Curries and recipes for curries in Britain and Ireland are as intrinsic to British food like fish and chips and roast beef and Yorkshire puddings. Just how and why this came to be is allied to the presence of the British Raj in India. The British army and civilians working in India developed a liking for the hot, spicy foods of the sub-continent and brought the dishes (curries) home and to other parts of the then British Empire. These foods were often adapted to suit the lighter palette in Britain, and dishes that are now considered traditional British foods – Mulligatawny soup and Kedgeree being two of the most notable – have their origins in Indian foods.
What Does the Word ‘Curry’ Mean?
The origin of the word ‘curry’, though furiously debated experts, is believed to come from the Tamil word ‘kari’ meaning a spiced sauce or stew. Whatever its origins the British love of curries dates back centuries with the first known recipes for 'currey' as it was then known, in Hannah Glasse’s 1747 book, Art of Cookery.
What Is a Curry?
In Britain ‘curries’ have come to mean almost any dish from India though it is not a word used in the sub-continent. Neither is curry a spice, but a spicy recipe using spices and herbs with meat, fish and vegetable dishes from various Asian countries including Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Curries vary in their taste and content both between and within different countries, curries in southern India are remarkably different to ones from the north. In India expect to find coriander, cumin, cardamom, and turmeric, used extensively, and throughout Asia recipes using things like chilli, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, garam masala, onions, lemongrass, curry leaves, and pepper and mustard seeds.
Britain's Favorite Curry - Chicken Tikka Masala
Controversy has raged throughout the whole of Britain after former foreign secretary Robin Cooke hailed Chicken Tikka Masala as 'Britain's real national dish.' It is most certainly a national favorite. The dish was invented 500 years ago in the Punjab region of India when Punjab was conquered by Babur, a descendant of Mongol warlord Genghis Khan. Then it had little resemblance to the Chicken Tikka curries we know now. Massive immigration from the Indian sub-continent in the 1950s saw Indian restaurants spring up across the nation. Chicken Tikka was a huge hit but the British wanted a sauce or gravy to accompany it, and the Masala (the creamy sauce) arrived.