We, in the UK, are a nation of curry maniacs. This is part of the joy of the UK being so culturally diverse. I think it is amazing that dishes such as Korma, Madras, Vindaloo and Phall are part of the national consciousness and that Chicken Tikka Madras often tops our nation's favourite dish lists. For many people, Friday night is curry night, enjoyed in many of the Indian/Bangladeshi restaurants across the country.
However, the sad fact is that in the home of curry, India, many people in rural areas go hungry. Lack of rain, fertile soil and farming know-how are some factors which cause this. In addition, greedy feudal lords, unscrupulous landlords and corruption conspire to keep people poor. It is estimated that 1 in 8 people worldwide go hungry. Hunger, disease and poverty are everyday realities for the rural poor of India.
Find Your Feet is a small charity who seeks to help communities in India and Nepal to become able to provide for themselves. The do this by getting them "skilled up" so that they are able to feed themselves. Education, training and supply of a few basics rather than food aid are how they help. Making people self-sufficient and able to support themselves has to be the best way of helping communities, whilst preserving their dignity.
I was delighted and honoured to be invited to the launch of Find Your Feet's campaign to raise funds and awareness through "Curry For Change". Kavita from Kavey Eats supports this charity and this campaign, and you can read what she has to say about both here: http://www.kaveyeats.com/2013/05/curry-for-change.html
I hope you will support this wonderfully good cause. I'll tell you more about how you can do that later, but for Find Your Feet/ Curry For Change's online presence can be found as follows:
Visit the Curry For Change website: www.curryforchange.org.uk (You can sign up for an exclusive FREE Curry for Change kit which includes exclusive recipes by Anjali Pathak and Atul Kochhar, a free pack of authentic spices from FUDCO and the chance to win a private master class with Anjali Pathak).
Follow Find Your Feet on twitter: @findyourfeet
Follow Find Your Feet on face book: Find Your Feet
Follow the campaign on twitter: #curryforchange
I'll tell you about the Masterclass before getting into the real nitty gritty of how to support Find Your Feet.
The Masterclass was held at Chef Vivek Singh's Cinnamon Kitchen restaurant at 9 Devonshire Square, near London's Liverpool Street Station. It's a lovely restaurant space, airy, modern, spacious and comfortable. It is a world away from the flock wallpaper and dinginess of the days of yore. I haven't eaten there, but if it is as wonderful as Vivek's Cinnamon Club in Westminster (where Him Indoors and I celebrated our 3rd Indian Wedding Anniversary), it is a place for some of the very best Indian food in the UK.
|Cinnamon Kitchen's dining area|
We were looked after in superb fashion, being spoiled with Indianised Bellinis (lychee, goji berries and prosecco) and canapes. We had kebabs in romali rotis, tandoori chicken, tandoori fish, Naanzis (Indian 'Pizzas' made of naan bread) and tangy pooris reminiscent of pani pooris (but without the exploding liquid payload!).
|Cinnamon Kitchen's kitchen|
Dhruv Baker, winner of Masterchef 2010 kicked off the Masterclass. Since his win he has worked with Michel Roux Junior at Le Gavroche, and De Librije, Zwolle, Holland and is not about to set up his own restaurant. He demonstrated his own recipe, a version of a Malaba Prawn Curry.
|Dhruv Baker talking us through his inspiration|
His dish was based on the traditional flavours of South India. Here, the climate is very hot. It is too hot and dry to grow coriander, so curry leaves are used to add subtle herb flavours and aromas. Wet curries are made with coconut milk/cream, given the abundance of coconuts. Seafood in addition is found in abundance. He told us that his inspiration when developing this dish is to remind people that Indian food is more than heat, it can also deal in subtlety. The food is made through the building of flavours in layers, which is why the ingredients are added a little at a time, and allowed to release their flavours before the next stage is attempted.
The rapidly cooked fresh king prawns were served on pooris, fried Indian flatbreads made from flour, oil and water. This was a wonderful little canape which could easily be scaled up into a very tasty supper.
|Meeting Dhruv Baker|
|Prawn Malaba Curry on Pooris|
Vivek Singh's dish was an attempt to bring the marinating and roasting techniques of tandoor cooking home. A real tandoor (a sunken clay oven which can reach up to 400 degrees C) is not practical in anyone's kitchen, so the aim was to get a similar effect and flavours on a grill or in the oven. The meat used was a good quality saddle of lamb. The red curry sauce (or 'pickling sauce') originated in Rajasthan in Western India.
|Vivek Singh at work|
Vivek told us that the vegetables used in the dish could be varied and flexible. We were advised to think seasonally. Hence he highlighted that since small red radishes were just right for this time of year, they were perfect for this dish. The spicing included methi seeds (fenugreek), fennel seeds, black onion seeds and dried red chillis.
|The pickling style vegetables|
We were given some other very useful advice on Indian cooking. Tandoori cooking depends on the meat used being marinaded. The marinading serves several functions; flavour, tenderising and preservation. We were told that the quality of the meat used should help guide your techniques and method. Since Vivek was using top quality saddle of lamb, it did not need to be overwhelmed by either overspicing or marinading too long.
Finally, we were told after cooking the meat, either on the grill (or barbeque) or in the oven, it should be rested for as long as it was cooked for to allow the meat to relax to regain its true texture.
|Delicious tandoori lamb|
Vivek's saddle of lamb with 'Aachar' (pickled) vegetables was a taste revelation and a perfect alternative to the regular Sunday roast.
|Snigdha and Chef Vivek Singh|
Anjum Anand's dessert was a souffle. Hang on, I hear you say, that's not very Indian! Well, the addition of rose essence, rose syrup, and pomegranate flavours makes it an "Indianised" souffle, in the same vein as the popular Indianised Eton Mess in her recent book.
|Anjum making the pomegranate syrup for the souffle mix|
The pomegranate kernels were juiced, and that juice reduced down with cornflower. That was then added to the souffle mix, a meringue mix of egg whites and sugar. The souffles were baked in the oven and served with a cream flavoured with rose essence and crushed raspberries.
The Pomegranate soufflé with rose and raspberry cream was an amazing dish, full of subtle flavours and lightness which would make a show stopping dessert at a dinner party.
|Awe inspiring souffles|
It was a completely humbling and marvellous experience to learn from these experts in their field. When I mentioned what I was doing to a musician friend of mine, he noted who was taking the Masterclass, saying: "Forget Cream or The Jam, that really is a power trio!" I couldn't agree more!
|Snig gets to meet the amazing Anjum Anand|
This is the second year of the Curry For Change campaign. So how can you support the campaign and help raise funds?
Well, the easy option is to eat out at one of the partner organisations of Find Your Feet.
Atul Kocchar is the Patron of Curry for Change. His amazing Michelin Starred restaurant Benares, is a superb fusion of British and Indian food which has to be tasted to be believed. Situated in swanky Mayfair, their address is 12a Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London W1J 6BS (020 7629 8886). You can book them online via: http://www.benaresrestaurant.com/index.php/reservations/
Vivek Singh's Cinnamon Restaurants are another fantastic option. You could eat at either Cinnamon Club (Westminster), Cinnamon Kitchen (Liverpool Street) or Cinnamon Soho (Soho). If you were to have their 3 course meal and cocktail deal for £29 per person, then £5 will be donated from each menu to the 'Find Your Feet Curry for Change' charity. This offer is available for lunch Mon-Fri, dinner Mon-Sat (6pm-6.30pm & after 9.30pm Tues-Fri). Available from BookATable
Alternatively you can book via the following links:TopTableCinnamonSoho
Cyrus Todiwala's Cafe Spice Namaste is another option. Chef Todiwala is a real expert in Indian food in all its glory, and I know this having seen him demonstating dishes at other cooking events. His restaurant is located at 16 Prescot Street, London E1 8AZ and was the Winner of the Best Asian Restaurant Business of the Year – 2013 Asian Business Awards. You can book a table here: http://cafespice.co.uk/book-a-table/
Chef Todiwala is hosting a special event for Curry For Change: Cyrus Todiwala’s Khaadraas (‘Greedy Pigs’) Club Dinner on Friday 21st June 2013 at Cafe Spice Namaste where for £29.95 you'll get a 3 course meal (with £5 going to Find Your Feet)!
The Regency Club; an award winning bar and grill situated in Queensbury, North West Londo19- 21 Queensbury Station Parade, Edgware, Middlesex, HA8 5NR Tel: 0208 952 6300
Harrow's The Red Turban, (Nominated for the Best Restaurant in the Spice Times Awards 2011) located at 244 Streatfield Road, Harrow, Middlesex, HA3 9BX (020 8238 9999) is another partner restaurant. You can reserve a table online via: http://www.theredturban.co.uk/reservations
For those in South East London, you could visit Cinnamon Culture Restaurant, 46 Plaistow Lane, Bromley BR1 3PA (0208 289 0322), where you can book via http://www.cinnamonculture.com/reservation. Any questions can be directed via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
In Central London, you could go to Roti Chai, 3 Portman Mews S, City of Westminster, London W1H (020 7408 0101), you can look it up here: http://www.rotichai.com/rotichai_details.html
Readers in Kent may want to visit Indian Essence, 176-178 Petts Wood Road, Pettswood, BR5 1LG (01689 838700) or email: email@example.com
There is an Indian Food and Spice Odyssey Class (with emphasis on Indian Street Food) on Wednesday 12th June 2013 at Hobbs House Bakery, Chipping Sodbury, Bristol for £95 (in conjunction with Urban Rajah). Details are available at:
To hold your own event, you can request a Curry For Change fundraiser's pack here: http://find-your-feet.org/curryforchange/cook-curry/
Please do what you can to support Curry For Change. It's a great cause, run by a highly committed small charity who wants to help by means of the transfer of knowledge and skills rather than aid. It is the perfect way of helping people make real change in their lives. After all, I heard it said that if you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Whereas if you teach a man to fish, he eats for his whole life.