In case it wasn’t completely clear from this blog, I love food! It started at home where we ate lots of international food (what Brits would have called “foreign food” back then). Growing up in England in the 80s and early 90s, it wasn’t considered normal to eat moussaka, lasagna and curry but my parents were adventurous. We hardly ever had potatoes, the staple of Anglo cuisine in those days and friends who came over looked nervous at dinnertime.
At university in Bradford (UK) in the mid-90s, I ate curry several times a week. Even chips were eaten with lashings of curry sauce. And we’re not talking skinny, hard little French fries. These were big soft old English chips.
Living in the middle of the Pakistani community in Bradford, good curry was cheap and plentiful. I remember chicken curry for £2.80 and a delicious chicken dansak which had red lentils and pineapple in it. I particularly liked the curry house that was next to the morgue (was it the Kashmir?). Today I apologise for the tasteless comment but students love ghoulish humour. I remember too how we used to say that there were no dogs or cats in the streets of Bradford. But those were good curries eaten by hand with fresh chapatis, wonderful soft breads used to pick up the curry and mop up the sauce at the end. I don’t think I’ve found chapatis as good anywhere else.
I used to go to the big Pakistani supermarket (and I’m looking for uni friends to help fill in the gaps here because I don’t remember the names) to buy incredible cheap, fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, huge bags of lentils and rice and ingredients I had never seen before. Even today, wherever I’m living, I seek out the ethnic food shops for the best and least expensive fresh food. In Brussels, I regularly shop on the Rue Malibran (Boucherie Marrakech for kofta meat and chicken kebabs, the fishmonger and the greengrocer next to the fishmonger as well as Nova Primavera for Portuguese cheese and cornbread). Here the shop owners recognise you and greet you with a smile.
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate the festival of Eid. When I was in Bradford, I saw that a Pakistani fabric shop was selling Eid cards. So I bought one and took it to my landlord to wish him and his family a happy Eid. The next thing we know, he was at our student house with platters laden with food. Curried lamb and much more besides. He was thrilled with the card but I felt we got the better end of the deal as he was so generous to share his feast with us.
I’ve tried a few Indian cookbooks over the years but my favourite is Curry Easy by Madhur Jaffrey. These are the recipes that Madhur Jaffrey cooks at home so they are much more simple than many traditional recipes that call for 15 different spices. As I can’t eat onions, garlic or tomatoes (the base of many curries, doh!), I adapt them but as she cooks a lot with yoghurt, ground cumin and ground coriander, it works really well for me. Next time I do a Curry Night, I’ll post the pics and the adapted recipes.
Bradford friends, I would love to hear your food memories from that time. All this talk of curry is making me crave chilli. These days, I indulge my chilli cravings with Thai food most of the time, but you can’t beat a proper curry…