Recommended second chance
Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Nation
After a 17-year break from the TV kitchen, original spice girl Madhur Jaffrey returns with a new daily series in which she tours the United Kingdom to reveal how we’ve taken Indian cookery, and more specifically curries, to our heart…
What have you found out about curries in Britain now compared to when you first came here from India 30 years ago?
Enormous differences. When I came to this country you couldn’t get good Indian food — it wasn’t available! I’d never learnt how to cook, so it was really out of desperation that I started, because there was nothing I could recognise as Indian food. Nowadays you can even get regional Indian food here, including aspects you can’t get in India. So you’re seeing a lot of changes and people are adapting dishes to suit local produce.
You’ve been filming today in Mister Singh’s Indian Restaurant in Glasgow. How’s that been?
Mr Singh’s whole journey is very interesting. He came to the UK with nothing and got work as a door-to-door salesman. Look at him now! He’s a restaurateur, and he was wearing a bracelet that I wanted to take off him, I liked it so much. It was chunky — it must have been an ounce of gold, each chain of it! Similarly, a few days ago I was talking to another Indian restaurateur in Leeds. I asked him how much he was worth and, of course, he wouldn’t answer. So then I said, ‘What car do you drive?’ And he told me, ‘I have a Bentley and a Ferrari.’ Their lives have changed so much. He came from a little village in a part of Kashmir, his father would ride into town on a donkey. Now they’re entrepreneurs, very successful and employing hundreds of people.
Has your style of cooking changed over the years since you’ve been living in the US?
Oh, of course! Time is limited, everyone is working, you have to produce food faster so you work out techniques. I already did a book on easy curries and I’m working on a second one in the same vein. I just cannot take two hours to do something like I use to. I get exhausted!
You’re famous for being a cook, but you’re also an accomplished actress. Which do you consider your main career?
It’s funny, because Oxford Brookes University were awarding me an Honorary Doctorate in July and I said, ‘For what?’ I couldn’t understand what they were giving it to me for. The same thing happened when I got a CBE from the Queen. They somehow managed to say it was for both acting and cooking. I think it’s weird.
Is there another cuisine you’re drawn to if you’re eating out?
I cook a lot, so we don’t eat out too much. But my husband and I do love Japanese food. I think it’s the biggest contrast to Indian fare.
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