She is the woman who demystifies masala, streamlines spices and helps busy home cooks rustle up a curry in a hurry. And now she’s coming to the UAE.
Madhur Jaffrey, a popular television chef in Britain and author of many cookbooks, will be here next month to take part in Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.
Jaffrey will share the secrets of her 2010 book, Curry Easy, a straightforward approach to curries, dals, vegetables and other dishes.
Curry Easy has won acclaim from food experts around the world for the way its recipes cut back on the number of spices and other ingredients and simplify methods and techniques without compromising flavours. Family cooks who previously found Indian food impossible to make are delighted with the results.
“I have always wanted to explore Dubai, a very modern desert metropolis,” Jaffrey said. “I also know there are many lovers of Indian food there. It would be exciting to meet them in this fabulous setting.”
The UK’s Sunday Times was among many publications to include Curry Easy in its end-of-year lists, naming it the cookery book of 2010 and saying: “This is a true classic – fresh, intelligent and simply scrumptious. Jaffrey’s quality shines through. Her recipes are foolproof.”
So what gave her the idea for this fresh approach? “We all seem to have less and less time to cook,” she said. “For the past 10 or 15 years I have been experimenting with simplifying Indian recipes so family cooks would make them for weekday meals, not just on weekends and for entertaining. It is a way that I am cooking myself now.”
She begin with simple recipes. “All countries have simple, delicious recipes as well as complicated ones. I selected the simple and easy.
“Then for curries that required endless browning of onions, garlic and ginger, browning of the spices, browning of the meat, I deliberately experimented with newer techniques using what we all have in the kitchen today, the refrigerator and the oven. Meat could be marinated overnight with all the seasonings and then browned and cooked in the oven.”
Keeping the flavours authentic required “endless experimentation”.
Jaffrey, 77, has also been an actress, having starred in several Merchant-Ivory films and on Broadway in the musical Bombay Dreams. She even appeared briefly in the British television soap opera EastEnders.
Calling Jaffrey a “world authority on Indian cuisine”, Isobel Abulhoul, the director of the literature festival, said she was “delighted to be giving her the opportunity to share her kitchen secrets”.
“We’re sure people will be fascinated to learn at first hand about Madhur’s new, simpler way of cooking curries and other dishes,” she said.
Jaffrey is to appear three times at the festival – in the Curry Easy cooking demonstration on March 11, and at a discussion panel and an in-conversation event on March 12. All three will take place at the InterContinental Hotel in Festival City.
Curry Easy is published by Ebury Press and is available from UAE bookshops for Dh130.
Prawns with garlic and chillies (serves four)
12 raw jumbo prawns, peeled and deveined
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh hot green chillies
2 tablespoons olive, rapeseed or peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon whole brown or yellow mustard seeds
1 large clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
15 fresh curry leaves or 10 fresh basil leaves, torn
5 tablespoons grated tomato
Wash the prawns well. Leave in a sieve for a while, then pat dry. Put in a bowl. Add the cayenne pepper, pepper, salt and chillies. Mix well. The prawns may be covered and refrigerated until needed.
Put the oil in a karhai, wok or frying pan and set over a medium-high heat. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as they begin to pop, a matter of seconds, add the garlic and stir once or twice.
Quickly put in the prawns and curry leaves. Stir a few times. Add the grated tomato. Stir a few times. Turn the heat down to medium-low and let the prawns cook gently, stirring just until they turn opaque, a matter of 2 or 3 minutes. Serve immediately.