Good Food blog

Madhur Jaffrey explores a curry nation

1st November, 2012

by Tom Bonnett - Good Food team

Madhur Jaffrey explores a curry nation

More than 30 years after Madhur Jaffrey helped introduce the western world to Indian cooking, she's off on a personal journey around the UK to see how Britain has fallen head over heels for the flavours of India in her new series, Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Nation.

Aloo gobi

Madhur Jaffrey was never a child prodigy in the kitchen, she didn’t even pick up a stirring spoon until the age of 19. But when she moved to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, she had to learn because she just couldn’t find a good curry in the capital.

“I learned through a correspondence course with my mother," she says. "I came to England in 1957 and I couldn't find good quality Indian food anywhere so I said please send me some recipes because I want to cook and I don't know how."

"She sent me some recipes I asked for, one was a potato recipe, one was a meat recipe, one was a cauliflower recipe, and they were very short little three line recipes – ‘use a bit of this, that and the other’ - I experimented with those and taught myself with the help of those recipes.”

Braised lamb shanks

In Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Nation, Madhur goes to homes, markets and restaurants in search of the heart of British Indian cooking and shows her favourite curry dishes made in the UK. Look at the recipes and you might be surprised at how the flavours and consistency vary from what we often think of as curry.

“I like the food of Kerala a lot. Their rice noodles, the rice pancakes which I love, I like dosas from Kalanadu, I think those are wonderful - I would eat those anytime. Lahore Kebab House does lovely lamb shank, that's one of the ones I like very much. I guess these are the ones I like the most in this country,” she says.

Chicken tikka masala

Curry in Britain is very different from the Indian dishes it evolved from. According to Madhur, this is because people needed the recipes to be standardised so they would know what they were ordering.

“Basically, the people of this country wanted curries they could understand and get their head around. So, they chose to make them hot, medium and mild - something that you don't find in India. You get those curries because every child knows if he orders a korma he gets something mild. Now that does not exist in India or Pakistan or Bangladesh. A korma can be hot, it can be medium, it can be anything,” she says.

Coconut barfi

But to Madhur, food changes in the same way as language.

"A lot of languages make up any one language and it find its own level. People might say 'you can't use this word because it's French' or 'you can't use this word or this or that or the other' but language finds its own level and I think food is exactly like that. I'm talking really about curry. All kinds of influences can be seen in the curry of this country but they find a level that is right for the people of the country," she says.

For those wanting to start cooking curry, Madhur's top tip is to do it the way she learned and simply follow the recipe. "Read the recipe before you go shopping, read it once before you start to cook and get everything ready and you can’t get wrong," she says.

Lamb in its sauce

The series features Madhur’s own recipes and those from cooks she meets along the way. There’s a curry to suit every mood, whether you want to try something simple like Goan prawn curry or take your time over something succulent like a lamb biryani, take a look at all the recipes from Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Nation

The series starts Sunday at 9pm on Good Food, Sky Channel 247, Virgin 260 and Madhur is hosting a live Q&A straight after the show from 9.30pm - 10.15pm on Twitter. Follow the hashtag #askMadhur to join in.


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