Monday, September 3, 2012

Thinking of Curry, Apples--and Chutney

   Over the past month, Indian spicing has figured large in my life. A couple of weeks ago came a pot-luck Indian dinner and a laugh-out-loud showing of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Next was the discovery of a new Indian restaurant in Mirepoix. We ate more Indian food at a friend's a week ago, and I left with his Maddhur Jaffrey cookbook. Copious stains and stuck-together pages gave away which recipes he'd used.
   I grew up with curry, but not curry as you or I know it. Chicken tikka masala may be the UK's second most popular dish these days (knocked off its pedestal early this year by "Chinese stir-fry") but fancy dishes like that came late to the English table. In the early 1960s, "curry" was shorthand for a ring of steamed rice, not necessarily basmati, surrounding a hillock of cooked mince and onion made yellowy-brown with curry powder. It wasn't particularly spicy, but you could "cool it down" by helping yourself from the inevitable side dishes of yoghurt, cucumber and, curiously, raisins. Today, the UK has around 9,000 Indian restaurants--that's a lot of chicken vindaloo and mountains of roti under the bridge.
    Spicy dishes have never featured much in French cuisine but Indian food is slowly making inroads. When I made a batch of shrikand for the Indian pot-luck recently, I thought I might find cardamom in the local Intermarché--and I did. (Wandering off track, "shrikand" is a thick, luscious and aromatic Gujarati dessert made from drained yogurt, chopped pistachios, saffron and cardamom.)
    And, of course, you can find curry powder everywhere in France., and that was what I needed yesterday morning. A rainy Sunday, a perfect time to make curried apple chutney.
   Before she left ten days ago on her vacances, my neighbour told me to help myself to as many apples as I wanted, which I had. I peeled, cored and chopped about 1.5 kilos, added brown sugar, cider vinegar and raisins..

      ...and then spooned in coriander, cardamom, chili flakes, cinnamon and, of course, curry powder pondering, not for the first time, why so many spices begin with "c".
     Compared to making jam, chutney is a doddle. All you do is bung everything in a saucepan, bring it to the boil, simmer it until it thickens, pour it into jars, label it (one chutney looks very much like another) and let it age. Right now I've got six jars maturing in the pantry, and another half-jar maturing in the fridge. Should be nice with baguette, cheeses, tomatoes and radishes for lunch. Wonder what they call a "ploughman's" in France? My enormous dictionary says it's an "assiette de fromage et de pickles."

No comments: