Done properly, the humble curry becomes a complex layered classic. And it's never been easier to make a knock-out curry feast than with our curry club kit, finds Clare Hastings
Cooking curries at home is a revelation. The first thing is that they taste incredibly fresh, the second is that a bank of sous chefs is usually the order of the day.
Tin boxes of spices and a variety of cook books have all left me with the impression that while the end results are much better than you would ever get from the average take away, you really do need a reader, a chopper and someone on clearing and washing up.
It's tricky to read a recipe (especially if it's slightly out of your comfort zone), locate the ingredients and at the same time engage with the cooker. So it was with interest that I unpacked my latest offering from The Spicery, who works with The Indytute on its three-month Curry Club subscription.
All the spices arrive pre-measured and mixed, with a simple and easy to follow recipe card. So far so good.
In fact you may feel rather underwhelmed when it arrives. It comes in a pretty box and all the spices are individually wrapped and labelled, and it is here that you might be fooled into thinking that you should have just gone to the supermarket and bought a couple of spice jars. You are very wrong.
It's also easy to leave the box languishing in the larder unused. Don't. Commit to curry night.
The basic ingredients are easy to buy, and if you follow the instructions the results are truly impressive. You could serve these dishes up at any dinner and expect – and get – cheers and clapping.
I think it helps to feel at home with a saucepan, I may be wrong on this, but when you are juggling several dishes it is an advantage.
I am an experienced cook, but I still followed the recipe as if life depended on it, and these instructions are truly simple, listed in order of preparation.
If you aren't that savvy then get help from a mate, it's really fun to cook this with someone else.
Last night was Shashlik Kebab night. I made naans (yes, really), kebabs, tamarind potatoes, and raita. The recipe was for four people, but there were two of us, and I can't say there was much left over. Nothing to do with the quantities allocated – just greed. The Tamarind potatoes were absolutely delicious. In fact, I have to say it all was.
Their secret is in the multiple layering of the spices. You start off simmering with one packet, and then just before serving you may add another. The end result is complex and surprising. Just to give you an example, the dough for the naans was kneaded with a spice blend that included nigella seeds and ajowan (an aromatic spice from a native Indian plant), but just before serving they were spread with butter forked through with their coriander and garlic spice mix. Fabulous.
Whoever has worked on these recipes has seriously thought them through. They work. The spices are fresh, fresh, fresh, unlike the sad offerings in my larder.
That said, I did get two things wrong. I should have cooked the naans for slightly longer (dry fried on each side). They were slightly doughy – my fault as I got over excited an they needed cooking for a minute longer, and my attention lapsed as I was finishing the simplest part of the dinner: salad.
My partner came in to enquire on progress and in looking up to answer, I opened the wrong packet and had scattered it in before realising the error. Not to be thwarted, I rinsed the salad under cold water and found the correct spice. It did mean I was down on the toasted chilli masala, which was meant to be scattered on the kebabs before serving, but hey ho.
The Spicery box more than delivers on its promise. There is a real sense of accomplishment in the end results, and a dinner that feels totally authentic and tastes mmmmmmmmmm.
FURTHER READING: Like the idea of home kits? We've got plenty more where that came from – here are some of our favourite home kits. And we've even got a step-by-step kit for making that perfect sourdough loaf.