustard seeds so that’s a start. This is partly thanks to practice and partly as a result of reading many recipes. I love Meera Sodha’s book Made in India and her recipes from her Indian family in Britain and her travels. I also love Maunika Gowardhan, Madhur Jaffrey, Sukhi Singh, Anjum Anand, Nisha Katona, Dan Toomes and Vivek Singh. There are so many great chefs and curry recipes out there and the best thing about curry is that the variations and possibilities are endless.
Recently I passed a couple of curry milestones – I made Chicken Tikka Masala from scratch and getting to grips with seafood and tamarind by making a Mangali. There are many curry updates on my Instagram and I will share some more spicy stories and recipes on here.