Recently I saw a documentary on web workers who travel the world, called something like Cyber Nomads and there was one young man that had all the best spices in a nice kit, ready for making curry. He’d learned in India how to mix it, so as a special gift, wherever he stayed, he would prepare a nice curry dinner.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa; /ˈtɜːrmərɪk/ or variously /ˈtjuːmərɪk) is a flowering plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae, the roots of which are used in cooking. The plant is rhizomatous, herbaceous, and perennial, and is native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, and requires temperatures between 20 and 30 °C (68 and 86 °F) and a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive. Plants are gathered each year for their rhizomes, some for propagation in the following season and some for consumption.
When not used fresh, the rhizomes are boiled in water for about 30–45 minutes and then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep orange-yellow powder commonly used as a coloring and flavoring agent in many Asian cuisines, especially for curries, as well as for dyeing. Turmeric powder has a warm, bitter, black pepper-like flavor and earthy, mustard-like aroma. Although long used in Ayurvedic medicine, where it is also known as haridra, no high-quality clinical evidence exists for use of turmeric or its constituent, curcumin, as a therapy.
The first curry recipe in Britain appeared in The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse in 1747. The first edition of her book used only black pepper and coriander seeds for seasoning of “currey”. By the fourth edition of the book, other ingredients such as turmeric and ginger were called for. The use of hot spices was not mentioned, which reflected the limited use of chili in India — chili plants had only been introduced into India around the late 16th century and at that time were only popular in southern India.
Many curry recipes are contained in 19th century cookbooks such as those of Charles Elmé Francatelli and Mrs Beeton. In Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, a recipe for curry powder is given that contains coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne, mustard, ginger, allspice and fenugreek; although she notes that it is more economical to purchase the powder at “any respectable shop”.
According to legend, one 19th century attempt at curry resulted in the invention of Worcestershire sauce.
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, curry grew increasingly popular in Britain owing to the large number of British civil servants and military personnel associated with the British Raj. Following World War II, curry became even more popular in Britain owing to the large number of immigrants from South Asia.
Curry has become an integral part of British cuisine, so much so that, since the late 1990s, chicken tikka masala has been referred to as “a true British national dish”.
Other British curry derivatives include “Coronation chicken“, a cold dish, often used as a sandwich filling, invented to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 – and curry sauce (or curry gravy), usually served warm with traditional British fast food dishes such as chips. Curry sauce occasionally includes sultanas and/or other dried fruits.