Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Curry Night (2)

In which we are introduced to a York institution and cook a delicious (Miss) dahl.

Sometimes, only a curry will do. But long time WWers, and indeed anyone who takes so much as a passing interest in the calorific content of their scran, will know that those fragrant foil trays from their local curry house are drenched in oil and ghee and all manner of fattening things. An Indian takeaway consisting of curry, pilau rice and half a naan will easily set you back over a day’s worth of points.

I don’t know an awful lot about genuine Indian cookery, but I have started in recent years to dip my toe in the water. There are few things more satisfying than making a curry from scratch – toasting and blending up all the spices…if I could just get over my bread baking phobia I’d be well on the way to calling myself an official Earth Mother. But for those days where one just can’t be bothered, there is always Rafi’s.

Rafi’s is a modest looking little shop, tucked away behind the York Minster. The premise is simple – you request a curry and they make up, fresh, before your eyes, a pack of spices that will form the basis of it. Just add water, simmer for a few minutes, then tip in raw ingredients to suit and pow – curry in a hurry and no need to wash out the pestle and mortar. They recommend that you make it up the day before you wish to eat it to allow the flavours to develop, which is no great hardship. The results are delicious – the curries have the depth and complexity of flavour that one would expect to find in the very best curry houses, but without the gleaming slick of oil on top. Having closely examined the content of last week’s bhuna pack I decided to point it at 1 tbsp of oil per portion (assuming 4 portions) which I suspect is slightly on the high side. I added king prawns, onion, celery and a diced red pepper and cursed myself for not having any mushrooms. The result was a gorgeous, medium hot king prawn bhuna for 5 pro points.

Rafi’s do mail order, so if you are a curry fan, I would urge you to check out their website. And if you’re ever in York do go for a browse around – they sell all manner of yummy looking pickles and sauces.

Meanwhile, I would also like to commend to your attention this rather delicious split pea dahl recipe, which I served on the side. It came from a blog and is presented here with only the minorest of tweaks – but unfortunately I can’t remember which one, so if it was yours then I apologise for not giving credit where it is due. If it is any consolation, I thought it was delicious. I’m eating leftovers for lunch today.


2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 piece of ginger, about 1 inch long, grated
Small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1-2 tsp dried chillies
1 tbsp garam masala
200g yellow split peas
1 tomato, diced roughly
Large handful of fresh spinach
Tbsp vegetable oil
Lemon juice
Fresh coriander, to garnish

Serves 4, 5 pro points per serving

Heat the oil in a pan and when it is hot and shimmering, add the mustard seeds. When these start to pop (expect a few to come flying across your kitchen) add the onion and cook until starting to soften and then add the garlic and ginger and cook for a further couple of minutes, being careful that nothing starts to stick or burn.

Next, add the garam masala, chillies, chopped tomatoes and turmeric and stir fry for another minutes or so, until the spices are deeply aromatic. Now is the time to tip in your split peas and a good pinch of salt. Stir the peas around to get them well coated in spice and then add enough water to cover and simmer on a low heat, with a lid on for about 45 minutes. Check regularly and top up the water as necessary. At the end of cooking the peas should still retain some bite – you’re not looking for mush here.

Cook’s Note: As with any curry the flavours will develop on sitting, so I would recommend doing up to this stage a few hours before you intend to serve and then cover and let the peas sit and ponder their existence for a while.

Just before serving, chuck in your spinach (it will reduce down dramatically, so use slightly more than you think you need) cover, and put over a low heat for about 5 minutes to allow the spinach to wilt. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and some fresh chopped coriander.


  1. yummy!!! i've used some spice packs from the supermarket before but I like the idea of watching them prepares the spices in front of you. I hope to get down to York sometime soon...this is going on the list!!! yum!! Also...I totally prefer making curry at home...that way I can be sure to get lots of prawns or chicken or whatever..nothing worse than opening a take away only to find 4 chunks of chicken and a lake of sauce!!! :)

  2. Yaaaaaay for Rafi's!!! Did you know you can freeze the packs too? We currently have a jalfrezi and a pathia awaiting Mr B's culinary prowess in the freezer :)

    Lex xxx

  3. Victoria - definitely, definitely get to Rafi's. As Lexie says, you can freeze the packs(although they don't tend to last that long with us!)so you could bulk buy.

    Mmmmmm, if only I had curry for lunch...