No Worries Curries Blog: Spice Blends

Indian Festivals: Holi - The Festival of Colour

By Conchita de Souza

Indian Festivals: Holi - The Festival of Colour

My first Holi experience was in the town of Vrindavan, the place in which Lord Krishna grew up and where over 5,000 temples stand in honour of this blue-skinned, much adored deity. I had driven with two flatmates/colleagues to this town very early in the morning from Delhi, and checked into a hotel where another friend was waiting, oiled my hair and body in anticipation of the staining effect of the colours, and changed into a set of old clothes for immediate disposal. As we walked the narrow lanes, slowly filling up with people as they woke up to the excitement, everything seemed eerily calm and quiet. I remember thinking to myself ‘well this ain’t as bad as I thought, at least people are being civil’. There were many a cart on the street selling loose colourful powders, embarrassing my organic and chemical-free organic powders from the supermarket. My friends and I playfully threw colour on each other, lest we appeared too clean for others to want to throw colour on us.


It must have been only 8.00am when things began to quickly and unexpectedly intensify. I remember seeing a large crowd of coloured devotees coming out of a temple and shouting praises, and as they passed, they threw colour all over us. The onslaught began, and much like Jesus struggling through the narrow lanes of Jerusalem with the crowd all around him, we walked towards our colourful calvary. I put a scarf over my head to protect my eyes, but its effect was to attract more attention and, more colour. As we walked down the streets, children had filled buckets of coloured water and waited for us to pass so they could drench us from the terraces. Pichikaris (waterguns) were squirted from all directions, their owners seemingly innocent and playful. Men would not just throw colour on me, but smear my entire face with it as though attempting an express facial. There was colour in my eyes, my nostrils, my mouth and my ears. We entered the famous Banke Bihari temple, and through the clouds of colourful dust, paid our respects to the famous statue of Radha Krishna (Radha is Krishna’s consort, and he is rarely mentioned without her name being attached to his). As the morning wore on, and I became weary from all the drenching, I began ducking or covering my face so as to protect it from the cheerful and rowdy crowds. I soon realised that this actually encouraged them to target me even more, and they would smear me apologetically and uncontrollably, exclaiming ‘Bura na mano, Holi hai’ (don’t mind, it’s Holi). There were multiple and spontaneous outbursts of crowds dancing and cheering to the sound of colorful drummers and I was pulled in by the sheer joy of it all. Finally exhausted at 9.30am, I begged my friends to retire, as I, being a female, was far more drenched and coloured than what they were. We returned to the hotel and I jumped into the shower, washing my hair with shampoo at least three times before the water ran clear. Once we were cleaned up, we went out for a traditional and festive breakfast.

Holi Colours

 

The meaning and significance behind Holi

Holi is probably the most fun of Indian festivals, that is if you don’t mind being bejewelled with a multitude of colours and squirted with water guns by friends and strangers alike. It is celebrated with more fervour in the North than compared with the South. Frivolities aside, its significance is more cultural than it is religious. The festival signifies the following:

  1. The triumph of good over evil: The legend behind Holi is centered around the character Prahalad - the son of demon king Hiranyakashyap. This King considered himself to be ruler of the Universe and above all Gods because he was given a special boon, one which prevented him from dying an earthly death, except for in very unlikely circumstances. His son was a devotee of Lord Vishnu and when his Father asked him, “Who is the greatest, God or I?”, he responded with piety “God is, you are only a King”. This response infuriated the King who decided he would have to kill his own son and subjected him to many forms of torture, all of which Prahalad survived. Hiranyakashyap had a demon sister called Holika, and he asked her to sit in a pyre of fire wearing a special cloak, that would not allow her to burn. He then told his son Prahalad to sit with his aunt in the fire. The cloak worn by Holika fell on to Prahalad, and he survived the fire whilst his aunt burned. This is why, on the eve of Holi, a huge bonfire is lit and Holika’s effigy is burned.

  2. The greatest of equalisers: Regardless of your age, gender, caste, class, culture or creed, you can play Holi with anyone and everyone. The traditional boundaries that divide communities and people are suspended during Holi to ensure no one misses out on the fun (unless of course you stay indoors).

  3. The beginning of Spring: Holi is celebrated just as winters quickly fade into the warmer spring season. The colours of Holi represent the brightness, warmth and joy brought on by the advent of Spring. It is always celebrated the day after the full moon.

Specialities


As with all festivals, comes an array of specialities and delights enjoyed during this time. They vary depending on which part of India you are celebrating an below are a few of the Holi classics.

  1. Bhaang - The local name for marijuana and the natural drug associated with Lord Shiva, bhaang is enjoyed on this festive day in various forms. It is added to milky drinks such as Lassi, as well as to deep-fried snacks (such as pakoras, which you can make yourself using our Pakora spice blend).

  2. Thandai - A chilled, sweetened and spiced milk drink which is sipped on by kids as they refuel between Holi games. The additions of dried fruits and nuts make Thandai a great energiser. Bhaang can also be added to this drink to get into the Holi spirit.

Thandai - A chilled, sweet and spiced milky concoction

PC: @tashasartisanfoods

  1. Gujiya - A deep fried pastry which encases a soft and sweet mixture of dried milk and dried fruits. There are many variations of Gujiyas across India, depending on which region you are in.

Sweet gujiyas are a delicious Holi snack

PC: @whiskaffair 

Happy Holi everyone!

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Pulses: Protein-Packed Plant Food

By Claudette D'Cruz

Pulses: Protein-Packed Plant Food

With today’s mantra of eat more plant food we see posh fruit and juice parlours sprouting around. Instagram is lush with tantalising pictures of luscious fruit and vibrant vegetables arranged in all manner of aesthetics by raw food enthusiasts.  But fruit and vegetables are not the only plant food we can enjoy.  Let’s take a look at what replaces a steak on an Indian plate - pulses.

With 47% of Indians following a vegetarian (lacto-ovo) diet there are a whole variety of pulses included in every meal.  They are cheap but provide high nutrition and the protein component in meals for millions.  Pulses are eaten at each meal both in sweet and savoury recipes.  In many Indian households lunch or dinner would consist of a dhal, a bean dish, 2 seasonal vegetables, rice and or chappati accompanied by pickle, papadums and a sweet dish.

Dhal for most Indians is synonymous with soul food.  A hot steaming bowl of dhal and some rice/roti to accompany it and you have a satisfying meal in minutes.  There are several varieties of Dhals and we will endeavour to explain some of them.

  • URAD (black coloured lentils) are black in colour and about the same shape and size as moong beans. They are highly nutritious and recommended for diabetics as are other pulses. Only needs washing before cooking.
  • CHANA (yellow split-pea lentils) have a deep yellow colour and look like the halves of a chick-pea, only smaller in size. They take a long time to cook and hence are perfect for use in a slow cooker. Need to be soaked to reduce cooking time.
  • MASOOR (orange coloured lentils) are most commonly used in many homes. They take the shortest time to cook and are excellent for quick meals. Wash thoroughly till the water runs clear.
  • MOONG (green coloured lentils) are easy to digest hence they are prepared for children. They are also used in sweet dishes like in the south (Godsheh in Goa and Vorn in Mangalore) and in the north (Moong Dal Halwa) – which is reminiscent of the Chinese Moon Cake.

The six major pulse groups grown in Australia are: Broad Beans, Chickpea, Field Peas, Lentils, Lupin and Mungbean.  Pulses are universally recommended as part of a healthy eating plan and feature prominently in some of the world’s healthiest diets such as the Mediterranean diet.  So feel positively pulsed and enjoy these easy recipes, which we have hyperlinked below:

  • DHAL MAKHANI - The richest of all the dhal dishes thanks to the addition of cream and butter. 
  • JEERA TADKA DHAL -  Basic everyday dhal that gets most of its flavour from the 'tadka', which is the tempering of condiments like cumin seeds, dried red chilli and curry leaves, in hot oil, which is then added to the lentil curry. 
  • CHANA DHAL - This lentil is much thicker than its counterparts and usually requires to be soaked in water before cooking. 
  • PALAK (Spinach) DHAL  - The addition of spinach in this dhal dish is so divine, you will want to consume it as a soup, rather than just a curry. 


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Why Butter Chicken Will Always Remain a Favourite of Curry-Lovers

By Conchita de Souza

Why Butter Chicken Will Always Remain a Favourite of Curry-Lovers

My hypothesis is that any dish which contains the ingredient ‘butter’ in its name will certainly not disappoint: Butterbeer (hello wizarding fans); Peanut Butter (or any of its nutty counterparts); Butterscotch (especially if we are talking about chunks of it in my ice-cream) and Butter Chicken (best enjoyed when served with warm naan).


I have long been a believer in the fact that the amount of butter used in a recipe can only ever be greater than or equal to the amount of love the cook has for those whom she is preparing the dish. It is no surprise then, that Butter Chicken has won hearts and tastebuds throughout the world because of the generous lashings of butter perfectly dissolved into a thick tomatoey gravy that has absorbed the sultry spices of the tandoor-roasted chicken. The dish takes you on a rollercoaster of sensations with every bite; it is mildly spicy, with a hit of sweetness from the tomato base; the mix of butter and yoghurt makes it creamy and; the juices of the spiced chicken give it a tangy touch.


The humble origins of this dish can be traced back to a talented young chef named Kundan Lal Gujral (who had already been credited for inventing Tandoori Chicken and would later go on to create the renowned Dhal Makhani). He had fled to Delhi from Pakistan following the partition and started a restaurant called Moti Mahal. Chef Kundan saw that the tandoori chicken skewers which did not get sold during the day, would go to waste, and so he thought of cooking that same chicken in a sauce to soften it. That sauce was the sauce that propelled this culinary genius into legendary fame and has kept his soul alive through the makers and eaters of Butter Chicken.


My first exposure to this dish came from my Dad, a trained chef and lover of Indian cuisine. His Butter Chicken is renowned amongst our circle of family and friends and it is a dish he always prepares whenever we entertain at home. Although we do not have access to the traditional Indian tandoor (a cylindrical clay oven), he uses our very modern oven to bake the chicken which has been marinated in yoghurt and a blend of spices overnight. My friends like his preparation because he masters the balance between spices and buttery-ness. Sometimes you can order a Butter Chicken that is so opulent that it fills you up and leaves you with an unsettling heaviness in your tummy; Other times the dish can be watered down and resultantly lacks ‘oomph’. Fine tuning your Butter Chicken can be as tricky as doing salsa blindfolded and on a beam - there are so many different elements that require balancing.


Fortunately for you, we have taken the guesswork out of making Butter Chicken (and other favourites). Our authentic, naturally-blended, gluten-free and preservative-free Butter Chicken spice blend will have your family and guests loosening the belts on their pants to make space for another helping (or two) whilst raising their eyebrows quizzically at your unassumed ability to produce an authentic-tasting Indian curry. And because the love for you all is real, we have added a foolproof recipe to prepare this dish with relative ease and certainly hardly any fuss. For vegetarians and vegans - add paneer (Indian cottage cheese) or tofu respectively to make a delightful meat-free version of this dish. Click here for your life-changing Butter Chicken spice blend.


If you are a nutter for butter and want to test out my hypothesis above, then you should most definitely taste our Dhal Makhani (Buttery Dhal) spice blend. ‘Makhan’ means ‘butter’ in Hindi and its addition to this lentil-based dish transforms it from an ‘everyday’ kind-of meal into one fit for royalty. Because everything tastes better with butter.

By Conchita A. de Souza

 

PC: http://goodtoknow.media.ipcdigital.co.uk/

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The Power of a Freshly Prepared Home-Cooked Meal

By Conchita de Souza

The Power of a Freshly Prepared Home-Cooked Meal

There is nothing like coming home after a long period of travelling and eating out at restaurants, in trains and on the street, and finally tucking into a meal prepared in your very own kitchen.  Even if that meal is as simple as you toasting bread, spreading vegemite and butter on top of it and sitting half naked on the kitchen counter munching on the said creation.


In India, the notion of a home-cooked meal concocts sensations of familiarity, comfort, belonging and security. Whilst there is a huge culture of eating out at the literally millions of places, be they grand as the Taj Hotel or as humble as the pani puri vendor at the end of the street (click here and here to learn more about the deliciousness that is pani puri), there is also an unsaid recognition and appreciation for the meal that is prepared at home, with love and tenderness, usually (but not always, as things are changing) by the mother. This meal is sacred and wasting it, a big sin.


A common sight in India is bringing home-made ‘tiffins’ to work. ‘Tiffin’ means lunch and, until I lived and worked in India, I can honestly say I never really had a proper ‘lunch’.  In Australia, it is common for us to bring sandwiches or something cold for lunch packed from home.  Every now and then leftovers that can be heated up, is more of a treat than the ordinary salad sandwich.  In India, home-packed tiffins are taken to new heights with spicily-prepared vegetables and hot, soft roti made at home in the morning and packed just in time for hubby, kids and self to take to school and work.  Can you imagine waking up early enough to not only prepare breakfast for the family, but also hot lunch, and then get them and yourself ready to be out of the house? Well it happens, and all for the love of a home-cooked meal.


I remember when I first started working in India and it was my first office lunch, I went to the canteen to order food whilst my colleagues accompanied me with stylish and compact bags.  Whilst I waited for my food to be prepared, they opened their bags to reveal an assortment of tiffin boxes, some stainless steel and multi-stacked (like in the image below) and others colourful, like the tupperware they sell at tupperware parties in Australia.  Each box was carefully packed; rice separated from curry; cooked vegetable separated from roti; a special container to make sure the home-made yoghurt wouldn’t leak and; even a small box with a homemade sweet.  All of these tiffins would be spread out amongst colleagues and graciously shared, each colleague boasting about their mum’s amazing pilaf or their wife’s to-die-for jeera aloo (potato and cumin seeds).  On a day your mum prepared a dish that was not one of your favourites; no problems, it was easily exchanged with a colleague who liked what you got in your tiffin and vice versa.  I felt out of place with my canteen food but within no time, the tiffins were pushed to my side of the table and I was asked to taste everything.  After a few weeks of settling in, I too began cooking fresh food in the morning and taking it to work in my tiffin (not as stylish as theirs but nevertheless serving its purpose) and feeling the joy of opening up my tiffin and sharing my cooking efforts with those around me.  There is something about homemade food that makes it taste different, and I put that down to one ingredient - love.  You wouldn’t prepare meals for your loved ones with outdated ingredients, wilting leafy vegetables or unfamiliar additives.  You take pleasure in seeing them enjoy that which you have made and therein lies the love.  Not to my surprise, when I have prepared food in anger, or eaten food prepared in anger, this has reflected in the taste which says a lot about the importance of food preparation!


A tradition that remains strong in India is the notion of cooking fresh and eating fresh.  I have friends who refuse to eat food for dinner that was prepared in the morning.  ‘But it’s stale’ they argue as I guiltily think of eating curries back home that my dad prepared a week in advance (in my defence, certain curries become tastier days after they are prepared).  Before the advent of fridges, freezers and microwaves, food was consumed soon after it was prepared and so this practice continues on in many modern and traditional homes across India. If families do not have the time, they hire a cook to prepare food in their home. Such is the importance placed on the home-cooked meal.


Whilst I can appreciate that eating fresh at every meal is not practical for most, I definitely believe we can prepare homemade meals more often and with greater variety, leaving restaurants and take-out for celebrations, special occasions and those days where cooking anything at all requires levels of energy we cannot muster. That’s where we at No Worries Curries come in.  Indian and Asian cooking can be daunting to someone who loves the flavours but is not familiar with the methods and the delicate balance of multiple spices.  We take the ‘worry’ out of making curry and provide you with authentically blended spices to create your very own Indian feast from the comfort of your kitchen (with recipes on the back of each blend because the love is real for you dear friends).  The most empowering factor is that you are in control.  If you like it hot, then add more chilli.  If you want a vegetarian version, replace proteins with ingredients like tofu or kidney beans.  Our range of spices allows you flexibility in flavour, ingredients and quantity.


Why trust us? We have grown up entirely on spices and we know just how nourishing they are when regularly consumed. We also believe in the power of homemade meals and want you to be able to do the same, even if you are preparing a dish from a place that seems foreign but whose flavours and textures have won your heart (read - tastebuds).  Here’s to homemade food - that it may always replenish us with the love we all deserve and that we may savour it more often than our busy lives permit!


Inserted image: http://www.saurabhsteel.com/tiffin-carrier/clip-belly/53

 

By Conchita A. de Souza 

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From Goa With Love - Exploring Goa Through Her Rich Cuisine

By Claudette D'Cruz

From Goa With Love - Exploring Goa Through Her Rich Cuisine

There is nothing quite like the overpowering sensation of ‘belonging’ that hits me as soon as my train arrives into Karmali, a small, picturesque railway station located in the north of Goa.  The earth is coloured a dusty kind of rouge, the sun beats down hard and the palms of the endless coconut trees delicately intrude upon the blue skyline.  Although I call Sydney home, Goa is my home away from home. That overwhelming sense of ‘belonging’ which I earlier mentioned arises from the simple fact that Goa is too, the land of my ancestors.  My mind wanders to how life was a struggle back in the old times - no electricity, no technology to keep them entertained, no thermomixes and ultra-cool blenders to make nice cream and smoothies.  Despite the lack of all these ‘necessities’, I believe they probably led much more fulfilling, albeit humble lives, than I ever could.  The food was probably far tastier and fresher and free from the corruption of preservatives and pesticides. People would actually communicate with each other rather than hiding behind a screen.  Honest and physical labour in the homes and fields would keep them fit, rather than the shallow obsession we sometimes have with exercise as a means to fulfil society’s high standards of aesthetics.  It is a world we may never know.  

I would be caught lying if I said I return to Goa regularly for the sole purpose of meeting and spending time with my family.  Whilst they are an important reason for returning home, it is in fact the delights of Goan cuisine that keeps me coming back time after time.  I must give particular mention to my Aunty’s cooking, which will feature as the central focus of this post. Here are some of my favourite dishes that she lovingly prepared for me on my recent trip that elated my soul (in no particular order).

  1. Sambaracche Kodi - I was lying around being lazy when my aunty prepared this somewhat complicated curry.  I know it involved a lot of masala, and fresh prawns not to mention an odd ingredient, dried green mangoes (salaa is the term used in Konkani - the language of Goa).  First, garam masala is roasted on the tava along with dried red chillies.  This roasted mixture is made into a powder in the mixer.  Then a coconut is freshly grated.  The grated coconut is mixed with a cup of water.  This mixture is squeezed through a sieve and the thick juice is extracted.  Another cup of water is added to the grated coconut and a thinner juice is saved in a separate bowl.  Onions are sautéed in oil till translucent.  Then the thin juice, the fresh prawns, dried mangoes are added in with the spices which you ground earlier.  Once the mangoes have softened, Goa jaggery (palm sugar) is added.  Then the thick coconut juice is added and the salt adjusted to taste.  The curry is then brought to the boil and it’s ready to eat!


  2. Goan Roast Beef - This is literally my favourite roast ever. My aunty prepares the beef cut (any part that is soft and meaty) by cutting it into pieces to fit into the pan.   She rubs the meat with salt, vinegar, garam masala powder, haldi (turmeric) and jeera (cumin) powder.   Shen then pricks the meat with a fork so that the flavours absorb and then put it in the fridge to marinate overnight. The next day she heats a pressure cooker, adds oil and seals the roast (about 5 minutes) along with dried red kashmiri chillies.  Then she adds the marinade in which the roast was sitting overnight.   She then puts the lid on and give the meat one whistle on high fire and then lowers the fire and simmers for 20 minutes.  If you find that there is still a lot of water in the meat, after you open the lid, cook it on the fire (without the lid) until the water evaporates.  Slice and enjoy in a sandwich or just on its own with a salad.

  3. Raw Mango Carpe (Aamtto) - A mix between pudding and curry - thick, bright yellow and the perfect balance of sweet and sour.  Peel raw mangoes (they shouldn’t be completely raw, perhaps 3-4 days away from their ripe state), slice them and apply salt and keep them for sometime.  Extract the thick and thin juice of the coconut (as explained above).  Slice onion and saute, then add haldi, a tiny amount of garlic paste and jeera (cumin) powder. To this mix add fresh prawns, the mangoes. thin coconut juice dried red chilli pieces.  Let the mango cook and then add the thick coconut juice. Add sugar according to taste and salt.

  4. Recheado Masala Prawns fried in Rava (semolina) - My Aunty makes recheado at home. It is a wet masala made with around 10 different spices and has a tangy taste because vinegar is used to preserve it.  My aunty mixes the prawns in this masala and then coats them with semolina before frying. They become crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, not to mention the taste is fantastic.  Prawns are my favourite dish and I can eat them with unceasing enthusiasm.

  5. Mackerels Roasted in Hay - It is a given rule that fish tastes best when prepared simply. This method of cooking the mackerels involved gently coating them in olive oil and individually wrapping them in banana leaves, which acts as a buffer against the fire.  Hay, collected from the paddy field belonging to my Aunty, is bundled together and the fish is placed on top, and then more hay is used to cover it.  We lit the hay until it began smoking and then waited for 10 minutes before flipping the fish over and lighting more hay so the other side could smoke. The result - perfectly soft, smoky and juicy mackerels which we devoured with a dash of lemon on the side.

Wrapping the Fish in Banana LeavesFresh Mackerels

I should also comment on the fact that I travelled to Goa in May - which is literally the hottest and most humid month of the year.  It’s when your sweat sweats, when showering thrice a day is acceptable and when lethargy and languidity are the only ways in which your body rolls.  However all is forgiven because it also happens to be the period during which two of my favourite fruits are in season - Mango (specifically Goa’s favourite mango - The Mankurad) and Jackfruit.  Now I could write an entire blog on just how much I love these two fruits and I how I consumed them in the kilos during my stay in Goa but I won’t.  However, if you happen to be in Goa during the month of May, you’ve been briefed - Mango and Jackfruit will sustain your soul too.

My Aunty packed a multitude of goodies for me for my return trip (I told her it was a short flight, but she still packed a tiffin of beef roast paos [Goan bread rolls] and jackfruits to sweeten the mouth). There were Goan sweets, mangoes, more jackfruit, home-made pickles and she even squeezed in a container of cooked prawns and more roast. I realised at that moment my sense of belonging to Goa was inextricably linked with the comfort I feel when I eat her food, and the gratitude that envelopes me as both my tummy and soul experience contentment.

Mango and Jackfruit

To create your own taste of Goa, which your guests will love you for, click here for a tasty Goan curry involving red meat, here for one involving chicken and here if you want to make an unforgettable Goan seafood curry.

By Conchita A. de Souza

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'Curry' - A Diverse Dish with an Ancient History

By Claudette D'Cruz

'Curry' - A Diverse Dish with an Ancient History

I hate to burst your bubble of pride as you tuck into your home-made curry, but your success is old news – ancient to be precise. Curry is believed to be the oldest continuously-prepared food in human history, and early home cooks were whipping up a good spicy stew around 4,000 years ago in the ancient Indus Valley empire of India.

Of course our early ancestor's curries little resemble modern-day curries. Even in the 17th century the Indian 'kari' was merely one of many soupy-spicy dressings served with other dishes and not as the main event. The Europeans, while merrily colonising India, incorrectly assumed all these dressings were 'currys' (as they called them), and scurried back to their home countries with a recipe.

But then everything changed. While the English were making “currey the Indian way” (a rabbit stew with a spoonful of rice and various spices), the chilli journeyed from it's native South America to Asia and the curry became the fiery version we know today.

That said, curry remains one of the most diverse and varied foods on the planet. Eat a curry in Jamaica and it will likely contain goat, while South African's chew on 'bunny chow' and the hawker stalls of Hong Kong sell curry fish balls.

In the Maldives the top curry is made with fresh tuna, Germany's classic currywurst pairs a sausage with curried ketchup to great effect, and the first Australian settlers dined on bandicoot curry in 1864.

It all started in India though, so to India we must return. Curries vary by region, tradition and religion in India, but the general rule is that southern Indian curries are the spicier ones, and coastal regions use seafood more than chicken or red meat.

Your average curry contains around 60 ingredients, but before you scream and vow you will never cook one again, remember that many of these contain health benefits, so are worth the effort of adding to your meal.

Key spices like turmeric, cumin, allspice, ginger and garlic have anti-bacterial properties; onions help the body produce cancer-fighting molecules; and the hotter the spice the more calories you burn eating it!

Ultimately, what really matters is the pleasure that a good curry brings: it's both soothing and stimulating, explosively flavoured and endlessly varied. Let that pleasure be heightened by the effort that goes into making it, and the link it creates with our ancestors and the global society of curry eaters. Throw in the fact that you are doing your body some good just by tucking in and there is no reason not to open your next packet of spices and get cooking!

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