Saturday, 9 October 2010

Yummy yummy curry,

I got love in my tummy!

The World Curry Festival celebrates 200 years of curry in Britain, marking the 200th anniversary of the first ever Indian restaurant, which opened in London in 1810. The festival was the first of its kind to celebrate all things curry. I went along to the event at Millennium Square in Leeds last weekend because a) I love curry and b) I want to learn how to cook yummy yummy curries myself, because jarred sauces never taste as good as the real thing.

The World Curry Fest promised curries from around the world; Thai curry, Malaysian curry, Caribbean curry, African curry – can you feel your mouth watering? tastebuds tingling? Visitors to the 3 day event like me were expecting the Extremely Good Curry Show - demos by celebrity chefs, curry on the Cooking Bus, a spice souk, and a restaurant offering ‘sumptuous dishes’.
I was really looking forward to a weekend of curry, the website sad it was a ticket only event, so I booked a ticket for myself and a friend online. I was disappointed to find that Friday was a corporate event – I mean Friday night curry, do I need to say more?! And at £6 a ticket and £1.65 to have your ticket e-mailed to you we opted to just go on the Saturday, so my weekend of curry was down to 1 day. But it was still with great anticipation and high expectations that I arrived at the event on Saturday morning…
Only to find that you could in fact buy your ticket on the door, ok so there was a 10 minute queue, but once you got inside the queues were so big that another 10 minutes wouldn’t have made much difference.
Once inside our first port of call was the Cooking Bus to sign up for cooking classes, which unfortunately were fully booked already. (4 classes with 12 places per class and over 4k attendees, the odds were against us.)

With the £6 entry fee I was expecting some hot food samples, and maybe a goody bag of spices and recipes to take home. But the only samples available were tastings of jarred sauces and chutneys on the stalls to encourage you to buy. And the only spices for sale were a prepacked range that are available in supermarkets. I was expecting something along the lines of an Asian supermarket with the exotic ingredients that are difficult to get hold of to make an authentic dish.

There was a massive queue for the bar but the Schmoo stall were very generous with samples of lassi yoghurt smoothies which were delicious ( Apparently they are available in Tesco, so might pick some up depending on the price. Having paid to get in I was reluctant to spend too much in there, but obviously one of the reasons for going was to eat! We queued for 20 mins for a spinach and potato pakora, which whilst delicious and reasonably priced at £1 didn’t really touch the sides.
The sumptuous restaurant was in fact a buffet, £5 for 4 curries seemed like a good deal until we saw the size of the portions, and the size of the queue. So we opted for a bit of Malaysian chicken curry with coconut rice from Jennie Cook’s stall for £3.50, which was a nice coconutty, slightly creamy curry with a mild spice and smooth flavour. But it wasn’t the feast I’d been dreaming about, and the £10.50 I’d spent all together at the event would’ve been better spent on a takeaway from my local Indian.

The Extremely Good Curry Show was also a let down, I’ve never heard of any of the ‘celebrity chefs’. Grand Master Chef Oberoi from the Taj hotel chain was supposed to be showcasing his signature dishes that he is world famous for. Instead he made a recipe with beetroot that he’d never made before. The Thai demonstration was more of a ‘here’s on I made earlier’, with commentary like ‘add the paste – we make our own but you can buy a jar from the supermarket’ and ‘add the meat, we are using lamb that we’ve already braised.’ (What I want to know is how to make my own paste, how to braise the meet, is it braised with any spices?)
The demonstration by Stephanie Moon (the British Culinary Federation’s Chef of the Year) was excellent, it did make me laugh that she was advising us to buy a whole chicken as its cheaper if you make use of the whole chicken than buying pieces, and in the current economic climate every penny counts – this to us mugs that had just paid £6 to get in!

I will be writing a secondary blog post with the tips that I did learn from the deomos to be filed under #7 on my list to learn to cook Indian food.