Madhur Jaffrey talks about UK's affair with the curry

May 25, 2014, 08:00 IST | Nikshubha Garg

The Queen of curries is coming to India with her show, Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Nation. She talks about Britain's adaptation of the Indian cuisine and what inspired her to cook

Q. In the show, Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Nation, you explore Britain’s love affair with Indian curries. In what way has Indian food and its ingredients been absorbed into UK’s local culinary culture?
A. While living in the UK, I missed the Indian curry. In that way, Curry Nation was an eye opener for me. I realised how important it is for the British to have control over their curries. Their food was categorised depending upon the amount of spice used as very hot, hot, medium and mild. Well, this does not happen in India. There are pubs here that load their Vindaloos with chilli powder and offer a raw chilli powder taste and no flavour whatsoever.

On the show, Madhur Jaffrey will cook her own version of Indian dishes
On the show, Madhur Jaffrey will cook her own version of Indian dishes

Q. What can the viewers look forward to in the upcoming series?
A. Curry Nation is a culinary journey around Great Britain; you will get to know about Britain’s love for Indian food. Also, there is a historical connection between Britain and India that goes back to 1600 AD. Today, it is food that maintains the connection though the Indian food the British like is not always what is served in India. The British have adapted it as per their own needs.

Q. From where do you get your inspiration? Who did you learn cooking from?
A. When I was in India, I did not cook at all. Our family had cooks so we never needed to. The need arose when I left for London to study Drama at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. I missed good Indian food and there was no way to get it without making it myself. So I wrote home to my mother for recipes. That is how it started. Then I went to America where acting roles came infrequently. I started writing on the arts for magazines and newspapers. I wrote one piece on food and that kicked me into a whole new world.

Q. What versions of Indian classic dishes are emerging in the UK? Do you see it evolving into a special cuisine of its own?
A. There has been inevitable influence from the rest of the world. Many are westernising their food in both cooking techniques and plating. I saw a curry sauce being poured over the ever-popular chips, a sauce that seemed of Indo-Chinese origin. In Yorkshire I saw small kids cooking and eating both local South Asian food and the foods of local white population. Little white kids were chopping hot green chillies and enjoying their spicy spinach with potatoes and little Pakistani kids were cooking and enjoying Shepherd’s Pie. That was wonderful to watch.

Q. You have earned the title, Queen of Curries. Could you tell us what are the points to keep in mind while making an Indian curry.
A. Well, there are no must-have ingredients. That is why real Indian food is so varied. Each dish requires its own, special seasonings. Just follow the recipe and have all your ingredients ready before you start.

Shrimp Curry

>> 1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp
>> 2 tbsp peanut oil
>> 1/2 tsp whole mustard seeds
>> 10-15 fresh curry leaves, lightly crushed in your palm
>> 1 tsp ground cumin
>> 1 tsp ground coriander
>> 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
>> 1/2-1 tsp red chili powder
>> A small three litre can of coconut milk
>> Salt to taste

Shrimp Curry by Madhur Jaffery
Shrimp Curry by Madhur Jaffery

>> Wash the shrimp well and pat them dry 
>> Put the oil in a wok or frying pan and set on medium-high heat. 
>> When hot, throw in the mustard seeds. They will pop in a few seconds. 
>> Take the wok off the heat and put in the curry leaves first and then the cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli powder.
>> Stir once. Put the wok back on the heat and add the shrimp. 
>> Stir a few times. Add the coconut milk and salt. Bring to a simmer. 
>> As soon as the shrimp turn opaque, they are done. Serve with rice or chappatis

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