Curry night is, and always has been, as much of a regular occurrence in my Mum’s house as it is in my own; we all seem to have a bond with all things Indian. Although we don’t ever need an excuse to hold a curry night, Mum’s birthday being this week, was all the excuse we needed for her children and grandchildren to gather at hers over the weekend for what was truly a blast from the past curry night.
If I ever write a cookbook, the thank you section will probably include some variation of the sentence:
THANK YOU CT FOR THE DEEP FRIED MONKFISH WITH SWEET CHILLI DIPPING SAUCE, AND ESPECIALLY FOR THE SPINACH PAKORAS
CT is my stepdad and, although he has always made many many truly scrumptious meals for us, these two dishes (obviously not at once) were my first taste of this former chef’s culinary flair. Up until that point food had been good, but these dishes were fancy, and better than what we were used to. I remember watching over his shoulder in our not-exactly-state-of-the-art kitchen, being intrigued at how he was going to make things as ugly as monkfish tails and surely-too-good-for-you-to-be-nice spinach, and turn them into such utterly mouthwatering delights, with what seemed at the time to be no more than a few flashes of gleamingly sharp knives and the briefest of brief dips into the furious spattering of the deep fat fryer (I quite often toy with buying one of these, but I have decided that everything they ever produce is too good – or bad, depending on your viewpoint – for me to be able to exercise any form of restraint, and my waistline has expanded quite sufficiently since I obtained the cooking bug in my nineteenth year as it is). As I have said, everything CT makes is nice, although he is modest, and will always think of at least ten reasons why he should have done it differently in order to have produced something better; but, luckily for us, he quite often gets into his head that he is going to produce an edible spectacle … and that is exactly what he did this weekend.
Much to my delight we arrived at Mum’s on Saturday morning to be told that CT was going to make spinach pakoras for a curry night; well, this was a very welcome surprise! We quite often have curry night at Mum’s, but there are a few within their repertoire that we had a lot when we were kids, so these dishes bring back lots of memories:
Spinach pakoras (pālaka pakōṛē – पालक पकोड़े)
These will make your house smell like your local curry house for the rest of the weekend, but they are completely worth it!
I think Mum and CT have some sort of weird culinary connection with pork belly, because whenever they go near the stuff something magical happens, and it is always fantastic!
Chicken Curry (Murg – मुर्ग)
This has a really thick, spicy tomatoey sauce, and is one of Mum’s favourites.
This surely has a secret ingredient because it is a sure-fire way to get kids to eat curry; I think every child in my family has been brought up eating this.
The secret is the perfect amount of salt, and don’t overcook the potatoes.
Mum uses the orange lentils that, before she learnt about curry, she had probably only ever used in soup. Her soup is lovely, but this is even better. When I left home for uni she sent me up to Leicester with a huge crate of easy to cook, long lasting, cheap foods, and I think I lived off potato curries and daals for pretty much my whole three years of studying.
Rice (cāvala -चावल)
At the end of the meal Mum asked us if we wanted seconds; I replied that I was fine as I thought I’d eaten about five pakoras, and then we all laughed because I am the family’s greedy one; on reflection, I realised I had actually eaten five pakoras. Oh well, it was the weekend, and a celebratory one at that, so the diet just had to be put on hold! Needless to say, we didn’t really feel like dessert, but if I had to choose something it would probably be something simple and fresh, fruit would be perfect.
If this waffle is all about memories and good eat-togethers, I think the state of the family’s curry bible says more than I can:
And finally, the thing that started all this off: a spinach pakora.
Recipes will follow.
Happy Birthday Mum! x