Hot food from a hot rocker

Ian Anderson, the composer and musician behind rock supergroup Jethro Tull, is also a fan of Indian food – so much so that he’s written an introduction to it for his fans.  Here’s an excerpt.

First of all: meat, fish or vegetable as a main course? Let’s get the big and scary bit out of the way. Dry or in a sauce? Spicy-hot or mild and creamy?

The great thing about Indian cuisine is the availability of vegetarian options. Lentils, greens, roots and branches, are all conjured up to please, titillate and satisfy. Perhaps in the form of an integrated and complete Vegetarian Thali, attractively served in a “silver” dish of that name, the chance to sample several small vegetable portions will be found. No longer the poor cousin of the carnivorous night-out nibbler, you may indulge yourself with glee, ghee (purified butter) and total satisfaction in your descent to the ultimate in Vegan gluttony. Whoops, forgot about the butter…

Let’s first consider the mild: Korma, Passanda and Muglai are the words to watch for. Liberal in their creamy mildness, these dishes, from different areas of the Indian sub-continent, will be face and bowel-savers when the chips are down.

For those who favour the dryer, purer and not-too-hot taste of the source meat or fish, try the Tikka or Tandoori versions.

Really spicy hot stuff will be tackled head-on in the Madras or Vindaloo variations on the theme. Brave but occasionally foolish forkers, like me, will feel compelled to go for the Phal or Tindaloo, those macho show-off botty-crippling dishes which we become strangely ever-addicted to. Nothing disrupts a band sound-check like the pervasive after-effects of the Tarka Dhal (lentils and garlic).

There’s more at the link.  Very useful if you don’t know much about Indian cooking.

I grew up in South Africa, which has a large Indian population (Mahatma Gandhi worked there as an expatriate lawyer and civil rights activist – and, during the Boer War, as a stretcher bearer).  Thus, Indian food has a rich history in South Africa, affecting and being influenced by the Dutch cooking of the Boer settlers and the English cooking of Imperial Britain.

One of my not-so-fond memories of my early working years is of taking an Indian colleague home after an all-night shift in a computer room.  He invited me to join him and his wife for breakfast.  She served cold curry from the refrigerator that she’d made for supper the night before.  Even cold, it was so “hot” (i.e. spicy) that it felt as if my mouth was on fire – and, a day or so later, my nether regions felt likewise as it completed its travels through my alimentary canal!  Despite that, I came to enjoy a “warm” curry now and again;  so much so, that I cooked one for my wife and our landlord, early in our marriage.  I was chewing thoughtfully, and opining that it needed a touch more of this spice and a smidgen more of that, while perspiration was pouring down their faces and they were gasping for breath.  That’s when I realized one can develop a tolerance for curry that isn’t universally shared . . .

Be that as it may, I continue to enjoy curry, and my wife has developed a taste for the milder versions thereof.  She makes a pretty good chicken curry, which we enjoy together from time to time.  If you’ve never tried curry, it rewards the effort – provided you start with the mild stuff!  Don’t jump straight into a vindaloo.  Your digestive system will not only not thank you, it’ll actively punish you a day or two later.  Remember the song “Ring of Fire“?  You’ll have one too.  Yeah.  Right.  That ring . . . and love will have nothing to do with it!



  1. The best way to enjoy Indian food at a restaurant is for everyone to order a different entree and share. Then, if you find a dish everyone particularly likes, step next door and buy the spices it would take to fix it. You can pick up some great recipes, by discussing the spices you are buy and what you are using them for, from the staff.

    And was that Carl Perkins backing up Johnny Cash?

  2. It's definitely an acquired taste, but my entire head breaks out in such a sweat with too-hot Indian or Tex-Mex that I understand why Sikh's west turbans. I'd enjoy it more if it wasn't so damned embarrassing if the audience includes more than my wife…

  3. I've never liked the flavor of curry, but there are some exceptions. I like lamb vindaloo, at least in its Indian restaurant versions, but I never considered it to be a curry. I freely admit my ignorance on the vast majority of Indian foods.

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