England's most popular food
Tikka masala - England's most popular dish
Although I've lived in the USA for many years, I still crave - and regularly eat - my favorite English food. And if you imagine that I'm referring to any of those weirdly-named foods that tend to be served in American British pubs, you're wrong.
Believe me, the most popular food in England isn't toad-in-the-hole, bubble and squeak, spotted dick or any of these fancifully named dishes, it's tikka masala.
But isn't that an Indian dish? Nope.It's true that you'll find places on the internet that refer to this magnificent sauce as a favorite 'Indian food' . But tikka masala, like that other popular favorite, balti, was actually devised in Britain.
The non-vegetarian version, chicken tikka masala, is one of the most frequently ordered dishes in British restaurants. But why should meat eaters have all the fun? Meatless versions are even better.
Many dishes from Indian cuisine are vegetarian and although the chicken version is the most popular dish in England, veggie versions are made too. And they are so easy to make at home.
Anglo-Indian food - did you know?
- In India, there is no such food as 'curry'. This word is entirely English. Some think it derived from the word 'kari' which means 'sauce' in Tamil. Another theory, and the one that I prefer, is that it has its roots in England's first cookery book A Forme of Cury which was published in the 1390s. Back then, all spicy foods (and the book contains many) were referred to as 'cury'.
- If you are in England, don't be surprised if an English friend asks you if you 'fancy a ruby'. Don't worry, your friend is only asking you if you'd like a curry. It's rhyming slang, you see. 'But' you say 'ruby doesn't rhyme with curry?' True, but in the 1950s when curry was exploding in popularity, one of Britain's most popular singers was Ruby Murray. I know, I know, but that's how rhyming slang works.
- We are more likely to go to a 'curry house' than an 'Indian restaurant'. Yes, they mean the same. Curry had been enjoyed in England for many years but the first restaurant that specialized in Indian food exclusively opened in London in 1809. it was called the Hindostanee Coffee House and served both meat and vegetable curries.
- The dish created for Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953 (naturally enough called Coronation Chicken) includes the following ingredients: Garlic, black pepper, curry powder and fresh cilantro - all good curry ingredients. This was served at the coronation banquet.
- Queen Victoria was devoted to Indian food. After all, she was the Empress of India. She employed Indian cooking staff who created Indian meals for her and her family on a daily basis. This is what led to the amazing popularity of curry in the Victorian era amongst the upper-crust.
- Chicken tikka masala became so popular in the UK that in 1999, the BBC reported that this British dish was exported in huge quantities to ..... India. At that time, they also reported that one supermarket chain alone sold over one million packets of the spicy sauce mix every year.
Chickpea recipe from Form of Cury
Many recipes in Form of Cury call for a particular ingredient, powder fort.
Today, we would liken this to a garam masala or similar spice mix. Powder fort would typically contain ginger, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, grains of paradise (pungent and peppery seeds and culebs (the spicy seeds of a variety of pepper).
This is a typical recipe translated into modern day:Drain and rinse canned chickpeas and roast in the over for about 45 minutes. Turn them so that they roast evenly. When cooked add them to a pan with water to cover, two bulbs of garlic, peeled, a little olive oil and the powder fort. Cook until the garlic is soft - this should take about twenty minutes.
See the original recipe below.
Have you ever sat down to a meal an wondered what people were eating hundreds of years ago? I have and it's a fascinating subject.
Did they, for example, eat lasagna? You'd think not but they did - see the recipe for loysens. Curry? Of course!
Some people, when they are watching movies, look out for out-of-period items - a plane flying overhead in Victorian England or a cowboy in the Wild West wearing a watch. I look to see if the food they are eating is true to the period! These recipes, dating from the fourteenth century, are still tasty today.
Vegetarian tikka masala
Although it's fun to cook from scratch, I often find that I don't have enough time. And with tikka masala dishes that doesn't mean any lack of quality.
In fact, I have to admit that certain manufacturers make a much better tikka masala sauce than I do!The sauce is is available in most supermarkets - or online - and is vegetarian.
It's an ideal way to create a very quick but very tasty Indian meal in no time. A feature of the meat dish, is that the sauce should be allowed to penetrate into the meat but with vegetables, I find that they are absorbent enough to not need marinating first.
Although if you have the time, letting the foods absorb the sauce is a good idea.Your imagination can run riot when it comes to ingredients.
My favorite way is to add chick peas (from a can), and when they are warmed through add cashew nuts and then sliced banana. Just heat it up so the banana doesn't go soft. Oh, and a lot of chopped cilantro. Here are some great combinations to add to the sauce.
- Cauliflower florets and cashew nuts.
- Chick peas (from a can, drained) and sliced green beans.
- Roasted eggplant (cut into slices) and baby carrots.
- Tofu and broccoli florets.
- Potatoes and baby corn.
- Paneer and peas.
- Spinach and lentils.
- Mushrooms and scallions.
- Green pepper, zucchini and tomato.
Of course, you could serve basmati rice. Or, more traditionally (traditionally English, that is!) serve with naan bread and chapattis.
The very first time I went to a proper curry house - this was in Bradford - I was surprised when the meals were served but no forks, or any cutlery at all. What I didn't understand was that the English way, in the north anyway, is to break off a piece of chapatti or naan, form it with your fingers into a sort of scoop, and shovel up the curry into your mouth.
I get some funny looks when I do this here in America but I promise it tastes better, the bread provides lots of fiber with every mouthful and ... it saves on washing up.
Your local grocery store most probably sells naan but if not, it's available online and are the packs are vacuum sealed so they'll keep well.
TIP: If you really can't get chapatti or naan, commercially sold flour tortillas can be used as a substitute. Heat a frying pan on a high heat, add one tortilla (no oil) and press down with a spatula for a few seconds. Flip and do the same. The tortillas should have brown spots on both sides. You can keep them warm in a damp tea-towel while you cook more.
Gordon Ramsay is notoriously scathing about vegetarian diets. (He'll learn!) But nevertheless...
As I was more or less brought up on Anglo-Indian food, it was the next natural step to cook it myself. I had a lot of help from a young girl from Pakistan who lived just down the road. She was only about twelve years old but was the cook of the family and she taught me a lot. Over the years though, although we have family favorites that I make often, I experimented with different dishes taken from various recipe books. Good cookbooks can add such variety to your diet.
My everyday go-to meat-free recipe book.
Buy Indian goodies online
There's another thing that's happened to my cooking over the years. I rarely use convenience foods but, although I like to think that I can make great Anglo-Indian food, I like to use the ready made sauces.
I always add my own flourishes of course (especially fresh cilantro) but I have to admit that Sharwoods and Pataks can make a better, more authentic sauce than I can and yes, it means dinner is ready a lot quicker.
Most supermarkets sell these today but we tend to buy them online because they tend to be cheaper.
There are many varieties available.
I've tried them all and Patak's is undoubtedly the best.
My Pakistani tutor showed me exactly how to make chapattis, naan and other Indian breads which I believe are essential with a curry. But once again, I find it hard to justify the time it takes to make them when I can buy them inexpensively ready made.