The Mind of a Chef (2012) s02e11 Episode Script


1 In this episode of The Mind of a Chef, April Bloomfield talks curry.
She's in the kitchen and the spice shop with the legendary author and actress Madhur Jaffrey.
You have to think of all these spices as colors.
April prepares her version of the national dish of England, chicken tikka masala.
I just I love this color.
It's kind of making me go a little crazy.
Crazy hungry.
Harold McGee talks spice.
And in London, Chef Stevie Parle makes biryani.
I want people to see that this is an immensely complex cuisine.
This thing looks like a didgeridoo you know? It's kind of like Enter the mind of a chef.
Sometimes it's the simpler stuff that really kind of blows your mind.
This is the best thing, I think, you'll ever eat.
Yeah, where do we begin with curry? I mean Curry's a sensitive subject, because growing up I didn't quite like it very much, just because it was so intense, you know.
My mom used to make curried beans.
She used to basically open a tin of beans, warm them up, and then put a regular old kind of curry spice that you could buy, mix in with the beans, and put those on toast.
Um, I didn't like those so much.
It goes back to not having something amazing, you know, having something that's mediocre and bad.
And then that's your standard right there, you know? So when I actually moved to London and I got to eat great curry, that was a pretty amazing experience.
So curry is a blend of spices.
It's hard to say what's authentic with a curry, because there's no such thing as curry.
There's nowhere in India where they will call something curry.
It's individual dishes that are spiced.
The British didn't know what to call Indian food, so they generally called it a curry meal, or a curry.
But when they had a curry meal, they had all the chutneys, and the yogurts, and the relishes, and the vegetables all together at that meal.
So Madhur Jaffrey introduced the Western world, basically UK and America, to I don't know.
She taught them how to make good Indian food, like proper Indian food.
I myself did not know what the British meant by a curry.
I always thought it was this kind of thing, which has meat with a sauce.
Was a curry.
But then what is this? So I call these dry dishes, because they don't have a sauce.
And we have lots of roasted meats, so are they all curry? What are they? I'm confused myself.
I remember making my first curry.
And that was a disaster.
Now, when I first started cooking with a lot of spices, my first ever attempt at what English people call curry was not very successful, I think because I was a bit too timid frying off my spices.
And as long as you understand your spices Yes, exactly.
you can mix and match as you want.
I was kind of cooking it French style, you know, like, I didn't quite get my onions brown enough.
So it didn't have that punch, you know? So when I read Madhur Jaffrey's books it was a whole different ballgame.
Great Britain's love affair with Indian food goes back over 200 years.
The origins can be traced back to the East India Company, which was set up in the 17th century for Britain to trade goods with the Indian subcontinent.
Originally sold in coffeehouses, the first curry dishes appeared on menus around 1810.
As expected, the recipes were adapted, dumbed down way down and often overlooked entirely as new British curry houses were multiplying.
Today, chicken tikka masala is the national dish of the United Kingdom.
Not Sunday roast, not fish and chips, but CTM.
So I'm going to make chicken tikka masala.
It's one of your recipes, super delicious, and it's really easy to make.
So we're going to add the salt first.
You prepare the kabobs, the tikkas, first.
We're going to add the lemon juice next.
So this is the first matter, now salt and lemon.
The second one is all the spices.
So now I'm going to add all the spices.
Right here I've got some of your lovely garam masala.
Little bit of this nice Kashmiri chili, which has got an amazing color.
That's the important part.
Little ginger, a little garlic in there.
And then I've got some cream.
That's right.
So now I'm going to add the last ingredient, which is just a little bit of oil.
I suppose that just helps with the grilling, maybe.
It helps with the grilling.
I mean, this smells great.
And it's so fun.
Like, you can get your hands in there and just have some fun.
So I forgot my cumin, so I just shoved that in there.
That's okay.
So I'm just going to kind of chill that.
So I'm going to make the sauce.
I've got a nice hot pan.
I'm going to add the oil.
I'm going to add the onions.
We're just going to, like, brown those, get those nice and sweet.
So while these are frying, I suppose we could do the skewers.
Yes, let's do that.
Now, this is part of the tandoori family, because it's cooked in a tandoor normally, which is a very, very hot clay oven.
And most of India actually didn't know too much about this kind of cooking.
It came from the northwest in what is now Pakistan.
Okay, so I'm going to add my spices now.
Little bit of coriander, little bit of turmeric.
Okay, so I'm going to fry that for a second or two, and then I'm going to add the tomatoes.
Good, you can add the tomatoes.
Because you don't want the spices to burn.
Because they're already ground, right? You have to cook this for a while until the tomatoes are really reduced and dark, and make a sauce.
So I'm going to let that fry, and we can go maybe grill the chicken.
Ooh, that looks good.
Smells good.
So the oil has started to come back out.
You think that's ready? Yeah.
So should we start adding the yogurt? So just a tablespoon at a time.
I think they're ready to be turned over.
Ooh, that looks good.
I just I love this color.
It's kind of making me go a little crazy.
Crazy hungry.
Crazy hungry.
Ooh, this one is great.
Yeah, that one is good.
And then we just pull it off the skewer.
Okay, so we just add this, then.
So I'm just going to bring this together a little bit.
Yeah, that looks lovely.
I'm going to add just a little coriander just to layer the flavor, I think.
Oh, look.
This looks great.
Yummy, yummy, yummy.
This is pretty amazing.
Chicken tikka masala.
Thank you.
Very well done.
Oh, my gosh, Kalustyan's is amazing.
I mean, there's so much stuff, it's like being a kid in a candy store.
I love the smell in here when you first walk in.
I could spend days here.
So they have an amazing spice section.
This is dried mango.
You will love it.
Have you used these? No, I never used those.
Should we get some of those, too? To get the opportunity to go around a shop and have Madhur right by my side, and to be able to learn from her, that's something that chefs crave, you know? We love learning.
What else do we have? Asafoetida, which I can't live without.
It's a very strong smell.
So what kind of flavor is it? Can we open it? Oh, it smells like dung.
Oh, does it? That's not very appealing.
No, but it's what I say, it's like a little like truffles.
That's a nice smell.
Onion-y, truffle-y.
To me it is.
I love coming in here, and I love seeing all these spices.
I mean, it just kind of invigorates my whole being.
I kind of get overwhelmed, but I kind of just grab whatever interests me, and I kind of play around with it a little bit.
Well, it's one way to experiment, because you have to think of all these spices as colors.
And Indian cooks are really like painters.
They're mixing, matching, darker shade here, lighter shade there, to make almost like a painting.
Now, I grew up eating and I don't know what it's like in India, but I grew up eating Bombay mix.
Now, is that something These are snacks.
I think this is the kind of stuff that I used to eat.
They call it the Madras mix, which means probably it's a little hotter.
This was my favorite.
Well, we should get some of that, because that's your favorite.
I'd love to try and do a really great Bombay mix for the Breslin.
So now I'm like now I have to do the research, and I have to, you know, try and figure out how to make it, and then test it.
And, you know, obviously once it's perfected, then, you know, one day, Bombay mix, Breslin.
It's very exciting.
The wonderful flavors of herbs and spices are actually chemical weapons that the plants are deploying in order to discourage animals like us from eating them.
If you can imagine yourself as a beetle or an ant taking a bite out of a piece of ginger or trying to eat a peppercorn In fact, you can just pop a peppercorn in your mouth and see what happens.
It's not nice.
The reason that human beings love them so much is that we've learned how to use them to enrich the flavors of our foods.
We transform them by heating them, rounding out their flavors, getting rid of some of the harshness.
We know a fair amount about what happens when we cook with spices, but once they go into the dish and once the dish goes into our mouth, we have no idea, really.
We know that all of a sudden our taste buds and our olfactory sensors are overwhelmed with the complexity of the mixture that's hit them, and that's what makes the food so delicious, but how our brain processes that, how we make sense of all that, that's still a mystery.
We're going to make biryani today, right? Yeah, we're going to make biryani, which is one of the things that we have always on the menu here.
So, okay, I've never used one of these before.
This thing looks like a didgeridoo, you know? It's kind of like Like, what am I doing? It's extremely easy.
This is actually the best pestle and mortar I've ever used.
Want to have a go? Yeah, I'd love to.
So Steve Parle is a source of knowledge.
That guy is like an encyclopedia.
He has an amazing restaurant in London called Duck Kitchen, and he's a huge fan of biryani.
What spices are we using? So cumin and coriander and fenugreek and peppers.
Sort of a lot of low end.
But then also rose petals and cardamom.
I normally start with cinnamon.
Okay, great.
That's it.
I'm going to go.
Go ahead.
Is there, like, an action? Oh, man, this is so fast.
Yeah, harder.
I just add in a bit of friction.
Oh, what's going on? You know, just come on, a bit faster.
Put some wellie into it.
For goodness sake, woman! I think more and more now we're getting more authentic Indian food.
So this restaurant, I come here practically once a week, because I've got this kind of obsession with the lamb chops.
They flatten them out, so they beat them, and they put loads of spices on them and grill them over charcoal.
And they're too good.
How many lamb chops have you eaten in one week? Come on, we don't need to get personal.
Oh, this looks great.
Oh, they smell great.
Mmm, that is what I'm talking about.
That's so good.
There is a little funkiness to it.
Just ever so slightly, which is delicious.
So we've got this fantastic spice mix.
Yeah, they look great.
I'm just going to start with a bit of onion.
So I cook in olive oil.
It's really inauthentic.
So what would you use, like, authentically? It would normally be ghee.
Ghee, right? It would be ghee.
Do you want to do something? Do you want a job? Yeah, I'll have a job.
What am I doing? Maybe pound some ginger.
This is going to go quite fast to start with.
And get the spice mix in, because none of these spices were toasted.
And I'm going to cook that for a long time like about 20 minutes on there.
While you're doing that, I'm just going to start the lamb browning.
Oh, great, okay.
Biryani is a sort of celebration of a dish.
You know, it's the thing you make for weddings, it's the thing you make for huge parties.
This is exciting.
I love the okra.
It's really simple, but nice, and the chana dal is delicious.
And they make a quail curry, which you've got to try.
I mean, if you think of those curries that we grew up with in Birmingham, which I loved and probably Right, at the time, yeah.
And probably still do in a way.
They are a long way from even this.
This is super delicious.
No wonder you come here, like, once a week.
So what are these? Cilantro stalks.
What do you think, Steve? This good? Yeah, that looks good.
So you can add that in.
The rice has been soaking.
That's basmati rice.
But you've soaked this, so you're going to rinse it? Yeah, I'm going to wash it until that water runs clean.
I'm just going to put a few tomatoes in that base.
And a lot of my food is about finding things from different places.
It's about taking them and changing them and making them fit your menu in the way you like to eat and the way you like to cook.
You know, and that's part of the fun of it, I think.
You know, that's what kind of, I think, set me on the track to cooking because I did go visit the cooking school in Birmingham, so I went into this ethnic kitchen that they had there and I just remember smelling all these spices and you're kind of, like you can't not get excited.
So this has been cooking now about 20 minutes, and it's completely broken down.
Yeah, that's amazing looking.
It's really quite jammy.
Almost raisin-y like.
I'm going to add the meat and I'm going to add some ground almonds.
So that's like a thickening agent.
And yogurt.
And then I'm going to cook that really gently for two hours.
It's got a bit of heat as well.
Yeah, it's got a little chili spicy thing going on.
I think there's something about spicy food that really grabs your attention.
You know what I mean? It's just as when you walked into the cooking school, you cannot ignore it.
It's noisy and exciting and interesting and I think that's that's what always sort of sticks with me is that it's that food it's just shouting for your attention.
You never get bored.
So it's been going a few hours.
Mmm that looks really good.
Get your nose in there.
Oh, my gosh, it smells so good.
What I like to do at this stage is put a little bit of rose water in.
So I like to get a big chunk of lamb in the bottom.
Oh yeah, that's big.
I love layering the rice.
That first layer that goes in there, that's going to get quite meaty and brown and going to take quite a lot of these juices, but then the top later will be really clean and white.
I think chili makes you feel high.
Makes me laugh, yeah.
Because when you eat a chili your body produces endorphins because basically you eat the chili and you think you're being poisoned.
Here's some saffron that's just been soaking in hot water.
Seems like you're putting a lot of effort making something look great, but actually we're really putting in a lot of effort to make it smell great and taste great and feel exciting.
Ooh, that looks great.
I'm just so childish, I'm just always delighted with myself.
That's really amazing looking.
So, what I do at this point just in case anybody hadn't realized how important I think this dish is, I wash it with a little bit of rose water and then I put a gold leaf on it.
No way.
Oh, my goodness.
You want to do the honors? Yeah.
Now is there a certain way I should do it? Just with a knife? Just go for it.
Oh, that smells so so good, Stevie.
You can smell the saffron on top.
It's like a really proper dish biryani and I want people who think of Indian food as cheap and, you know, quite kind of boring often, to see that actually this is an immensely complex cuisine.
You're going to do a favorite dish of yours.
It's a meatball dish, we call it a kofta curry.
It's a very simple curry.
I think it teaches the basics of how to use meat and put it in a sauce.
This is a pound of ground lamb and into it I'm going to put a whole bunch of things.
Ginger, salt, fresh garlic, chili powder, very finely chopped onion, cumin, coriander I like coriander.
So the more the merrier.
First I'm going to mix this.
I use my hands.
The hands are the best implement God has given us.
And add one egg? Yeah, one egg.
Mix this and this will hold it together better.
The next thing you do is make the meatballs.
I can help you with that.
Yeah, you can help me with that.
We can do four at a time instead of two at a time.
It's delicious, it smells so good.
It smells so bright.
When it's all ready, you can just actually fry these and eat them, but we're not doing that here.
We're going to put them in a sauce.
Just make this a little rounder.
I think that was mine.
Whosever it is.
They're so soft right now and vulnerable.
But you will make them unvulnerable and you put them in the fridge.
I leave it overnight.
So the next thing I'm going to do is grate a tomato.
This is something I learned in a village in the Punjab in India.
And so easy to do.
And you get all the pulp, and what is left in your hand is the skin.
That just blew my mind.
Now I'm going to make part of the sauce ingredients, part of them are going to go into a blender.
So, there's garlic, two chilies, ginger, coriander seed.
All right.
So we start with oil.
Get the oil nice and hot.
In goes the whole cumin seeds.
Within a second you put in your onions because those spices would burn otherwise.
We don't actually eat the big spices, but they are there to flavor.
I'm going to get this nice and brown.
I think sometimes people get a little worried when they fry onions.
You know, they burn them and then they kind of freak out a little.
We like them darker than most people.
Sweet, yes.
And you want that for the sauce because the sauce is dark.
Okay, you're going to put this in now.
And it's this that is going to give it the very Indian smell and taste.
Now you have to watch it because it's browning fast, and I'm going to put in cumin, chili, salt.
You can see it starting to stick to the pan a little bit.
Gets nice and sweet.
Now I'm going to put in the tomatoes.
This is, you have to be calm and patient.
This has to be cooked down.
This is terribly important, that it be cooked down.
And now I'm ready to put in the yogurt.
A tablespoon at a time because you want it not to curdle.
And you want it to get absorbed.
I use regular, plain yogurt.
All right, now the water.
So it's about two cups.
And drop them in slowly.
You know, I think what I'm learning from this is there's a lot of patience to kind of cooking everything to the right point.
You know, taking your time.
Melding those flavors together.
But that's not only a part of our cuisine, it's also part of our religion.
Calm, slow.
I like that.
Repetitive, calming movements.
I need more calm in my life, so You know, I used to have a friend in school and I used to live on cheese sandwiches growing up as a teenager.
And my friend used to have curried lamb sandwiches and we always used to swap.
You know, because we always wanted something different.
I was like, "What's on your sandwich?" She'd be like, "That's curry lamb.
" I'm like, "Curry lamb?" I'm like looking at my cheese and I'm like my cheese is not so exciting anymore.
You know? And I'm kind of like, "Do you want to try my cheese?" and she's like, "I'd love to try your cheese.
" So we swapped.
I think I got the better end of that deal.
We all crave something different or something original or unique.
I mean, you don't want to eat roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for the rest of your life.