How to Prepare the Perfect Curry Feast at Home
Curry – 'a mix of spices of infinite variability' – is perfect for feeding a hungry family or inviting over a bunch of friends. No stress; no fuss. Especially when your curries are delivered by the Dinner Ladies, ready to reheat. If you can spoon mango chutney into a little bowl, then you can turn your curries into a feast.
But what is curry exactly?
Curry is poetically described as ‘a mixture of spices of infinite variability’, and some of those spices have medicinal properties (which is always reassuring to hear when we’re about to overeat). Turmeric, which gives many curries their flavour and intense golden yellow colour, is an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant.
The idea of ‘curry powder’ is a British one. It isn’t a spice mix most Indian cooks would recognise, but an attempt to bring home the flavours of South India that British colonists had come to love. In fact, one place in the world where you can’t order ‘curry’ is India – it just doesn’t exist as a dish and would be met with raised eyebrows. The British colonists of the East India Company had just lumped together all the delicious savoury, spiced Indian dishes into one category and called it ‘curry’ – a mispronunciation of the Tamil word for sauce: ‘kari’.
Some of today’s most popular Indian-style curries didn’t come from the subcontinent. Chicken tikka masala – now ‘Britain’s national dish’ – originated in Glasgow in 1971. The Brits love curry so much that there are now more curry houses in London than Mumbai. And they crunch down 205 million pappadums each year. Queen Victoria had two curries made every day by her cooks in case of an ‘unexpected visitor’ from India. And the special cold curry dish Coronation Chicken was invented for the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth in 1953.
Australia’s favourite curry is butter chicken – and we know that’s true by how many of you order it. It was invented ‘by accident’ in Delhi in the 1950s by mixing leftover tandoori chicken in a tomato gravy, rich in butter and cream. We Anzacs are famous for using it as a pie filling. We’ve come up with some easy ideas to zjoosh up your Dinner Ladies butter chicken.
And if you’re cooking up papadums (and why wouldn’t you?), watch our short video above for foolproof crunch every time. Then build them into a tower and try to break the world record of 1.57 metres. Alternatively, hold a papadum-eating race – the world record is three in 1 minute, which sounds easily achievable. Hold our beer.
Tips & Tricks for Hosting a Great Curry Night at Home
Plan ahead! How will you plate up the curry feast? Add interest to the table with small bowls of condiments. Try store-bought mango chutney, make a quick raita and perhaps grill up some lemon halves.
The little condiment bowls will go nicely on a platter with naan and papadums. You can get this ready in advance!
Then all you have to do is warm up the curries (with a glass of wine in hand) when your guests arrive - easy.
Papadums are a must! But there are shortcuts you can take if you need to save some time. Of course you can deep fry them and they'll taste phenomenal, but you could crisp them up in the microwave in 60 seconds (line them up on the outer edge of the plate for even heating). And if you're really short on time, just get some store-bought papadums. There's no judgment here!
The Shopping List
Dinner Ladies Madras beef curry
Dinner Ladies chickpea and eggplant curry
Dinner Ladies Turmeric pilaf rice
Dinner Ladies butter chicken
Dinner Ladies coconut rice (optional)
baby spinach for the butter chicken
How spicy can you go?
Where do you like your curries to fall on the Scoville scale? (‘We don’t like our curries to fall anywhere,’ we hear you cry. ‘Curry stains on the carpet are a nightmare.’) But, after reflection, you might ponder: ‘What on earth is the Scoville scale?’
Because who knew that chillies had their own special hotness scale? A bit like the Richter or the Beaufort scale, but more ‘Hmmm… tingly’, moving up to ‘Holy smoke, my taste buds have been scorched off’.
We thought vindaloo was the hottest curry (little did we understand our own Scoville ignorance). But chicken naga is made with chilli that rates 855,000 on the Scoville – 100 times hotter than jalapeños. The phaal is even hotter. I hope you’re not disappointed, but Dinner Ladies aren’t planning to have either on the menu soon. We value your lovely taste buds.
Instead, we have a range of other – deliciously mild to appropriately spiced – curries for you to simply reheat, mix and match: butter chicken, Madras beef curry, chickpea and eggplant coconut curry, tarka dahl, turmeric pilaf rice and coconut rice. It’s easy to serve up a low-stress, no-fuss feast with some fab extras, such as pickles, chutneys, papadums, raita and breads. Impress with your own simple cucumber raita here.