Curry Chaat with… Peter Jones, the Curried Londoner

Curry News

Peter Jones is a recipe developer and runs his test kitchen from Greenwich, London. He is author of The Perfect Vindaloo: the ultimate guide to discovering and cooking the perfect Vindaloo curry and publishes a regular newsletter with new recipes.

How would you describe a curry to a Martian?
A curry is the first thing you should eat when visiting Earth. It’s the greatest confluence of the world’s cultures in a single dish. It can be eaten on both hot days and cold days and enjoyed for breakfast lunch or dinner. Oh, and it’s kinda saucy.

When and where did you have your first curry?
I can’t remember my first curry. I grew up in the West Midlands, just down the road from Birmingham, so was pretty much brought up on curry.  I reckon my first curry may have been from a baby bottle! ha ha

What’s the key to a good curry?
In a word: balance. A curry that is only hot, sweet or sour will always taste one-dimensional. However little is used, you also need a little of a flavour’s opposite to make it sing. Oh, and Kashmiri chilli powder – it’s literally my favourite ingredient on Earth (tell the Martians!).

What’s the best curry you’ve ever had?
Tough one. I’m not sure I have an all-time best, but just before the national lockdown I had a Gongura Mutton curry in East Ham that was pretty life-changing. I’ve since discovered Gongura pickle and have been using it in everything from curries, to rice and even as a barbecue rub.  

What’s your go-to curry, your standard order on a quiet Tuesday night?
For me it has to be the Vindaloo. It’s a misunderstood dish as most people believe that it has to be super hot. The best Vindaloos do have chilli in them but also enhance the sour notes (usually with vinegar). It’s that hot-sour combo that I’m addicted to.

If curry was an animal what would it be?
Ha ha.What? I’m going to go with a cuttlefish: they come from mostly warm climates, are eaten all over the world, come in all colours and are often misunderstood (did you know that they are very intelligent?).  

When it comes to the classic pickle tray are you a lime pickle, mango chutney, chopped onion or mint yoghurt kind of guy?
I’m a lime pickle guy married to a lime pickle lady. We have lots of lime pickle in our house!

If you owned a curry restaurant what would you call it?
Novaroon. It means ‘something new’ and was once the name of a takeaway in Stockwell that I used to adore. It changed hands and inevitably reverted to a generic curry-house name unfortunately. I would honour its memory with my restaurant.  

Tell us three restaurants we must visit next time we are in Greenwich?
Greenwich is great for eating out but is mixed when it comes to finding a decent curry. My suggestions are: 1) drop in to see me in North Greenwich, and I’ll cook you a decent curry. 2) Come to see me and we’ll share a takeaway from Corinader in Westcombe Park. 3) Let’s take a short trip to East Ham and try one of the many places there. Paradise is a favourite of mine. I’ve even eaten in its sister restaurant in Hyderabad! 

What curry would you choose for your last meal?
If I were choosing from the menu I’d order a thali (so I could have a full banquet), but I suspect you might think that’s cheating. Otherwise, it’s a Vindaloo for me please!

Curry Chaat with… Andy Munro

Curry News

Andy Munro is a balti expert from Birmingham and was born and bred in its now famous Balti Triangle. His book is entitled Going for a Balti: the Story of Birmingham’s Signature Dish. The balti first appeared in Birmingham around 1975 and was invented by the local Pakistani/Kashmiri community who developed the dish loosely based on home-style cooking where the meal is served in the bowl it’s cooked in, so it retains all its flavours. Naan, rather than rice, accompanies the meal and is used to scoop up the food and to wipe clean the bowl at the end. Enter our competition to win an authentic Balti Bowl & Balti Spice Kit here.

How would you describe a balti to a Martian?
A spicy dish fast cooked over a high flame, cooked and served up in a steel pan.

When and where did you have your first balti?
In 1985, at a place called Azim’s in the Handsworth area of Birmingham… a particularly memorable meal as the restaurant was burned down a week later in the Handsworth race riots!

What’s the key to a good balti?
It must be fast-cooked, using vegetable oil not ghee, with spices thrown in during that cooking process. It must also be both cooked and served up in the balti, a flat-bottomed, thin pressed steel two-handled pan.

What’s the best balti you’ve ever had?
Balti Lamb and Aubergine at the Royal Naim (sadly now closed) in the Balti Triangle

What’s your go-to balti, your standard order on a quiet Tuesday night?
A Balti Chicken and Mushroom at the Shahi Nan Kebab House in the Balti Triangle.

If a Balti were an animal what would it be?
A dragon… legendary and fiery!

What’s the difference between a Birmingham balti and one from Baltistan?
The Birmingham balti is uniquely a fast-cooked Brummie invention right down to the Birmingham-designed and made Balti pans. Balti has nothing to do with the slow-cooked on-the-bone dishes served up in Baltistan. To say there is a connection is like saying jam comes from Jamaica!

What’s the difference between a balti and a ‘normal’ curry?
Balti is faster cooked over a higher heat, which helps caramelise the ingredients, uses vegetable oil not ghee for a cleaner, lighter taste and most critically has to be cooked and served up in the balti pan, thereby conserving the integrity of all the flavours. However, the mix of spices are down to the individual chef but are usually similar to those used in a ‘normal’ curry.

What ‘normal’ curries do you like when taking a balti break?
If I’m pushing the boat out I’ll go to the Michelin starred Opheem, which do a mean Goat Biryani. Otherwise I tend to eat more South Indian food for a change, such as a Paneer and Cashew Nut Masala curry or something like a Keralan Malabar Chicken.

Tell us about three restaurants we must visit next time we are in Birmingham?
Shababs, Shahi Nan Kebab House (both in the Balti Triangle), or the Royal Watan, just up the road in Selly Park.

You can purchase a copy of Andy Munro’s book Going for a Balti here…

Enter our competition for a chance to win an authentic Balti Bowl & Balti Spice Kit here…