My Curry Autobiography

There’s nothing more satisfying than successfully blackmailing your boyfriend to drive 200 miles to see you with only the two syllibal word, bhuna, to coax out those car keys. Luckily, A and myself have a mutual penchant for Indian food from only a select number of restaurants countywide that do our favourite dishes well enough. These Benchmark Balti Huts offer food so perfect that to eat their delicious creations is tantamount to sex.

My love of curry is well rooted. Coming from Glasgow originally, my parents can whip together a pretty special homemade rogan josh with huge, juicy lumps of chicken and using spice mixes tried and tested by friends and family from Scotland’s First City of Curry. The Ashoka, my first ever curry that was not cooked at home was an invigorating experience and the colourful tandoori pans, plates of nan bread and pots of chutney were not on only more delicious but more exciting than a plate of my Nanny’s “mince and tatties”.  A move to the Midlands town of Leicester saw any shy reactions to the ethnic wares sold in the family shops along Evington Road or in the covered market completely exploded and a takeaway Indian soon became a firm favourite over the common favourites amongst my peer group where man-handled Maccy Ds, monosodium glutemate jellied Chinese takeaway and greasy pizza topped the lists. Nothing, to me, could ever knock the curry off the top spot.

As a student. a curry was the choice way of ensuring that nothing goes to waste. My cumin pot and chilli pot always needed regular replenishment but with as little as frozen peas, a half-can of plum tomatoes, half an old onion and a frozen chicken breast – the fruits of ones labours were rewarded with this delectable spicy stew! Rice is cheap and lasts forever and on weekends I would make batches of vegetable curry to freeze for the weeks ahead, plumping them up with what ever veg I had and a little bit of chicken stock. Curry ought to be the staple of every student however the only sure-fre way to ensure that you have a bottle of Cobra to enjoy alongside is that you do it from scratch every time.

 Jarred or ready-meal curries are always glutinous or watery or drowned in saline gravy without even a sniff of delicious cumin or garam masala. I haven’t yet found anything good enough to substitute a good home-made or takeaway. To be honest, a good homemade reheat is always going to be preferable as they always taste much better from frozen than freshly made and they neither involve a maticulous recipe plan nor do they take longer that fifteen minutes to prepare.

After leaving university last summer, I have been trying my hand at all sorts of new ones incuding trying to recreate my personal favorite, the chicken dhansak, at home. Thusfar my inclusion of pineapple has been discontinued as it does not take the gastronomic fancy of my family nevertheless, my Jamie Oliver chicken tikka masala has always been well recieved. A recipe well worth trying. Still, Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbook is always a good shelf-staple for perfect homemade curries.

I reminisce with great fondness of my final curries as a student, neither of which were made by me but both were far more delicious than I could ever have managed on my own. The curry place on campus was regularly frequented on a Monday evening by myself and my fellow art student buddies. We always had a whale of a time, daring eachother to eat the lime pickles and bitching and moaning about course tutours and drinking too much and generally keeping the waiters busy. On our final curry meeting, the regualr 5 of us mopped our plates clean. The senior chef, a stooped little Indian man with milk bottle glasses and the same wooly cardigan came up to our table with a box of the house complimentary mints. He never spoke except to ask how many to a table or to ask you what your order was but he launched into a huge monologue about how he would miss our custom and how he was sad to see his “regulars” leave. I’ll never forget that funny little man who probably met everybody on campus at some point and yet singled out our own little group (because in all fairness, our combined dinners for three years have probably paid for his childrens’ university fees).

My absolute final curry was with A on our last night (or rather MY last night as he graduated two years before me). Nice and Spicy was a takeaway ritual for every Friday night. Delivered to the flat and set out on my little desk in my student room for the two of us with a tealight in the middle of the table and Black Books or Peep Show on the DVD. This final curry was no different, exactly as it was every week except with piles of boxes and packed suitcases surrounding us on the floor.

My curry adventures have not all been jolly. My favourite haunt in myhometown gave me horrific food poisoning with undercooked prawns 24 hours before my flight to Paris. Only last month a very sedimenty red wine drunk with a curry at the same restaurant casued the most horrible of alcohol poisonings I have ever in my life experienced… and believe me, nobody I know had worse hangovers than I do!

Still, I know that somewhere down the lines I will find the ultimate curry and then I will be happy to die because life just won’t get any better! For my tastebuds anyway. If it weren’t for some of my more delicate friends and relatives then I would have to have my own wedding reception (and possibly ceremony) in my local curry shop.

Vive la balti! Long live the lime pickel! And have the fear of phal struck into you.

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