What advice would you give to all of those ‘foodies’ out there searching for an authentic Indian meal?
Don’t worry about the authenticity of the food. There is no such thing as an authentic Indian dish. The stories behind Indian dishes are far more fascinating and almost always reveal that the dish is an amalgamation of various culinary influences and a variety of ingredients. Take vindaloo for example. This combines European ingredients (meat marinated in wine vinegar) with Indian spices (black pepper, cumin, cinnamon etc.) and South American red chillies. I always pay more attentiton to whether the food has been prepared carefully and with fresh ingredients.
What inspired you to write about Curry in the first place? How did you research this book?
When I was writing my first book on the British in India I was struck by the fact that while the British in India gradually rejected curries in favour of ‘British’ food such as tinned salmon and bottled peas, in contemporary Britain curry was virtually the national dish. I became interested in this contradiction and wanted to explore the British relationship with Indian food.
Strangely, a lot of the research was done in the Australian National University in Canberra which is an excellent library and I was lucky enough to have a visiting fellowship at the Australian National University. But it did involve alot of eating as well.
What is your favorite recipe from Curry?
Green coriander chutney. I love fresh coriander, it is simple to make and goes with everything.
You also have a recipe for black rat in your book and you say that rat was a delicacy at one time. Where did you find that recipe?
Black rat was a favourite of King Someswara who lived in the 12th century in southern India and wrote a treatise on kingship which (among other things) detailed the jewels, food and aphrodisiacs suitable for a king.