I think that behind traditional British cuisine, Indian food has to be our next favourite food. Here in England, Indian food is extremely popular due to the large population of Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi people who live in this country. There are huge cultural ties between Britain and this part of the world and this is undoubtedly the reason for our fasciantion with this kind of food. The key to this food is in the spices used and it is these spices which came to our shores with those returning from the Crusades. Using and combining these spices can be a little daunting at times. But it doesn't need to be difficult to create a rich, deep and spicy curry and making something simple like my Mutton Curry with Cauliflower "Rice" would be a good place to start.
The mutton I bought, as I was told by my butcher, was killed at about 2 and a half years old. The reason I went for mutton instead of lamb is that I think its depth and strength of flavour stands up better to heavily spiced dishes than younger lamb. Lamb is still a good choice, and is very popular in Indian restaurants in Britain. However, surprisingly, lamb is not very commonly eaten in India. When we travelled around India last year (you can read about our trip here) we found "mutton" on most menus but even this, we later found out, was actually goat! Lamb is a more expensive meat and beyond the reach of most Indians. Also, take in to account the fact that India has more vegetarians than the rest of the world combined, and you will soon see how the presumption that lamb is the basis of most curries may be flawed.
The obvious side dish for most food from this part of the world is rice. Rice is cheap, nutritious and is a good "filler" for hungry appetites. This is fine, and I can understand the virtues of eating rice with a curry, but at the end of the day it has very little flavour and doesn't really add anything to the final dish. As such, we have been trying different ingredients to try to emulate "rice". Cauliflower works especially well. Baked in the oven with spices and then blended using a food processor it really does make an excellent accompaniment.
Indian food is so much more varied than the basic curries that we are used to here in Britain. This kind of food really excites us and we are going to try to be pretty adventurous with these flavours over the coming months. One inspiration to us for this more adventurous approach is a chef called Atul Kochar. Atul is the first chef to win a Michelin star for Indian style cuisine. We saw him in the TV series, Great British Menu.
But for now, here is our recipe for a simple tomato based curry which will make a delicious meal and be a good starting point to cooking this potentially daunting cuisine.
This recipe will be enough for 2 people plus a few leftovers
For the curry -
1lb/450g diced mutton
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp good curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
half tsp hot chilli powder
salt and pepper
1 tin chopped tomatoes
For the cauliflower rice -
1 head of cauliflower
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
salt and pepper
1. Start by browning the mutton in a very hot pan. Cook in batches if necessary to make sure the meat is browned very quickly. Remove and set aside.
2. Next, slowly cooking the onions in the same frying pan. After 5mins add the chopped garlic and ginger. Continue to slowly cook until the onions are lovely and sticky, maybe around 20mins.
3. Remove this mix from the pan, add a little more oil and then add the cumin and mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the chopped tomatoes and cook on a medium heat for a few minutes.
4. Add the curry powder and chilli powder to the tomatoes and then return the mutton to the pan.
5. At this stage you can continue to cook the curry on a very low heat in the pan or you can transfer to an ovenproof dish and cook in the oven. It should be cooked for atleast 2 hours to ensure the meat is tender.
6. With an hour to go, start with your cauliflower rice. Cut the cauliflower into florets.
7. Heat some oil in a baking tray in a preheated oven at 180C. When hot, add the cauliflower, cover with foil and cook for about 25mins.
8. After 25mins remove the foil, sprinkle over the spices and continue to cook uncovered for another 25mins.
9. Remove from the oven, blend in a food processor and then check for seasoning.
10. Before serving the curry, stir in a teaspoon of garam masala and check for seasoning. Serve alongside the cauliflower rice.