Why you should make your favourite takeaway at home

By
Callum Kenny
Added
10 October, 2016

Cooked writer Callum Kenny, like the rest of us, is partial to a takeaway every once in a while. In celebration of National Curry Week, we challenged him to swap his regular order for a trip to the shops and a couple of hours at the stove.



The challenge

A spontaneous long weekend, I find, always provides great impetus to indulge; make that extra day off a Monday, and you’ve the added bonus of skipping the Sunday Night Fear for a week. My Cooked colleagues pointed out that it’s also a great chance to try out a recipe that you might not otherwise have the time or inclination to attempt.


So when I awoke on Saturday morning and found myself craving a takeaway, I remembered their words, and fought the voice in my head gently suggesting that I’d earned a night away from the stove. Indian food is my standard choice; I have always loved going to the curry house or ordering in on a Saturday night. I decided, while I was still in decadent spirit, to make a curry from scratch and invite some friends over for what I ambitiously called a ‘treat’.



The curry

Browsing the Cooked library for inspiration, I hit upon Anjum Anand’s recipe for a delicious-sounding Chilli Chicken Balti - my standard order. I read the recipe twice for good measure, having seen the consequences of a frivolous speed-read too many times on Bake Off to rush this crucial step. Baltis, as I discovered, are basically tomato and spices mixed together with meat or fish. I was astounded by how easy it was to make the base sauce: just blend quartered tomatoes with spices, garlic, ginger and a small dollop of yoghurt. It took me about a minute to chuck it all together and the result was immediately fragrant and flavoursome. The recipe feeds 4-5 and I was a little worried about the quantity of sauce so I supplemented this with a couple more tomatoes, which didn’t change the taste but alleviated my fears that people would go hungry.


Once the sauce has been heated, diced chicken is added and the mixture it is left to reduce until you have the consistency you want. You can season to taste, but decided to play safe with the salt - after my impulsive tomato-tampering I didn’t want to rock the boat too much. I did, however, take Anjum Anand’s advice to add a generous splash of lemon for a fresh, tart flavour. It all came together pretty without incident and as my guests arrived, they commented on the promising smells emanating from the kitchen, which was cheering, if disingenuous.



The naan



No curry is complete without a naan on the side to sloppily mop up any additional sauce, so it was imperative that I got it right. The basic process is straightforward: I mixed the ingredients together before incorporating the liquid and kneading for around ten minutes. After being left for an hour, the dough should double in size. Unfortunately, after such time had passed, my dough was left resolutely – brazenly – unchanged. I left it in a shaft of sunlight on the balcony, put it in the corridor, by the boiler and even took it into the bathroom while I had a shower, but after another hour, the dough was still measly. I cursed my temperate flat but couldn’t wait any longer, so I knocked it out and formed into six oval shapes, which were pricked with a fork and had sesame and poppy seeds worked into them before grilling on a high heat.


Despite my concerns, the naans came out of the oven looking as they should (I had been worried that they might swell into six enormous oval-shaped loaves), and I garnished with butter and coriander. According to Anjum Anand, naan bread should be soft with a few raised crispy bits. Mine didn’t appear all that crispy, so it was all up to the taste.



The results



I sat everyone down and plated up what looked like, if I do say so myself, an appetising balti. The naans were passed around the table and pleasingly people started to dig in while I was still vainly photographing the meal for Instagram. I was really happy with the outcome. The balti tasted just like one I might order at a curry house and the flavours were really well-balanced. The naans were buttery and, though of a more meagre size than I would expect from a takeaway, not far off in terms of taste. I also had a sense of accomplishment that you certainly don’t get from ordering in. You can’t put a price on that.



The conclusion



I would eschew a takeaway in future to make this meal. The process was quick and I’m glad to add another recipe to my repertoire. I’ll admit that making naan bread was the most time-consuming, worry-ridden part of my otherwise wonderful weekend, but if I were to consider it I’d leave the dough overnight. Crucially, my friends left my flat merry, full and so impressed that they dubbed me ‘the curry king’.*



*Not strictly true, but they did say lots of nice things.


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