I'm suppose to look puzzled, not angry!

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I have a book to publish. Editors love it, marketing departments say 'up the media profile'. So here I am 'upping it' and writing about the book, food, and life in general.

Friday, 18 May 2012

When is a Curry not a Curry?

I love a good curry but about a year ago I suddenly became allergic to it.  Unfortunately, I was the designated driver of seven unlucky people on the night it happened.  They had their curry dinner evening cut short when I told them they had better get back in the car before my eyes swelled up so much that I could no longer see to drive.

I've had allergic reactions to various foodstuffs over the years so I recognised the symptoms on the curry night; my eyelids began to itch before starting to swell, my spine ached like I had been kicked and my arms and legs were heavy as lead.

The first time I ever had an allergic reaction to food was on the evening of the Soho bomb blast in 1999.  I escaped Soho and sought refuge in Covent Garden's LIVEBAIT restaurant.  Before the end of that dreadful night I was throwing up my oysters and Puligny Montrachet in their loos and my eyelids were swollen like a losing boxer's.  Since then I've had trouble with wheat and cats (being around them, that is, not eating them).  Getting pregnant usually calls a halt to any allergies - don't ask me why.

To cut a long story short, after the curry incident I set off for the Kashmiri Foodstore in Burnley.  I had decided to buy all the dry spices used in a curry to find out which one was the troublemaker.  I threw everything I could think of into my shopping basket;  seeds of coriander, mustard, cumin and cardamom; chilli, paprika and turmeric powder, cloves and cinnamon sticks.  Then I thought, 'It's called 'curry' so it must contain curry spice from the curry plant'.  But there was no single curry spice to be found.

I came home and did a bit of googling. Wikipedia says that the word 'curry' comes from a Tamil word 'kari' which means 'sauce'. But where does that leave the curry plant?  It smells of 'curry' but is apparently inedible.

Anyhow, after a lot of messing about with different spices I discovered that turmeric was the enemy.  It's supposed to be an anti-inflammatory but seems to have the opposite effect on me.  My brother-in-law, Tariq who is Pakistani said that his mum used to boil up turmeric in water and soak bandages in it to put on swollen ankles.

I have now devised the perfect 'curry' recipe but the spice quantities are very loose, so to speak. That's a large pan on the left with three big onions and 4 large cloves of garlic chopped and fried in ghee until coloured but not too brown and sloppy.

In the frying pan is a large handful of mixed whole spices - coriander, cumin, cinnamon bark, dried ginger, bay leaves, black pepper, cloves and cardamom.  Toast it, pestle it, throw it in the onions, add eight chicken legs then salt and chilli powder to taste.  Fill with water to cover the chicken pieces, bring to a simmer put the lid on then stick it in the oven on Gas 1, 140C and forget about it for a couple of hours.  If it's too spicy, whisk some natural yoghurt into it.

Curry without the curry

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