Is imitation really the sincerest form of flattery?
If the big names could copyright their signature dishes, the courts would soon be full
was the beginning of an ongoing problem – now made worse with the advent of instantaneous picturesharing sites such as Instagram.
For years, I happily copied the food I was eating at the best places in the UK, but it was only when I started going to the best places worldwide that I began to realise where the UK’s top chefs were getting some of their ideas. I can even remember Gordon Ramsay berating a chef on the TV show Kitchen Nightmares for stealing a scallop dish I knew Ramsay had already “learnt” from Jean-Georges Vongerichten in New York. It seems even the best draw inspiration from wherever they can.
When George Harrison was sued for his solo hit My Sweet Lord sounding too much like The Chiffons’ He’s So Fine, John Lennon said it would never have happened to the Beatles: they nicked stuff all the time but they knew how to alter it to prevent a problem.
Imagine if you could “publish” a recipe in the same way you can publish a song. Anybody who copied the dish would be liable to pay royalties, and anyone who thought you had stolen their idea could sue for a share. The courts would be full of cases that would make Jarndyce vs Jarndyce look like a miniseries.
Today’s recipe is my very inauthentic “cover version” of chicken tikka masala. There are so many stories of its origins that it would have to appear on the record label as “trad arr. Harris”, like a folk song, but the most plausible is this: a chef from Glasgow, Ali Ahmed Aslam, claimed he invented the dish when someone asked for sauce with their chicken tikka. He knocked up a quick sauce with tomato and cream and added it to the tandoori roasting juices.
Imagine the royalties he would have earned if he could have protected his intellectual property. It would have been an even bigger hit than snail porridge.
Stephen Harris is chef-patron of The Sportsman in Seasalter, Kent, whose many awards include the No 1 spot at the Estrella Damm Best Gastropub Awards 2018
Cut the chicken into 1cm-thick slices across the breast. Put the curry paste and 50g of the yogurt into a bowl and stir to combine.
Place the chicken slices in the bowl and rub in the curry marinade. Cover the bowl and leave in the fridge for at least three hours or overnight.
In a large, non-stick frying pan, fry the ginger, garlic and chilli over a high heat for 30 seconds to release the aromatics, then add the marinated chicken pieces (leave the marinade on) and the green parts of the spring onion.
Fry the pieces until they begin to brown. Take the pan off the heat, remove the chicken pieces only and place them on a plate.
Pour the coconut milk, almonds and the rest of the natural yogurt into the frying pan and return to the heat. Boil rapidly to reduce the sauce.
When the sauce has a “coating” consistency, add some salt to taste and return the chicken to the pan to finish cooking – about two minutes, but do check to make sure it’s cooked through.
When the cooking is finished, stir in the coriander, white parts of the spring onion and squeeze in the lime to taste. Add salt to taste and serve. 200g cottage cheese 2 tbsp oil or ghee
In a large saucepan, heat the oil or ghee to medium and add the spinach and a good pinch of salt.
Cook the spinach for five minutes, or until all the water has evaporated.
Now add the cottage cheese to the spinach. Cook until the cheese starts to brown, which will take about five minutes. Be careful that the cheese doesn’t catch the bottom of the pan too much. A bit of browning is desirable.
When all of the moisture has cooked off, check the seasoning and serve with the chicken.