The heat is on for spice girl Gemma
This is National Curry Week and the Mercury is celebrating by eating lots of it. In the name of research, reporter Gemma Peplow donned her apron to have her jalfrezi cooking skills put to the test by the owner of Leicester’s Mem-Saab restaurant
I love curry. Well, who doesn't? But, like most meals, I always like it best when it's cooked for me. I like it cooked for me because a homemade curry at my house would normally involve a jar of Sharwoods and a microwave naan.
Maybe throw in a samosa or two as well, if you're really lucky.
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Pleasant though all that may be, it's not proper, is it?
So I was more than happy to let Mem-Saab owner Pam Kooner show me the ropes.
We're making chicken jalfrezi – one of the Highcross restaurant's most popular dishes – and it's going to be simple, she assures me.
All the ingredients – finely chopped onions, garlic, pureed tomatoes, cumin, ginger, garam masala, chillis, coriander, salt, turmeric, bigger bits of onion (to use the technical term) and, of course, the chicken – are all laid out for me. All I need to do is put them in the saucepan in the right order at the right time, and stir.
What could go wrong?
Nothing, as it happens. Turns out, I'm pretty much a chicken jalfrezi whiz, and no (rogan) joshing.
It doesn't take long to whip up my curry.
First the onions and garlic – frying it first stops you getting horrible garlic breath afterwards, apparently – then the tomatoes, then the... and so on.
Pam's there throughout to offer advice, help with the stirring and basically tell me when to do what.
A sprinkle of cumin here, a dash of turmeric there and we're done.
It's quite easy, isn't it, this cooking lark?
In no time at all, I have a beautiful looking bowl of chicken jalfrezi in front of me, looking and smelling exactly as it does when put together by the professionals.
Even the chefs look half impressed and, working at one of the most highly regarded Indian restaurants in town, I'd imagine their standards are pretty high.
Now comes the best part: the eating bit.
Unfortunately, Pam is vegetarian, so she can't give me her verdict on the taste.
But I think it's pretty darn good, even if I do say so myself. Especially accompanied with a nice bowl of pilau rice and a big naan, which is most definitely not microwaved.
"You did very well, for a first-timer," says Pam, although she won't be drawn into giving me a mark out of 10.
"You'll find out if you've cooked it properly after you've eaten it."
But, I'm happy to report, it's 24 hours later and there's no sign of food poisoning.
All in all, my first attempt at homemade curry was a big success, although I'm pretty sure that, should I try to knock up a jalfrezi from scratch in the comfort of my own home, it wouldn't quite be the same.
Unless I hired Pam to come round and talk me through it, that is.
But I'd be confident serving it up to my mum, and she's a brilliant cook.
And it would definitely beat the sauce in a jar.
Anyone interested in learning how to make an authentic Indian curry can attend one of Pam's Mem-Saab cookery master classes.
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