Curry Guide… Saffron

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Saffron is a highly prized spice used for seasoning and flavouring, especially in Indian and Middle Eastern food. The delicate stigmas (or threads) are plucked from the saffron crocus and dried before use. Due to this intensive process to harvest just a few stigmas and the fact that it grows in only a few countries around the world, the cost of saffron is very high. So high, in fact, that the question “what spice is more expensive than gold?” has become a staple of nearly everyone who has leaned against a bar with a beer.

Oh, how we all love to exclaim: “saffron!” very loudly as if we have found the secret to the universe. It’s a ritual that’s made all the more fun because it’s not actually true (gold costs more than £32,000 per kg as compared to about £2,500 per kg of saffron)*

Saffron users are also going to need quite a bit of storage space to match its “weight in gold”. With a standard gold bar, as used by the bullion traders and banks, weighing 12.4kg you’re going to need a whopping 24,800 of these 0.5g packs that are sold by Tesco supermarket (at £2.50 each that would set you back £62,000)*.

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But you’re certainly not going to need anything like that to spice up your food. Just a couple of strands is enough to add a beautiful flavour and aroma to your pilau rices, biryanis and kormas. The best way to use saffron is to put a couple of strands in a small amount of warm water or milk and press gently with the back of a spoon. This will release all the wonders of the spice, which can then be added to your dish.

The high cost of saffron means it is unlikely to be used in many restaurants. They will instead use the cheaper safflower, turmeric or colouring agents to try to mimic the properties of saffron.

Saffron is also know as zaffron or kesar (Hindi) and the largest producer of it is Iran, followed by Greece (where it was first cultivated), Morocco and Kashmir. Saffron has also been used for medicinal purposes and as a dye for clothes, its stigmas creating a colour which would have conferred status on the wearer due to its high cost.

* At 10 January 2019.

Photos: Pexels and Tesco. 

 

 

 

 

Curry Guide… Coriander

IMG_0651Coriander is one of the most important spices in Indian cooking and is used as whole seeds (brown/cream colour), ground (brown) and fresh leaves (as pictured). The seeds give a slightly sweet flavour while the leaves are pungent and add a distinctive taste to many well-known curries. The leaves can be mixed into curries (the stems give the strongest flavour) or added to the top for garnish (or often both). To release the flavours and aromas of the coriander leaves it is best to bruise them gently with your fingers and tear them into pieces with your hands rather than chopping them up using a knife.


 

The Spice Card offers savings on curries, including on takeaways at many venues. You can get your Spice Card here.

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Curry Guide… the Chef’s Region

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Do you want a curry that’s cooked to perfection? Next time you go for a spicy meal ask the waiter if the chef would recommend a special dish from the country or region he’s originally from.

Chefs can, of course, cook lots of different dishes from different regions, but they will almost certainly have perfected the dishes from the place where they grew up or learned to cook. Remember, the dish will not necessarily something from the menu under the header “Chef’s recommendations”.


 

The Spice Card offers savings on curries, including on takeaways at many venues. You can get your Spice Card here.

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Curry Guide… Jalfrezi

Jalfrezi  has become one of the most popular dishes among British diners in Indian restaurants. It means a spicy food (jal or jhal) stir-fry (frezi) so should be dryish and served fresh from the pan, although in many restaurants it’s morphed into a dish with the generic curry house spicy tomato and onion sauce.

IMG_0935The dish was born in West Bengal (now part of Bangladesh) when the chefs, obviously without fridges in the Anglo-Indian days of the Raj, were forced to create dishes using leftover meats and other ingredients before they went to waste. With chicken being easy and quick to cook using the stir-fry method, it soon became the number one choice for Jalfezi.

A classic Jalfrezi uses few spices except cumin seeds, turmeric and sometimes chilli powder, but instead relies on frying up fresh ingredients such as garlic, ginger, chillies, onion, peppers and tomatoes and letting the flavours combine. The only sauce is from the ingredients themselves and the will be a golden colour from the turmeric.


The Spice Card offers savings on curries, including on takeaways at many venues. You can get your Spice Card here.

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Curry Guide… Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori Chicken is a now popular dish across the world but it has its roots in the region that today comprises Afghanistan, Pakistan and northwest India. The chicken is marinated in yoghurt and a mix of tandoori spices, then cooked in a tandoor oven, with the heat from the wood or charcoal giving the dish its trademark smokiness. The edges of the chicken are often slightly charred and the meat is scored (this was the allow the marinade to penetrate deeper).

Tandoori Chicken Gurkha's InnThe red colour of the meat comes from the cayenne pepper, red chilli powder and turmeric in the spice mix, although some chefs add food colouring. In recent years there has been a backlash against the use of this red colouring and the days of Day-Glo looking chicken are slowly becoming a thing of the past.

Tandoori Chicken is a popular starter with chutneys and makes a great snack with a Butter Nan.It also serves the base for a number of curries such as Butter Chicken. The chicken is often served to the table sizzling and for that reason it is sometimes called a Sizzler.


The Spice Card offers savings on curries, including on takeaways at many venues. You can get your Spice Card here.

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Curry Guide… the Staff Curry

IMG_7178Are you fed up with the same old menu choices when you go out for a curry? Ask the waiter if you can try the Kitchen (or Staff) Curry – the curry the chef will have cooked for the staff to eat when the night’s work is over. This is unlikely to be a dish you will find on the menu; it’s most probably a dish from the home region of the chef and it will be different every day. There’s not always some spare but if there is then most restaurants are usually more than happy for you to try the dish. Obviously if you are eating early you may be out of luck as the Kitchen Curry may not be underway until later in the evening!


 

The Spice Card offers savings on curries, including on takeaways at many venues. You can get your Spice Card here.

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Curry Guide… Dosas

Pathiri (dosa)
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are a type of pancake and are particularly popular in South India, which is where they originate from. Ingredients are simple enough, with rice and black gram soaked in water, then ground to form a batter but the skill is in the creation because the perfect dosa will be paper-thin like a crêpe. They can be eaten plain, coated in ghee or stuffed with other ingredients like potato. Dosas make a great starter or snack and are usually served with chutneys.

 


 

The Spice Card offers savings on curries, including on takeaways at many venues. You can get your Spice Card here.

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Curry Guide… Choosing Rice

Don’t treat your order of rice as an afterthought. Choosing the right rice should enhance your meal. If you are ordering a special dish (or a really hot one) stick to Plain Rice or  Pilau Rice so you don’t have tastes competing with the flavours (or heat) of your main dish. If you are looking for more flavours on the table then go for a rice that really adds something to your dish rather than something that just soaks up the sauce.

• You’ve ordered somIMG_6913ething hot, like Vindaloo or Madras… then go for Plain Rice or the lightly spiced Pilau Rice to give yourself some respite from the blast.

• You’ve ordered something smooth like Korma or Tikka Masala… then go for Lemon Rice for a sharp taste to cut through the cream.

• You’ve ordered a medium-spiced lamb dish like Karahi Lamb… then go for Coconut Rice as its subtle flavours complement the strong, robust taste of the red meat.

• You’ve ordered Biryani… then go for, ahem, you won’t be needing any extra rice with this one.


 

The Spice Card offers savings on curries, including on takeaways at many venues. You can get your Spice Card here.

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How much do people spend on a curry?

In a recent survey we asked: “How much do you expect to spend when you visit an Indian restaurant per person, including drinks?”

More than half of people (58%) said they’d be looking at over £25, while 24% were settling for a nice £21-24 and 16% just £16-£20. Some 2% reckon they can get out for a curry in a restaurant for under £15. Must be a fun night that one!

The Spice Card offers savings on curries, including on takeaways at many venues. You can get your Spice Card here.

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Charlton (Kasturi)

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10 The Village, Charlton, SE7 8UD

Tel: 020 8319 3439 or 020 8319 3436
E-mail: info@ kasturi-restaurant.com
www: kasturi-restaurant.com
Open:
Sunday–Saturday 5.30pm to 11.30pm
Monday closed

Where is it? In Charlton Village near the historic Charlton House.

How do I get there?
Buses: 53, 54, 422, 380 and 466 all stop nearby.
Train: Charlton train station is a stiff 10-minutes walk up/down the hill of Charlton Church Lane.
Parking: The smallish Village car park is in Torrance Close, a couple of hundred metres away.

What’s their story? Kasturi opened in the City of London in 2002 and was part of the Kohinoor Group os restaurants. It relocated to Charlton a couple of years ago and was named “Best Newcomer” in the Greenwich Curry Club’s Awards 2017.

What’s the menu like? You’ll find all the curry favourites but Kasturi specialises in Pakthoon cuisine from the North-West Frontier state of India. Think influences of North India, Afghanistan and Pakistan around the famous Khyber Pass area so hearty meats, breads and dairy products cooked in style.

Oh, please tell me more…
Popadoms: 60p each and 60p per person for chutneys.
Starters: Lamb Adraki Chops (£5.95), Onion Bhaji (3.50)
Mains: Hyderabadi Lamb Biryani (£10.95), Chicken Tikka, Shahi Gosht (£9.95), Butter Chicken (£8.95), Chilli Pudina Murgh, Keema Mator, Chicken Korma (£7.95)
Sides: Bombay Aloo, Saag Aloo, Mushroom Bhaji (£3.95)
Rice: Pilau Rice (£2.95), Mushroom Pilau (£3.95)
Bread: Peshwari Nan, Keema Nan (£3)
* You will enjoy a 20% off these prices with your Spice Card

Kasturi PDF Menu

Tell me something about one of the dishes… Shahi (meaning Royal) and Gosht (meat) would traditionally be cooked with mutton (sometimes on the bone) but chunks of boneless lamb are now commonly used. The lamb is cooked in a rich, thick gravy and is delicious when eaten with a buttery nan bread. A dish like this was made popular by Bhupinder Singh, who was the Maharaja of Patiala at the turn of the 20th century.

What about drinks? The rather snazzy bar in the middle of the restaurant has a good selection of wines and spirits as well as the popular Cobra in the 660ml bottles

What they say… “Kasturi will accommodate the popular palette with its own Kasturian interpretations as well as providing dishes for the culinary purist.” – Bashir Ahmed, Director and Manager.

What we say… “This restaurant has brought a touch of the class to South East London that is usually only found in the top Indian restaurants in the centre of the capital. We love the food in this stylish restaurant.” – Greenwich Curry Club

What can I enjoy at Kasturi with my Spice Card?
YES 20% Discount • Sunday to Thursday • Eat-in, Delivery & Collection • 12 diners per Spice Card • Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day
NO Friday and Saturday, 20 Dec to New Year’s Day
Minimum for delivery: £25 (after discount)