So because life hasn’t been that interesting lately, I have come to a bit of a standstill on the blogging front – I am still eating, (things would have to be dire for that to stop), but winter is setting in and I am feeling the urge to hibernate. There is nothing like darkness and cold to just make you want to stay indoors. Just as well for semi-lockdown hey?
I would love to say that in the lockdown days I have finished a multitude of projects and that my house is immaculate – but the fact is that working from home has put a bit of a kibosh on that.
So, what to chat to you about? And then I remembered, I have promised to report back about the Balti experiment.
Firstly, I am pleased to say, that this milder style of curry developed in Birmingham in the 70s was a home cooking success. Secondly, I have to tell you that I think that if I make this again, I should actually take to planting out an onion garden. SO SO many onions (which are fortunately good for us!) followed by a reasonable number of tomatoes!
Of course, the thing about cooking food from other cultures is sourcing the correct ingredients – or at least something remotely similar. Onions are not an issue – I buy 1kg bags probably every four or five weeks, and most of the required herbs and spices were easy to source – or combine. But one certainly got me stuck though – Fenugreek, also known as Kasuri Methi.
I haven’t made my way to a real Asian smallgoods store yet, and maybe fenugreek will be found in one, but instead I went to Google, as we do so often now to find out what on earth to replace it with. I was figuring if it was leafy, then celery or parsley leaves might do the trick. And indeed, this was suggested, but what I was totally not expecting was … maple syrup?
Well … that was a surprise!
But it turns out there’s some chemical common to both that leads the taste to be similar. So … maple syrup it was, which gave my Balti a bit of a sweeter taste than I remember eating before, but nonetheless, the same flavour.
Food never ceases to amaze me!
But the Balti itself? With an onion/tomato/spices sauce, (usually, although it can be vegetarian) diced meat is cooked in more onion and tomatoes and served up in its own cooking bowl, accompanied by a yoghurt dip and Naan. I might try my hand at making Naan at some stage – but I’d be hard pressed to compete with those served up at my ‘local’, the beautifully named ‘Punjab Paradise’ on Ladypool Road, where table Naan stretched in front of us to at least two feet long.
Friends and I tried making Balti once before and it was a long, fatty and complicated process of boiling and marinating and cooking … and it seemed to take literally all day. From memory, it didn’t really taste like the real deal, although the whole street could smell it.
But this time, armed with authentic Balti bowls courtesy of my sister, I was back in Birmingham in a flash, dragging my husband along with me. (Sorry Tony!) At which point, I should explain that a Balti bowl is a small pressed-steel mini-wok type of cooking pan. It is also the dish used to serve up the Balti – which is one dish per person. Cheer with me at the thought of less washing up!
I can heartily recommend the recipes on the Birmingham Balti Bowl website. I’ve only tried one so far, but it is absolutely the real deal. So, if you’re like me and you want to try a piece of cultural, authentic, nostalgic cooking, this is a go-to. Or just if you want to try something different. Because what is life, but an opportunity to try something new sometimes?