Spice girl books Indian fans in for some fresh applications
INDIAN sauce and spice entrepreneur Meena Pathak has been instrumental in making chicken tikka masala the national dish of England, satisfying an arcane British wish for meat served in gravy.
Visiting Australia this week, she advised your television critic turned substitute Food Detective that she wants to do the same for us. This vivacious spice girl tells Detective that Australia is ‘‘ halfway up the flavour ladder’’ compared with her native England, where Indian food is still preferred as the staple cheap-and-cheerful late meal after clubbing and many pints of lager.
‘‘ You are rungs ahead here and have already overcome many barriers. Fortunately, your weather is so good compared to ours in England that eating curries is not traditionally perceived as a dogged winter activity,’’ she says. ‘‘ The big myth is that Indian food is warming and full of fat and heat.’’
As the driving force behind the highly successful Patak’s food company, Meena Pathak — the H in the family name apparently was dropped to make it easier for the English to pronounce— is here to spread the word about her brand’s 50th anniversary and to launch her third cookbook, MeenaPathakCelebratesIndian Cooking (New Holland, $24.95).
Pathak, a former model, along with husband Kirit, has created more than 120 curry pastes, cooking sauces and chutneys, and the Patak brand is the market leader in Australian supermarkets. Detective, a master of the instant marinade, relies heavily on those jars of korma, tandoori, vindaloo and balti pastes. Some of them sit, half-empty and still appetising, overcrowding the fridge, a source of dismay to his neat wife but helping to feed the bubbling stockpot of growing local interest in Indian tucker.
‘‘ Modern Indian is light, healthy and quick,’’ Pathak insists. ‘‘ Wet curry with rice is the tradition, but the new cuisine is about applications, like pickle in a sandwich or a side dish of roast potatoes converted by a tikka paste.’’ Patak’s sells 30 million jars of curry sauce a year. Half of them, Detective’s wife says, are in our home. Good recipes at www.pataks.co.uk.
STILL on an Indian theme, Astral Restaurant in Star City’s Hotel Tower at Pyrmont in Sydney goes Bollywood next month with a nice Indian twist. Head chef Sean Connolly will pair up with another mistress of spices, Christine Manfield, to present a one-night dining experience on Tuesday, July 3. As part of the Burn the House Down series of interactive dinners, the chefs will create an Indian banquet matched to wines selected by Astral sommelier Peter Bell.
This is a rare opportunity for fans to catch the peripatetic Manfield (of Sydney Paramount and London East@West restaurant fame) back in a kitchen. Can we look forward to her shaking a leg and swivelling her hips with bare-bellied Bollywood dancers and guest performer Kamahl? Just don’t expect moustachioed villains, family misunderstandings and car chases. Tickets are $195: 1800 700 700.
CLASSY TV chef and restaurateur Peter Evans’s Fish is the kind of show the LifeStyle Channel does so well: laid-back and informative, with easy-to-follow recipes and a couple of engaging talking heads who get stuck in without resorting to outlandish laddish knockabout.
Evans and his intrepid brother-in-law Udo Edlinger explore the waters of Australia, catching river, estuary, beach and ocean fish and, in company with colourful locals, cooking them.
Detective has an advance copy of Evans’s book, also titled Fish, which will be released in August (Murdoch Books, $34.95). It’s just as witty, informative and laconic. When you can get your hands on it, look for his recipes for snapper pizza pie and blue swimmer crab linguine. Evans also reproduces the recipe for pearl meat with ginger and soy cooked up by Broome’s famous former diver Salty Dog Baillieu. In the opinion of Detective , who worked in Broome for several months in 2003, this is the only way to eat this truly native Aussie product.
IN this age of climate-change evangelism and denial, Detective was encouraged to discover, during a recent trip to Daylesford in country Victoria, the Organic Box Scheme developed by Captain Creek Farm, just outside the village of Blampied. The farm grows certified organic vegetables, fruit, wine and animal products on 40ha and provides a weekly supply to customers in the region, delivered to their doors or dropoff points. Returnable boxes are a set price (a large box with 11 to 13 items is $30).
Local chef and tourism dynamo Alla Wolf- Tasker of the Lake House at Daylesford highly recommends the scheme. She says she’s delighted with this fresh produce, which has reduced costs by minimising packaging, cutting out middlemen and dramatically reducing food kilometres.
‘‘ They still surprise me with what they turn up in that box and that ain’t easy to do,’’ she announces with her customary ebullience. Inquiries for local orders: (03) 5345 7342; email@example.com.
Detective would like to know of other regional schemes producing and delivering affordable organic food.
FINDS of the week: Beerenberg Farm, an essential stop on a visit to South Australia’s Mt Lofty Ranges, produces 48 wonderfully rich condiments. Detective has just discovered its chunky Worcestershire sauce. Check the website for inspired recipes, especially the knockout new Japanese-inspired chicken yakitori, substituting Worcestershire for soy. www.beerenberg.com.au.
The award-winning Murray’s Craft Brewing Co from the NSW north coast has upped the fight against bland industrial lagers by bottling three of its lovingly hand-crafted drops. There is Nirvana Pale Ale, Sassy Belgian Blond and a limitedrelease Anniversary Ale. (‘‘a unique wheat and barley brew’’, according to the owner of the brewery, Murray Howe). www.murraysbrewingco.com.au.
DETECTIVE loves: The new culinary direction at Melbourne’s Hotel Windsor with three new senior appointments and a repositioning of its signature 111 Spring Street Restaurant. Highly experienced executive chef Craig Hicks, executive pastry chef Nigel Braithwaite and food and beverage director Patrick Dumas recently have been appointed. But not all is changing: the restaurant will continue with its traditional afternoon teas, a Melbourne institution Detective often enjoyed in the company of visiting theatrical sorts in his former life as a producer.
DETECTIVE loathes: Waiters who turn up one mouthful into a course, asking: ‘‘ How’s the food?’’ Once, accompanying Clive James to an incredibly attenuated theatrical adaptation of some David Malouf novel at the Adelaide Festival, Detective witnessed the theatre manager accost James at the first interval (of many). ‘‘ How do you like it?’’ she asked. ‘‘ Don’t ever ask a critic what he thinks of a show while he’s still watching it,’’ trumpeted James. ‘‘ Not if you want a good review.’’
Posh spice: Pathak