Blog - Curry Twist

Chicken Tikka Masala In Brighton, UK

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The British fondness for Indian food goes back a long way: London coffee houses were serving curries as early as the the mid-eighteenth century. The first full-fledged Indian restaurant opened in 1810, owned and run by an enterprising immigrant, Dean Mahomed.
Dean Mahomed was born in India where his father was employed by the British East India Company. After his father's death he accompanied a British officer back to England where he was educated.

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Adding the title of Sheikh (spelled Sake) to his name, he opened the Hindoostanee Coffee House near London's Portman Square, with Indian furnishings, hookas for smoking and serving a wide range of Indian dishes. Unfortunately he discovered that he had opened his restaurant before the market was ready, and was forced to close down after only a year of operation.

Not a man to be discouraged by failure Sake Dean Mahomed moved to the town of Brighton, then becoming popular as the first sea-side resort in the world. The rich and fashionable flocked to Brighton to spend summers at the beach and take the water-cures that were growing extremely popular.

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The Prince Regent, later to become King George IV, built himself a palace there, the Brighton Pavilion, and indulging the period's fascination for Asian exotica had it designed with a fanciful Indian exterior and an equally flamboyant Chinese interior. 

When Dean Mahomed arrived in this rapidly expanding town he set up steam baths in a building that still stands on the Brighton waterfront and now houses the Queens Hotel. He offered head massages, known in Hindi as "champi", and they proved an instant hit, introducing the word "shampoo" into the English language. Styling himself as a "shampooing surgeon" Dean Mahomed built steam baths in the royal palace and became a favourite of the Prince Regent. He prospered for many years in Brighton, wrote his memoirs (which made him the first Indian to publish a book in English) and is buried there.

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It was over a century after Dean Mahomed's ill-fated attempt that another Indian restaurant  opened in England. Since then, however, the popularity of Indian cuisine has exploded. Curry has been voted England's national dish and you can buy t-shirts in tourist shops that proclaim "Keep Curry British!".  



Dean Mahomed never did open a restaurant in Brighton but you can find many good Indian eateries here these days.
Our favourite was the Curry Leaf Cafe in Brighton Lanes as well as some great takeaway places including Taj, a wonderful Asian grocery store carrying a large variety of fresh cooked biryanis, curries and kababs.


Chicken Tikka Masala is a British favourite that is said to have originated in that country.  A popular legend claims it was accidentally created in an Indian restaurant in Glasgow: when a customer sent back a plate of tandoori chicken tikka for being too dry, the crafty chef promptly doused it in a sauce of spiced up creamy tomato soup and a legendary dish was born! While the origin of chicken tikka masala is still hotly debated, we were just happy to eat it on a regular basis during our visit! Try making my recipe, it is so easy and satisfying, you'll never order take out again. 

Chicken Tikka Masala

For the marinade:

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast

2 tbsp each: lemon juice, oil

Salt to taste

1 tsp each, ground spices, divided: coriander, cumin, garam masala, cayenne pepper, paprika, dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi), fennel (optional)

For the sauce:

2 tsp oil

1/4 tsp cumin seeds

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, grated or minced

1/2 inch piece ginger, grated or minced

1 can (28 oz or 796 ml) whole plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), pureed in food processor

Salt to taste

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 cup full fat whipping or heavy cream

2 tbsp each: butter, chopped fresh coriander leaves

Cut chicken into bite sized pieces. Add to a deep mixing bowl, along with the oil, lemon juice, salt and 1/2 tsp of all the ground spices. Mix well, cover and refrigerate for 15 min and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 420F. Line a baking tray with parchment. Spread chicken evenly on tray, spooning on any remaining marinade and bake for 10 min. Chicken will not be fully cooked at this point. Reserve chicken and all its juices.

To make the sauce, warm 2 tbsp oil in deep skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seeds. After 30 sec, add the chopped onions, garlic and ginger. Saute for 5 - 7 min until softened and lightly browned.

Add the pureed tomatoes, salt, sugar and remaining 1/2 tsp of all the ground spices. Stir to mix and cook for 5 min until tomatoes are slightly thickened.

Add 1 cup of water, reduce heat to low, cover and cook sauce for 10 min.

Mix in the cream, butter and fresh coriander, cook 1 min. Add the reserved chicken and all of the accumulated juices, mixing well into the sauce. Cover and cook again on low heat for 10 min.

Serve right away.

Serves four

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Chicken Samosas In Lisbon

For an Indian visiting Portugal, a trip to Lisbon's Belem Docks carries a special significance, for it was from here that Vasco da Gama  sailed in 1498 on the voyage that finally succeeded in finding a sea route from Europe to India.


Along the Avenida India that borders the harbour, a magnificent monument commemorates all the Portuguese voyagers who set out from this spot to explore the world.

Vasco da Gama sailed in search of spices, which in the middle ages were brought from India to Damascus or Alexandria by Arab traders and then carried to Europe by Venetian merchants. Their cost, by the time they reached the markets of London or Paris was so great that only the very wealthy had the money for them.

After da Gama returned to Lisbon with spice-laden ships, the price of pepper fell so much that even ordinary people could afford it. European tables were never the same again!

Vasco Da Gama is a national hero in Portugal, commemorated in museums and monuments. His tomb lies in the great Jerónimos Monastery overlooking Lisbon harbour, where it is given pride of place over those of mere kings and queens.

The wealth from the spices brought back from India by Portuguese merchants made the tiny European country the hub of a great empire that spanned the globe.


Traditional Portuguese food is simple and uncomplicated, celebrating the freshness of the ingredients. Grilled seafood and meats are usually cooked with just a drizzle of olive oil, salt and sometimes garlic. The freshness and quality of the ingredients shines through in every bite. Robust stews of pork simmered in red wine or salt cod cooked in many imaginative, delicious ways are also the pillars of Portuguese cuisine. Cinnamon, while not generally used in savoury dishes, is sprinkled abundantly on desserts like rice pudding and custard tarts.

The Portuguese established a colony in India in the enclave of Goa, which  developed a fascinating hybrid, Indian-Portuguese culture and cuisine over the centuries. It was a two-way trade in recipes. Goan cooks made vindaloo, combining the Portuguese style of cooking in vinegar with Indian spices.

To our surprise one of the most popular dishes in Lisbon was Chamuças, which turned out to be a close cousin of our familiar Samosa. Chicken Chamuças are a staple of every cafe menu! Liberally doused with curry powder and fragrant with the aroma of fresh coriander, they are delicious to nibble on while waiting for the rest of the meal to arrive. In fact, they are downright addictive!

Although most samosas in India tend to be vegetarian, stuffed with the traditional filling of spicy potatoes and peas, chicken samosas are hugely popular in Goa. The pastry is usually hand made and the samosas are deep fried. I find phyllo pastry to be an easier alternative and baking the samosas instead of deep frying them ensures that you can have more than one!

These samosas are easy to make and great for serving at parties. If you have any leftover chicken mixture, serve it with naan the next day. You can also add vegetables such as cooked diced potatoes, carrots, zucchini or peas to the chicken.  If desired, the ground chicken can be substituted with ground beef, lamb or pork. Serve the samosas with a fresh coriander or mint chutney. 

Chicken Samosas

2 tbsp oil

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 inch piece ginger, minced or grated

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 tsp curry powder or Bottle Masala

Salt to taste

1 lb lean ground chicken

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

1 tbsp lemon juice 

8 sheets phyllo pastry 

Vegetable oil cooking spray


Warm oil in deep non stick skillet set over medium heat. Add cumin seeds, sizzle them for 30 sec. Add garlic, ginger and onions, saute for 5 min or until lightly browned.

Add curry powder and salt, cook for 30 sec. Add ground chicken and saute for 8-10 min until chicken is dry and cooked through, stirring occasionally and breaking up lumps.  Fold in fresh coriander and lemon juice. Cool mixture in refrigerator until needed. Chicken mixture can be made up to 2 days ahead of time.

Preheat oven to 400F. Line baking tray with parchment paper.

Working with one sheet of phyllo pastry at a time (keep remainder covered with plastic wrap or damp towel), spray pastry lightly with cooking spray. Top with another sheet of pastry and spray again. Cut pastry into 4 long strips. Spoon 1 heaping tsp of chicken mixture onto bottom edge of pastry strip. Fold end of dough over chicken to form a triangle. Continue folding this way for the entire length of pastry strip. Place, seam-side down, on baking sheet, spray top lightly with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets and chicken mixture.

Remove plastic wrap and bake samosas for about 12-15 min or until they are golden and crisp. 

Makes 16 Samosas