Is im­i­ta­tion re­ally the sin­cer­est form of flat­tery?

If the big names could copy­right their sig­na­ture dishes, the courts would soon be full

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - FOOD DRINK -


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.

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