For Queen and Curry | TOSMAG
For Queen and Curry

For Queen and Curry

With both the Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee this year, food trends agency thefoodpeople is predicting a rise in demand for classic British dishes on menus. Following the Queen’s coronation sixty years ago however, it was Indian food that increased in popularity. At

the time and even now this can most clearly be seen in the creation of that classic British dish coronation chicken.

Coronation chicken was invented by Constance Spry (a florist who also helped with floral arrangements on the day of the coronation) for a luncheon hosted by the Queen following the ceremony. The recipe used cold chicken pieces in a creamy curry sauce with a well-seasoned dressed salad of rice, green peas and mixed herbs. Rationing was still in place and so herbs and spices were rare but curry powder was used as it had become popular through its use in British Army rations.

Curry powder itself is a Western invention and is unheard of in India. It is a non-standardised mixture of spices, in the same fashion that garam masala is a mixture. Although Indians use curry leaves (from the Murraya Koeniglii tree) in cooking, curry powder does not contain curry leaf. The distinct yellow colouring comes from the heavy reliance of turmeric and while there is nothing wrong with using curry powder, if you use the same blend of spices in every dish, your curries will always taste the same.

The years following the coronation saw a rapid growth in Indian restaurant numbers in Britain; by 1960 there were five hundred Indian restaurants in Britain but by 1970 this had grown to over one thousand. However those running the restaurants were often not Indian at all; until 1971 approximately three-quarters of ‘Indian’ restaurants in Britain were Pakistani owned. After Bangladeshi independence in 1971, the geographical distinctions became clearer, with over half of the restaurants being owned and managed by Bangladeshis.

Many of these chefs had learned their trade on the job. But in 1982 Taj International Hotels opened the Bombay Brasserie in Chelsea and a new class of chef was introduced backed by years of training in Taj and Oberoi management colleges. This led directly to the opening of other top class establishments in London such as Chutney Mary, Benares and the Michelin starred Tamarind. But the food served in these restaurants is no more traditional Indian home cooking than that served in the Bangladeshi owned restaurants of the 1970s. While Indian food was being spruced up for the well-groomed in central London, other patrons were discovering the joys of more authentic dishes in areas such as Tooting, Southall and Wembley. These dishes came from areas as diverse as South India, Lahore, Gujarat and Uganda.

Today the demand for Indian food is still increasing and while the top end restaurants seem recession proof there is a rise in popularity of street food such as that served at Dishoom or Chai Pani. To me this is the real food of India – the food my family in Surat (where the English merchants of the East India Company landed in 1608) eat on an evening out before going to the cinema.

by Reena Pastakia  blog: twiiter: @Coconutraita

If your in the mood for some authentic dishes that stray from the mainstream, Reena has listed a few here for you all to try out.

Hot Stuff:
Address: 23 Wilcox Rd, London SW8 2XA
Telephone: 020 7720 1480

Mirch Masala (several branches):
Address: 213 Upper Tooting Road, London SW17 7TG
Telephone: 0208 672 7500

Lahore Kebab House (several branches):
Address: 2-10 Umberstone Street, London E1 1PY
Telephone: 020 7481 9737

Chennai Dosa (several branches):
Address: 3 Ealing Road, Wembley HA0 2AA
Telephone: 020 8782 8822


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