Great curry and Indian food is an art form, which is why I don’t usually make it for my customers. The subtle blending of spices and flavours to create a unique dish takes many years to master and requires an understanding of the ingredients that really only comes with having been brought up with them.
In the UK Indian food is the most popular restaurant take away food, but here in France the French have yet to catch on, although with a growing expat community, there are now some Indian restaurants starting to appear. I recently took friends to an Indian restaurant in Perpignan, but you have to remember the French do not have a palate for much spice so when ordering you need to ask for it hot!. It creates an amused look from the proprietor.
As I said I don’t make curry for my customers but I love spending a couple of hours in the kitchen preparing some Indian dishes for my wife and me. I grew up near Birmingham, UK which is pretty much the balti and curry capital of England so I try to get the spicing as accurate as possible from taste memory after all those great baltis of my youth! The beauty of cooking Indian food at home is that it gives you the chance to cook from your heart – adjust the spicing as it suits you, throw a bit extra coriander in, who cares.
To start we had a couple of poppadoms, to liven the palate, with a yoghurt, mint & turmeric dip and an onion, coconut & coriander dip. Shop bought lime pickle and mango chutney also make great additions for poppadoms.
As a starter course we had poori with prawn chat – a fried pancake with a sauce of prawns, chickpeas, tomato and some spicing with cumin and garam massala. The pancakes are made using flour, oil, warm water and flavoured with cardamon seeds.
Roll them thin and circular then deep fry them for 45 seconds. Whilst in the fryer push the top of the pancake down with a spoon so that it creates those distinctive bubbles. For the sauce, sweat down some onion and garlic, add tomatoes, reduce and add some prawns and chickpeas. Season with cumin, garam massala and paprika.
For the main course – chicken balti, basmati rice and garlic & coriander naan. Balti actually refers to the dish that it is served in but in recent times has come to represent the flavour and spicing. A balti tends to be full of flavour without being blow your head off hot. A blend of spices including fresh ginger, turmeric, cumin and garam massala then finished with yoghurt and fresh coriander.
I normally make a paste using fresh spices and onion and also use quite a lot of tomato and fresh chillies in the sauce to add some heat. As with all Indian cookery there is a large amount of onion and garlic involved. Start by cooking down the onion and garlic making sure they are soft then add the spices and start building a sauce from there.
To make naan bread combine flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, egg, yoghurt and clarified butter (ghee). Knead it like you would bread and set aside for a couple of hours. To cook the naan, oil a baking sheet, roll the naan dough out nice and thin, place on the baking sheet and then drizzle some cold water on the upper side of the naan and place in a pre-heated oven. It is also possible to pan fry the bread in ghee, but possibly slightly healthier to cook in the oven!