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.

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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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Tomato Shrimp Masala In KanyaKumari, Kerala

I first visited Kanyakumari with my parents when I was a little girl. The spectacular sunset we saw from the shores of the southernmost tip of India still stands out in my memory. Situated at the junction of the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, Kanyakumari or Cape Comorin as it is sometimes called, is the only place in India where you can see the sun rise as well as set!

A gigantic statue of Thiruvalluvar watches benevolently from a distance as you near Kanyakumari. An eminent poet and philosopher, he is worshiped as a saint and people take the short ferry ride to go out to the rock on which his statue is situated.

People also come to Kanyakumari to visit famous temples that were built here many centuries ago. Suchindram, just outside of Kanyakumari was built around the 8th century and is an important pilgrimage site for Hindus. A beautiful architectural marvel, it has fabulous stone carvings, huge statues of Hindu gods and towering musical carved pillars built from single blocks of granite.

We were captivated by the many colourful houses and buildings that dot the landscape of Kerala. On the drive out to Kanyakumari, we came across bright green, purple and blue houses, and my favorite - hot pink walls! They livened up the countryside and our photographs!

The countryside is also very scenic with mountains in the distance, burbling streams, coconut groves, paddy fields and lush greenery.

Stopping by the side of the road to drink fresh coconut water out of a tender green coconut, then scooping out the sweet coconut flesh and savouring it while admiring the view makes the trip even more enjoyable!

Restaurants in Kanyakumari range from offering regional South Indian vegetarian cuisine, to locally sourced fresh seafood, cooked into curries. Some of these restaurants are situated right by the water front, offering great views along with tasty food.

We never tired of eating many varieties of fresh, delicious seafood in Kerala but our favourite was this spicy shrimp curry with a thick, rich sauce clinging to the shrimp. Wrapped up in a morsel of warm naan or Kerala parotta (pan fried flaky flatbread), it made a fantastic lunch.

Start your meal with Spicy Tomato Rasam - a wonderful soup to whet your appetite, then follow up with this delicious shrimp curry!

For more Kerala favourites, try this easy, crispy fish recipe or this fantastic Mutton Biryani.

Tomato Shrimp Masala

2 cloves garlic

1/2 inch piece ginger

1 green chili

2 tbsp oil

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

20 fresh curry leaves

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 large, ripe juicy tomatoes, chopped

Salt to taste

1/2 tsp each: cayenne pepper, turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, garam masala OR 2 tsp Malabar masala powder

1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 tbsp each: chopped fresh coriander leaves, lemon juice

Mince garlic, ginger and green chili together in food processor.

Warm oil in deep non stick skillet over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and curry leaves. Fry them for about 30 sec, then add minced garlic mixture.

Saute for 1 min, then add onions. Saute until lightly browned and softened, about 8 min.

Add tomatoes, salt and all the spices or Malabar masala powder. Cook for 5 min until tomatoes break down and are well blended into the sauce.

Add shrimp, cook for about 5-7 min until shrimp turn pink and are no longer raw.

Fold in fresh coriander and lemon juice.

Serve right away.

Serves four



Japanese Chicken Curry In Tokyo

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Tokyo is a food-lover's delight. From its grand, five-star restaurants to humble vendors on every street corner, there is something for everyone to savour. When we set out on a trip to Japan we planned to seek out the finest sushi and sashimi. We found that, and much more, but nothing prepared us for the biggest  surprise of our travels - Japanese curry!

Curry is so popular in Japan that most people assume it has always been a part of Japanese cuisine. In fact it arrived in Japan in the late nineteenth century as it opened up to western influences. British ships sailing to Japan served curry on board and the Japanese saw it as an exotic, western dish. Cafes in Tokyo were soon serving curry, prepared in the English fashion: meat and onions were fried in butter, curry powder and stock added and the mixture simmered slowly.

The Japanese fondness for curry came as a surprise to a much earlier visitor from India, the young revolutionary Rash Behari Bose. He fled India, then a British colony,  after a failed attempt to assassinate the British viceroy and sought refuge in Japan in 1915. He was hidden by sympathetic Japanese nationalists in the Nakamuraya bakery run by Aizo and Koko Soma.  He fell in love with their daughter Toshiko and married her a few years later. Rash Behari Bose became a Japanese citizen and was involved in running the bakery as it expanded, opening several new branches and adding a café to its main location in Tokyo's Shinjuku district which was becoming a major shopping centre.

Bose was responsible for the biggest draw on the café menu – real Indian curry, which was something new in Japan. Bose personally supervised its preparation, selected the ingredients that went into it, and tasted it every morning before it was served. Introducing the Japanese to genuine Indian cuisine was part of the nationalist struggle for Bose, who dreamed of a day when Asians could experience each others' cultures without the exchange being mediated by westerners.

Nakamuraya’s curry was an instant success and the elite of Tokyo flocked to the café to taste authentic Indian food. Bose became a celebrity as newspaper reporters told of his struggles against imperialism and his romance with Toshiko. His curry became famous as the “taste of love and revolution”.

The Nakamuraya chain continues to flourish,  supplying packaged foods to grocery stores across Japan. The flagship restaurant still stands in its original location in Shinjuku and faded black-and-white photographs in its foyer commemorate the story of the Soma family and the Indian revolutionary they sheltered.  The most enduring monument to Rash Behari Bose is the curry served by Nakamuraya, still made according to his original recipe.  Try it if you are ever in Tokyo, for where else will you find a “taste of love and revolution” in a single spoon?

This recipe, with its intriguing mix of ingredients and flavours is popularly served all over Japan. The unusual combination of apples with celery, carrot and potatoes is strangely comforting!

Japanese Chicken Curry

1 lb (about 8 ) boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
4 tbsp all purpose flour, divided
4 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
4 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated or minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced
1 stick celery, sliced thin
Salt to taste
2 cups chicken broth, divided
¼ cup canned crushed tomatoes
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp each: garam masala, curry powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
 1 apple, peeled and grated
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp honey

 
Combine chicken and 2 tbsp flour in large mixing bowl, tossing to coat pieces well with flour.
Warm 2 tbsp oil in deep non-stick skillet set over medium high heat. Add chicken pieces, shaking off excess flour. Brown chicken for 5 min until lightly golden. Transfer to bowl.
Add remaining 2 tbsp oil to same skillet. Add garlic and ginger, sauté for about 1 min until they brown lightly. Add the onions and sauté for about 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.
Add carrot, potato and celery, sauté 2 min. Add chicken, salt, 1 cup broth and tomatoes. Cover skillet, bring contents to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 30 min, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile make the roux. Warm butter in non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add remaining 2 tbsp flour. Stirring occasionally, cook until flour turns to a light golden colour, about 10 min. Add curry powder, garam masala and cayenne pepper, cook 2 min. Add remaining 1 cup broth, cook 1 min, stirring till roux thickens.
Add roux, apple, soy and honey to chicken in skillet, stirring to mix it in gently. Cover skillet and cook for 5 min for flavours to blend and apple to soften.
Serves four