he most thrilling moment in the study of any subject comes when you realise that what seems an impossibly complicated discipline is in fact underpinned by a few simple principles. It’s like that moment when Keanu Reeves learns to read the Matrix. A sudden, exhilarating rush of clarity.
The novice piano player experiences it when realising that you only need to learn four chords – E, B, C# minor and A – to play almost all your favourite pop songs. (Lou Reed thought you could narrow it down further. “One chord is fine. Two chords is pushing it,” he said. “Three chords and you’re into jazz.”)
It happened to me for the first time when, shortly before my A-level physics exam, I realised that you could deduce the answers to any question from just five equations. And I had the same experience recently when being taught to make curry in a small kitchen in a house near Luton by Mamta Gupta, who was helping us develop a curry dish for Leon.
Mamta is a master of Indian home cooking and something of an internet phenomenon. She started a recipe blog in 2001, encouraged by her daughters who wanted to use her recipes when they left home (mamtaskitchen.com). But this treasure trove of sound advice soon found a wider audience – it has had more than 15m hits with more, interestingly, coming from India than from the UK.
Mamta’s principles of curry-making are:
Principle 1: Be generous with your spices. Spices not only bring flavour but texture to dishes. Most supermarkets sell spices in misleadingly small containers. You can buy bigger packets from Asian supermarkets, which will encourage you to spoon in the spices with a freer hand. (You can store them in the freezer to stop them going stale.)