They say Chicken Tikka Masala is the UK’s favourite dish. Although many refute the authenticity of that particular dish, curries have certainly become an integral part of British culture. Here in Sheffield we’re blessed with a wonderful range of authentic curry houses of all types. Ikky and Sanj from The Curry Pot in Nether Edge […]

They say Chicken Tikka Masala is the UK’s favourite dish. Although many refute the authenticity of that particular dish, curries have certainly become an integral part of British culture. Here in Sheffield we’re blessed with a wonderful range of authentic curry houses of all types. Ikky and Sanj from The Curry Pot in Nether Edge and Rahul from Ashoka on Eccy Road told us more about the cuisine they serve.

Which spices or ingredients are store cupboard essentials for you?

[Sanj, Curry Pot] Cardamom and ginger tie as my essential ingredients. Both are very distinctive in flavour and lend themselves equally well to both sweet and savoury dishes.

[Rahul, Ashoka] Garlic and ginger. They are the foundation of all Indian food.

What are the challenges and benefits of running an independent business in Sheffield?

[Ikky, Curry Pot] The economy is still the real challenge at the moment. It becomes increasingly difficult to turn a reasonable profit. But it’s not all about money and whilst I don’t earn as much I did in my previous job, what I do gain is independence and the ability express my own creativity and put my own stamp on things.

Are there any ingredients that are impossible to source in this country?

[Rahul] The UK is fantastic for Indian and Asian produce. My parents tell me the story was different when they first arrived in the UK in the mid 70s. Now, with advent of technology making online sales so simple, you can find anything you could wish for and have it delivered to your door.

[Sanj] There’s a particular root which is used to give an authentic Rogan Josh its characteristic red colour. It’s called alkanna tinctoria. Whilst it’s available across much of the globe as a natural food additive, the EU hasn’t approved its use.

How has the British palate changed over the years?

[Sanj] The British are now starting to understand and appreciate the complexities and subtleties of various different ingredients and flavours. In many ways it’s the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent that has helped catalyse this evolution.

[Ikky] People want to know which part of the Indian subcontinent a particular dish is authentic to, what spices and ingredients are used. Provenance matters a lot more to people.

[Rahul] When I was growing up in the 80s and 90s you really had a choice of Indian, Chinese, Italian or pub food. We now have an amazing selection of food on offer in Sheffield. Again with social media, food trends such as street food and supper clubs that start in the US or London are being replicated here in Sheffield much quicker than before.

What’s your most popular dish?

[Rahul] Our Kashmiri Lamb Bhuna. Butter soft tender lamb with caramelised onions. It’s a truly amazing dish.

[Ikky] Dishes that aren’t found in other curry houses, like the 24 hour Braised Ox Cheek and the Rabbit and Rosemary, are very popular, but people still love the old classics too. Our Chicken Tikka Masala is still one of the top sellers, alongside our Bhuna and Dopiaza.

What’s your favourite dish?

[Sanj] Saag Paneer with Makhi Di Roti (chapati made with fine polenta) and yoghurt. It’s my comfort food but, as it turns out, it’s also doing me good. I was diagnosed with anaemia about ten years ago so it seems my body knows what’s good for it.

[Rahul] Our new Calcutta Karai. Plenty of flavour with garlic and ginger coming to the fore. A robust dish which has sold much better than I expected.

If we are what we eat, what are you?

[Ikky] A hot chilli pepper! Clichéd I know but I eat a lot of spicy food and I really do have a fiery and passionate temperament.

Do you think British Indian cuisine has produced any gems?

[Ikky] I know this will probably sound like blasphemy coming from a trained chef but I think the Apna style pizza. It’s basically a pizza given an Indian makeover.

[Sanj] Most of what we see in curry houses across the country are dishes invented in the UK. Whilst I’m not a huge fan, I’d have to say the Chicken Tikka Masala, apparently invented in Glasgow. For it to have unseated the Sunday Roast as the nation’s favourite dish, it has to have something special about it.

Cassie Kill

The Curry Pot
Ashoka

Lamb and Mint Kofta Curry.

Recipe by The Curry Pot
Serves 4-5

600g lean minced lamb
2 onions, finely chopped
1 medium egg
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
75g garlic
75g fresh ginger
Chillies, finely chopped
Bread crumbs (2 white slices)
50g butter or ghee
Fresh mint, chopped
Fresh coriander, chopped

Spices (whole): 8 cardamon pods, 6 cloves, 2 bay leaves, small piece of cassis bark (Chinese cinnamon), cumin and coriander seeds

Spices (ground): turmeric, red chilli powder, cumin, paprika, garam masala, coriander

Take a mixing bowl and add the lamb mince, a handful of fresh mint, a small finely chopped onion, chilli, salt, pepper, half a tsp each of crushed cumin and coriander seeds, and 1 tsp of garam masala. Mix well. Add the bread crumbs and egg, knead the mixture together and roll into little balls.

Heat up some oil in a pan and carefully cook the meatballs. Keep turning until they are golden brown and cooked through, then set aside on some kitchen roll.

Heat the butter or ghee in a large, heavy based pan. Add the cardamon, cloves, bay leaves and cassis and fry for a few seconds before adding a large chopped onion and a teaspoon of salt. Cook over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes until they are light brown and soft, stirring now and then. Place the tomatoes, garlic, ginger and more chillies into a food blender and blitz until smooth. Add this to the pan and fry for a few minutes. Now add 1 tbsp of turmeric, red chilli powder, cumin, coriander and paprika. Cook for 5-7 minutes, add 120ml of water, bring to the boil then simmer on a low-medium heat for ten minutes. Then add the lamb koftas and 1 tbsp of garam masala and cook for ten more minutes.

Taste the sauce and add salt if needed. Finish by stirring in fresh coriander. Serve with fresh naan or rice and a fresh cucumber raita.

Photo by Sara Hill