Craving a Curry: Why UK’s Non-Asians are Picking Up Indian Cooking
Curry is Britain’s favourite takeaway.
The UK even celebrates National Curry Week in October every year. In Manchester, a road is nicknamed Curry Mile after it earned the name from various restaurants and takeaways that specialise in the cuisines of South Asia and Middle East.
With time, many non-Asians have learnt to cook South Asian cuisines, including Indian – like Petra Dumbrell from Storrington, West Sussex. She enjoys cooking Indian cuisines and is proud of her enhanced culinary skills.
Petra, the owner and designer of Adjustus V which specialises in cotton canvas designer bags, is an expert in cooking non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes like tikka masala, lamb curry, mater paneer and varieties of lentils. Recently, her family were impressed with her newly gained culinary skills when they visited her from Czech Republic, where she originally hails from.
Whipping Up Desi Dishes
They really enjoyed eating my home-cooked Indian food, although I had to go easy with the chillies. Czech cuisine, in comparison with Indian, can be quite bland.
Petra, who has been living in the UK for the last two decades, often invites her friends to indulge in her mouth-watering Indian cuisines.
I guess for me the important thing was, learning about so many different types of pulses and grains from which to get your protein, and maintain a healthy diet.
Her personal favourites are dal, rice and roti.
Dal is such a versatile dish; you can even add some vegetables to it if you like!
Petra credits her extensive travelling experiences and friends from different parts of the world for her newfound cooking love:
You just get exposed to different cuisines and your tastes develop.
Similarly, Kirsty Brennan and her partner Derek, have always had a fascination with India and Indian cookery. She says,
It’s all to do with the blends of spices, where they come from and how something so simple in its preparation and cooking can taste so exotic.
Farzana Ullah’s Non-Asian Clients
However, Kirsty, a resident of Edenfield, East Lancashire, feels that the effort is in preparing the onions, garlic and ginger.
The couple recently downsized their home – after which, dinner events with an ‘Indian cuisine theme’, haven’t been as often they’d like, but Kirsty says,
We eat more with friends when we’re touring in our caravan. We can’t wait to try making the pickled lamb on a BBQ!
Kirsty learnt the Indian style of cooking from Farzana Ullah, a teacher who – for the past decade – has been running Indian home cooking classes in Manchester. Farzana’s parents hailed from Pakistan.
“Farzana’s kitchen was so homely and welcoming,” gushes Kirsty. “At the end of her classes, I would think to myself – ‘Oh! We can cook this in our kitchen too’.”
Farzana, who shares family secrets on how to create the ‘perfect curry’ within the comfort of one’s home, is a favourite with many. In fact, she not only helps her clients whip up an authentic Indian meal, but also advises them on how to throw an Indian style party!
Nearly 99 percent of my clients are non-Asians. Not only are they interested in learning the Indian style of cooking, but they also want to replicate the healthy versions of takeaways at home.Farzana Ullah
All her lessons are tailored according to the taste and requirements of her clients. She instructs them on what ingredients to use what measures/quantities are required in a perfect curry. Farzana’s lessons are split into two packages – a half-day lesson comes at £130, while a full day session costs £200.
Anita Kerai’s Healthy Indian Styles
Anita Kerai, a Kenyan-Gujarati chef and presenter on Simply Good Food TV, runs a similar cookery school in Harrow near London.
My cooking has always been about simple and healthy eating. As I am a very green person the whole ethos about my cookery school is about reducing food waste and promoting healthy eating. I try to show people how to make meals by using less oil, more spices and adding vegetables and lentils to their diets.
Apart from staple Indian dishes, Anita – a mother of two – also uses her mixed ancestry to her advantage by introducing several ‘fusion’ dishes to her clients.
Although most of my clients are English, I have had Japanese, American, Czech, Chinese, German and a few young British Asians as well. All of them have been professionals who want to experience Indian cooking, or new vegans, vegetarians or people who generally want to reduce their meat intake.
Anita holds classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays for 3.5 hours at £95 per client – and on Fridays, she conducts a one-to-one session for 2.5 hours at the clients’ home for £130 (plus transportation cost).
Anita, who also works voluntarily as a Food Revolution ambassador who tackles childhood obesity, says:
As a very environment-friendly person, my classes are based on seasonal produce. I use a lot of wonky vegetables to tackle and reduce food waste whilst teaching in a fun and relaxed home environment.
Judging from the number of clients rapidly signing up each day, it is clear that the food trend is here to stay.
(Anjana Parikh works with the healthcare sector in the UK. She's also a freelance writer based in Manchester. Before relocating to the UK in 2013, she worked as a full-time journalist with some of India's leading dailies like The Times of India, Deccan Herald and The Sunday Guardian. She also worked as the News Editor for a leading British Asian weekly Asian Lite. Apart from reading and writing, she also loves rambling and singing.)