& COOKING ARTICLE
What do you understand by the meaning of curry and
do you know where the name curry comes from. In this
short article Majnu Malhi explains the roots of curry
and how curry has come to hold the place it does in
modern British life with a curry house on every corner
. . . well not quite but there are a great many Indian
restaurants serving curry which shows the British
love affair with what is a cuisine rather than a dish.
we look at the history of curry, it is important to
define what curry is. These days, curry in India means
a sauce or gravy. Curry in the UK is the word used to
describe any type of savoury Indian food. And Indian
food in the UK is the term that also includes cuisine
served in restaurants that are run predominantly by
the Bangladeshi / Pakistani community. Bangladesh used
to be part of Pakistan up until 1971. And Pakistan became
a nation split from India in 1947. So, deep down, what
we know as Indian cuisine does have some of its roots
from the Twentieth century stemming from India.
notion of a curry is what the British during their rule
in India referred to when eating spicy food. Indians
in India would never have used the word curry to describe
all sorts of dishes. They would use individual names
reflecting the regional variations of countless curry
dishes. A curry in India is a spicy stew like dish,
something that has a sauce base.
British in India may have learnt the word from the Portuguese
who had adopted the term from Southern India. 'Karil'
is one of those South Indian words and this may have
eventually become 'curry'. The British in India created
their own spicy dishes which were diluted versions of
original recipes that the cooks were ordered to make
to suit European tastes.
story about the origins of the word, is that it may
have come from 'karahi', a wok style metal vessel in
which Indian dishes are prepared. Another theory is
that it came from 'kadhi' or 'khari' which is a Northern
Indian yogurt based curry dish.
Wherever the word comes from, it is here to stay for
a while until we begin to realise that it is a too rounded
and generalised a term to encompass a vast selection
of many cuisines which are as diverse as the regions
of the Indian sub-continent.
The British love affair with curry began at the end
of the Sixteenth century when the Dutch were the leaders
in the trading of pepper. With their monopoly over the
spice, they had hiked up the price, so the monarch granted
a royal charter to a small group of merchants allowing
them to create a trading company. The sole purpose of
the East India Company, as it was later called, was
to secure a better price for pepper than the Dutch asking
was never any intention for this company to build an
empire. In fact, the British were not too keen on trading
with India either. The country was merely perceived
as a handy stopping off port and a place for the exchange
of goods such as cotton and linens. However with the
Dutch increasingly making trading in Indonesia more
difficult, the coast of India became lined with ports
that were protected by private armies consigned to keep
an eye on the European traders.
that time India was ruled by emperors and Mughals who
were more often than not involved in infighting. This
strengthened the European stronghold and their chances
of grasping control of many regions and territories
of India. With the Mughals yielding to the British,
the East India Company gathered momentum and power.
This reign of the British Raj was the most significant
and the longest in Imperial history lasting officially
up until 1947. The days of the Raj were decadent and
this was reflected in their cooking.
social event paid special attention to the food and
the British Memsahibs ran households that included chefs
and cooks. Many of them were highly trained to cater
for the western palate. Often, the grand meals would
have consisted of game and poultry which was of poor
quality so the cooks would often have to improvise by
creating hybrid dishes such as chapatis and homemade
jam. Breakfasts would consist of omelettes seasoned
with spices and the simple Indian dish of rice and lentils
known as kichidi turned into the British kedgeree with
the addition of smoked kippers shipped from England.
So from morning, noon until night, all the meals became
a fusion of western and eastern cooking traditions.
as the British in India had endeavoured to replicate
home comfort cuisine, when they arrived back in Blighty,
they craved a little of the East and that was 'curry'.
Cooking the books . . . curry recipes
first recorded or published recipe for curry in Britain
is by a woman known as Hannah Glasse. In her 1747 book
'The Art of Cookery' which appeared in twenty editions
throughout the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries,
her initial recipe for 'currey' included the spices
coriander seeds and pepper. Then by the fourth edition
of the book, she added ginger and turmeric. There was
no mention of chilli because the chilli fruits had only
been introduced to India around the late Fifteenth Century.
In 1861, 'Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management'
- a guide to running a home in Victorian Britain - printed
a recipe for curry powder made with a veritable selection
Fancy an Indian?
first 'Curry' house in Britain was run by an ambitious
man known as Dean Mahomet often spelled as Mahomed.
Born in 1759 in Bihar in Eastern India, he came from
a middle class Bengali Muslim family but was orphaned
at just eleven years of age. With his father's army
connections, the young Dean Mahomet found himself in
the service of an Anglo Irish officer known as Captain
Godfrey Evan Baker. As Baker rose through the military
ranks, so too did the luck of Mahomet who found himself
traveling with his master across India and then to Cork
in Ireland. On the Emerald Isle, he became the first
Indian to publish a book in English called 'The Travels
of Dean Mahomet'.
the turn of the Nineteenth century, at the age of fifty
with his children and his Irish wife a divorcee called
Jane Daly, he shifted from Ireland and moved to London.
This was where he made his mark in the culinary field.
London was open to unusual tastes and if Indian food
was served somewhere, it was popular. Mahomet picked
up on this vibe and thus opened the Hindostanee Coffee
House on No 34 George Street. There he served 'Indian'
style dishes with a hookah that contained real Chilm
Tobacco. The building which was the Coffee House is
now known as Carlton House, but there is a green plaque
in Westminster in honour of this Indian entrepreneur.
Ups and Downs . . . currying favour
the rest of the Nineteenth century, the rise of curry
took a gradual but steady pace upwards until it came
to an abrupt end at the start of the First World War
when food for survival in the form of rations was really
the only thing on everyone's mind. After the fall of
Hitler and Indian Independence in 1947, the interest
in curry again picked up. Especially during the late
Fifties and Sixties in Britain, Indian food was a cheap
and cheerful alternative when eating out. One could
buy an Indian takeaway that cost next to nothing. So,
many working class poorer communities opted for Indian
with more and more people from the sub-continent coming
to live in the UK, there was a surge in popularity for
spicy cuisine. There was an influx of people from the
Indian sub-continent coming to live in the UK who were
Commonwealth immigrants welcomed into Europe to deal
with the labour shortages that were then faced by several
industries. Many Asians brought with them the exotic
flavours of home. It was during this birth of multiculturalism
in Britain that post war curry became a phenomenon.
It is now part of the fabric of British tradition and
culture and looks like it is here to stay in some form
or another, be it formica topped or fine dining.
Malhi was raised in North West London where she grew
up surrounded by Indian culture, traditions and lifestyles.
However, she spent several years of her childhood in
India where she explored and experienced the vast and
varied cuisines of the country. In her cooking, she
draws up on her past and combines it with the realities
of urban Western life and has come up with her own unique
Brit-Indi style of food.
you would like to know more visit her web site www.manjumalhi.co.uk
Hub-UK : firstname.lastname@example.org