I had some friends over for dinner last night. My friends are from a variety of cultures and nations: some don't eat pork, some don't eat beef...so what could I cook that would be tasty for everyone. I know, I'll make curry!
Now, my experience with curry has largely involved picking up the telephone and calling the local takeaway. But, oh no, I couldn't possibly do that when my friends come round - I have to cook. So, I freed the afternoon, cracked open the recipe books and got down to it. Hmmm. Six hours later I manage to grab a 2 minute shower before the guests arrived! OMG, Indian cooking takes all day!
So, just for the uninitiated (because now, of course, I feel that I have immersed myself in the Indian culture and am guru of Indian cooking) here is the guide to cooking Indian food the Indian way and the British way:
Indian Way (for guests arriving at about 7pm)
1. Early start shopping: Buy a large truck and back it up to the loading bay of the local supermarket. Purchase every spice they have.
2. Don't forget you also need lamb and chicken by the truck load.
3. Breads: Purchase large clay oven known as a Tandoor and place in garden, in which to cook the roti. Employ Indian servant to make the breads and cook them in said large clay oven
4. Ok, so that takes us up to 6am. Now you can begin the preparation.
5. Finely chop a basketful of onions, layer on copious amounts of salt and leave for hours so that they lose their excess water.
6. Now, squeeze out excess water and deep fry the onions in batches. Breathe in the gorgeous aromatic smell because this is as good as its going to get today.
7. Divide said fried onions into two batches, reserve one and puree the other with water.
8. Spices: These are best kept in a large container, otherwise all the neighbours will be round wondering if you are running an Indian restaurant from your home.
9. You will have been advised by expert recipe to purchase spices whole (not ready ground) but now you will be required to grind them to a powder. Hmm.
10. Marinate meat in spices, pureed onion mixture and yoghurt for next two hours.
11. Panic because that definitely doesn't smell right and you can't remember whether you put in a teaspoon of garum marsala or a tablespoon.
12. Now, heat meat in marinade, adding more spices as you go, for 45 minutes.
13. Check on little man on tandoor duty.
14. Mix lethal cocktails so that guests will get drunk quickly and won't notice that food is awful.
15. Finally, put dish in the oven for final 45 minutes and spend half an hour re-reading recipe and wondering what you were supposed to do with the saved deep fried onion mixture.
16. Rice: soak genuine Basmati rice in water for 30 minutes. Now cook in boiling water watching it for every second so that you can remove it from hot water after only 5 minutes so that it is just cooked and not stodgy and sticky.
17. Now taste everything. Drink heavily from hip flask (or lethal cocktails made earlier) add salt to everything and hope that no-one notices that it definitely doesn't look like the picture in the recipe book.
18. Get guests drunk before serving and laugh off your culinary incompetence. What are friends for?
The British Way (for guests arriving at 7pm)
1. Go to supermarket and purchase jars labelled 'homepride curry sauce' or if you are really pushing the boat out anything made by 'Pataks'.
2. Begin cooking half an hour before guests arrive. Put chicken in pot, pour over sauce, put in oven for 45 minutes.
3. Put Uncle Ben's boil-in-the-bag rice into saucepan and cover with boiling water.
4, Drain rice and pour cooked chicken and sauce over it.
6. Next Morning: take two immodium tablets with water. Lie down for rest of day.