A Traditional British Dish - Curry and Rice

Whilst the phrase English Cookery rustles up visions of Toad in the Hole and Steamed Puddings, Blancmanges and Roast Dinners, food from other countries have been on the British menu for almost as long as these classics.
Italian inspired Spaghetti Bolognese, Mexican influenced Chilli Con Carne and Meat Stews with Wine for the French touch are still served up on a regular basis in English households throughout the country.
The most popular of these foreign influenced dishes is the curry.
Like most kids in the 70s, I grew up on a diet of true British classics and a foreign mish-mash of experimental dishes but my favourite was always the curry.
Back then, curries weren’t prepared in the same was as they are today. There was no such thing as Lemongrass or Thai Green Curry Pastes, Ginger was strictly in powdered form and people thought that Tamarind was just a cute breed of monkey.
My mums curry got its flavour purely from Curry Powder, onions, and garlic, stewed for a long time with chicken. My grandmothers version, which my mum tweaked (and I in turn tweaked both their recipes), has tinned tomatoes and cauliflower in it.
As supermarkets became more adventurous with what they stocked, my mum added Coconut Cream and Mango Chutney to her curries, which give them a special depth of flavour and sweetness. I remember Saturday nights were always a special occasion because she would make one of her famous curries, beautifully accessorised with a delicious sweet and sour sauce and egg fried rice. We would sit in front of the TV, our overburdened plates balancing on trays, watching Bullseye and the Generation Game. Classy it wasn't, great fun it was. Good old 80s TV, when I was in love with Tom Sellecks moustache and thought permed hair, flouro wristbands and frosted lipstick was THE Look. Fridays Nights it was always Sara Lee, Twiglets and Challenge Anneka.

When I first left home, I didn’t fiddle with the recipe too much. After all, if it’s not broke, why fix it? And then it sort of fell out of de rigeur. My mum started to toy with vegetarianism, albeit skating non-commitally on the outskirts, and her new curry is one with Chick Peas and Sesame Seeds.
A couple of days ago though, I got to thinking. What ever happened to that 80s curry that I loved so much? Can I still replicate it, some 10 years since I last made it?
I had some feather cut steaks (from the muscle which runs along the blade bone) in the fridge that were hanging around almost past their sell-by date (which is when they taste best, incidentally) so I decided to experiment. You might remember that I had a meat epiphany (which sounds like a punk band) when I read Judy Rodgers Zuni Cafe Cookbook. Her advice about pre-salting meat several hours before cooking have stuck with me and I now religiously salt all my meat in advance.
I yanked the beef from the fridge, salted it with the aplomb of a TV chef and then set about making a wet marinade. I pulled all sorts of spices from my cupboards and produced a fragrant but very rough approximation of a curry paste of origins unknown. I wrote the ingredients down diligently but from memory there was half an onion, olive oil, lime juice (to tenderise the meat), cumin, coriander, dried chillies, star anise, cinnamon, black peppercorns and several other spices. Oh and some garlic. I whizzed this motley mixture up in my coffee grinder and slathered the steaks with it. It smelt really good so I was pleased. Into the fridge it went until last night when it was ready to show me what it could do.
I heated some oil in the pan, wiped the steaks dry of any excess marinade and browned them really well on both sides. I added onions, coconut cream, red pepper, halved green beans, mango chutney, some fresh chili, lots of bog-standard supermarket Curry powder and put it in the oven to slowly cook for maybe an hour and a half. This is a really quick to prepare curry and can be made the night before and reheated, in which case the meat will be even more tender.
To accompany my Anglophiled curry, Paul made Egg Fried Rice. Actually, Paul made this at my behest because I wanted to take part in a new blogging event called Food Fight held by Eating Out Loud! I know, I'm already two days late after the deadline but they're nice people over there and let me have an extension. The theme of Food Fight is for people to sling recipes around based on a specific ingredient. This month it was eggs. Sounds simple but like the Jhiva for Tomatoes event, there are so many egg recipes to choose from that my head was beginning to spin with the possibilities!

Pauls Egg Fried Rice is simple but incredibly tasty. I don't have the exact recipe to hand (he will have to furnish y'all with that later on) but I know it involves rice, eggs (no kidding!), spring onion, regular onion, some red pepper and soy sauce amongst other ingredients. As you can see from the picture, he successfully managed to get the rice to stick and brown on the bottom of the pan - always my favourite part! In a nutshell, he cooks the rice (Basmati) first, and then throws it in a frying pan with some lightly beaten eggs, onions, peppers and soy sauce. The egg resembles scrambled eggs as it is cooked by the heat of the rice and takes up all the flavours of the other ingredients.

The flavours of the two dishes aren't culturally correct but they tasted great side by side and the whole thing proved to be a more than satisfactory supper. My verdict was "why do I bother with Green Thai Curry when I can make this?" and Paul said the rice needed more Soy. The feather cut steak didn't let us down either. It was wonderfully tender and had a deep flavour. I would like to allude this to the overnight marinating rather than the cut, so I will!

(By the way, I haven't put the recipe up for the curry because everyone has their own variation. If anyone does want the details, just drop me an email. I will get Paul to post his Egg Fried Rice recipe tonight).


Saffron said...

I like your post! It reminds me when I was a child, my favourite tv program!WOW!
I like your rice!

Sue (coffeepot) said...

I love curry!

I have yet to find lemongrass at my supermarket though..ugg.

Pics look yummy.

Kelly-Jane said...

I was a 70's child too, my Mum never cooked curry, although she was very fond of a cornbeef and egg one that she used to make before I was born!

Yours looks good, and Paul's rice too.


pom d'api said...

I love curry in a food, your recipe it's very good, i love that.
bye candy

Anonymous said...

A while back I saw a tv show about English food and they said that curry is very popular over there. I was quite surprised! I love your story about your mum's cooking, there's nothing quite like childhood memories about food and family time. :)

Ari (Baking and Books)

janelle said...

You have to post the curry dish! Please, please? I have been in curry fury, trying to understand the nuances of this vastly varied dish, and would love to try out your version!

Joyce said...

Hat's off to the Queen of Improvisation. Love your fresh approach, it's what cooking's all about!

JennDZ said...

I have never been to England, but I had some of the best curries ever in Scotland and Ireland!

And I used to be in love with Tom Selleck as well, Scary, eh?

Kathryn said...

I remember those curries! and Anneka.

Your curry looks lovely. I like the idea of resurrecting forgotten childhood foods. Oh and Paul's rice looks great too!

Kathryn x

T.W. Barritt said...

Don't we all have those dishes that we associate with growing up? Mine was called "Double Good Macaroni and Cheese" -- not nearly the same international flair, but it felt good going down! I still make it today. Didn't try my first curry till I was an adult, though!

tigerfish said...

I'm for curries - but I've only tasted curries mostly in southeast asia. Just trying to imagine how a brit curry taste like. Recently, I'm hooked on Indian curry...learning to cook them one by one. :D

Sig said...

Hahaha you crack me up, Tamarind , a cute breed of monkey :D:D
Curry and fried rice looks great, looking forward for the Egg fried rice recipe... BTW, I still think Tom Selleck's moustache is sexy :)

Callipygia said...

I'm almost blushing looking at Tom Selleck's tight pants...and about the curry, right on! My mom also made a version similar to the one yours made growing up- yours is a kinda fusion of old and new and sounds great. If only I could leap over the pond.

sandi @ the whistlestop cafe said...

OK, you sucked me in with the picture of Tom Selleck...back in the day!

Chubbypanda said...

Awww... No suet or sultanas? =)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Dinner in front of the tv !!! yes great fun it can be...and certainly makes for great memories! The curry and rice both sound divine, just the way I'd enjoy both.

Saffron said...

Happy Easter, darling!

pom d'api said...

Good week, I go to London this week

Sara said...

Mmmm delicious Freya. Can't wait to see the recipe for the fried rice. We're going out for curry for lunch tomorrow, thanks to you!

Susan said...

Oh, this sounds delicious! And I admit, I had a serious crush on Tom Selleck--I swear he was the only guy who could look hot in a moustache!

Paprika said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paprika said...

No man should wear tight white shorts unless its Tom. When I first had curry & chips on my visit to London, I thought it was so avant garde! Wow, no rice but with chips! The tamarind/monkey thing made me laugh out loud.

Melting Wok said...

aww, you guys forgot the A-team, and starsky & hutch ? hehe, btw, I gotta get a man like Paul to cook me some egg fried rice and I gotta have freya's timeless curry recipe, stat !! hehe :)