Author Topic: Bruce Edwards Comments and Advice - from the man himself  (Read 7670 times)

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Offline Yousef

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Bruce Edwards Comments and Advice - from the man himself
« on: October 14, 2008, 06:27 PM »
Original Post Here http://www.curry-recipes.co.uk/curry/index.php?topic=2815.0

Comments received from Bruce Edwards 14/10/2008

I have read through the posts and noted the comments made. A confession - there were no great surprises, the results were fairly close to what I was expecting, although I did hope that a few members would hit the jackpot. Oh well.

First of all an apology ; the curry recipe that I gave you last time didn't say how much base sauce to use. It should have specified 10 fl. oz., so if you use a 7 oz. ladle, then one ladleful followed by the rest when part done. Sorry about that, I hope it didn't cause any major problems, but it might have skewed results quite badly if anyone tried the recipe with vastly different quantities.           

Before I get down to any serious business I will try to answer some of the more straightforward questions that have been asked.

AJOWAN. Is it necessary? No, but it is one of the ingredients used when I was first shown how a restaurant base sauce is made. I find it is a useful addition, it complements the flavour / aroma of cumin and it is consistent. [In that it dosen't introduce inconsistencies.]

RADISHES. I left them out because they don't make any difference that I can detect.

MIXING AND MATCHING SAUCES. No reason why not, just aim for an end result that is balanced. For    instance, avoid using a base sauce that contains a lot of tomato with a curry recipe that calls for a large amount of tomato puree, or a curry recipe that uses fried garlic puree with a garlicky base. [ But garlic in one and tomato in the other is probably a  good choice.]

OTHER CURRYS. This base works well with most. I wouldn't say that it's my favourite, but I do see it as a bit of a classic which is easily modified. It is a useful skeleton on which to build.

FRYING SPICES. Adriandavid asks some searching questions. But what it comes down to is that the flavour of ground spices is changed by frying, and some strong aromas are released. If they are simple    boiled, as in a pot of base sauce, then they don't change that much, but their strength is reduced the longer this is done for. Whole spices are often roasted, and this completely changes some. [ Coriander and cumin seed ] They may then be ground to make garam masala mixtures and some curry powders. Seeds can  be    fried, when the effect is similar to roasting, or added to a simmering pot or pan. If cooked in a watery sauce until soft, they can be blended.

And now to the serious, possibly controversial stuff. I am going to be critical. This is intended to be constructive, so I hope no one will be offended.  It appears from the posts that some people can't see the 'wood for the trees'. It seems to me that there is an issue here, but no one has actually said what it is. Now everything you need to know to produce a restaurant curry is on this site, and I have given you detailed instructions that should be virtually foolproof. Many people have had kitchen demonstrations and posted their observations. In short, you know how to do it, you know what ingredients to use, it is obvious that many are competent cooks, yet the final '5 %' still eludes you. I see this as the issue, rather than the many details that keep coming up, and are resurrected every time new members join this forum.

This is a stage that I got stuck at quite a few years ago. I eventually worked through it, but I can't tell you what to do, although I may be able to advise.

Always remember that technique is everything, BUT SO IS YOUR ABILITY TO JUDGE YOUR RESULTS. When you cook a curry, keep a sample to try the next day. And possibly just as important, do the same when you have a take-away, so that you get to know how flavours change. Try not to rely on frozen sauce, cook from scratch as often as you can. Progress will be slow if you make one batch of sauce every month or so, and only cook one curry a week. But it can be done. Break through this final barrier and you will be able to produce curries that are as good as anything you have ever had.  Many people seem to be very narrow in what they are trying to achieve; the flavour / smell of one curry from one restaurant, for instance. This may be too optimistic - two competent chefs making the same curry from the same ingredients in the same kitchen will often get noticeably different results. 

THE WAY TO GO. If you can - at least for a while - stop thinking about the restaurant flavour. Concentrate on producing curries that are simply enjoyable. You know what you like, aim for this, but always wholesome, satisfying enjoyment.

Consider how the restaurant curry probably evolved: Early restaurateurs starting out and trying to make traditional Indian food acceptable to the British. What do the Brits want ? Something that looks and sounds interesting, but not too hot or spicy, probably with meat. That's easy, a toned down version of a traditional meat dish. Takes too long to cook from scratch. So pre cook the meat and onions separately, and they can then be assembled into a dish as and when required, and this gives scope for other dishes too. And  the Brits want gravy with everything. So make gravy.[ Fortunately for us, the Indian idea of gravy is not the starchy gloop that an English cook would immediately think of.]

So the early restaurants started out serving dishes that were fairly close to the traditional but made with pre cooked ingredients. Then some one had the idea of blending the onion and the sauce was developed, probably in the sixties. I remember seventies curries as being fairly dark brown in colour, so onions were     fried at this stage. Then around nineteen eighty, red currys appeared. Within a year or so, the dark brown    curry had disappeared. This was when the present day 'boiled' sauce took over.  The restaurateur, however, is always at a disadvantage in that he is creating a dish for an imagined customer. He doesn?t eat it himself, so simply aims to produce something that will be enjoyed, using ingredients that he knows.

You are doing it for yourself, this is where you can score, by tailoring dishes to suit your own taste.       Follow the methods, use the ingredients, but above all, concentrate on enjoying your currys. At this stage      you may think that anything from a restaurant is better than anything you can cook. Just keep trying and     you should find that gap closing. Hopefully you will reach a stage when you prefer your own home cooked  currys. It should then be obvious to anyone trying your currys that you are producing perfect Indian  Restaurant food, although maybe not obvious to you. One good reason why you should always keep those samples to try the next day.

SO WHAT IS THE RESTAURANT SMELL ANYWAY? Well, here are some observations:

Our sense of smell is very sensitive to odours in low concentrations, particularly in clean, unpolluted air. Now this is where I get a bit technical, so if the following dosen't make sense to you, just ignore it. [ I am simply trying to explain this in terms that are familiar to me.]

Think of your nose as a high gain amplifier. A very small input can result in a large output.  Maximum output is very easily achieved. If the input is increased beyond this point, the output doesn?t increase, it just becomes distorted. This is what happens when you cook, but as your nose relies on chemicals rather than electrons, it can take literally hours to recover fully after even a small overload.

Frying can produce  some very intriguing smells when these are smelt in the open air. Think of the smell outside a Chinese Restaurant, an outdoor hot dog stall, even a fish and chip shop. And what about frying onions when someone else is doing the frying and you are some distance away?

A large part of this seems to be the result of oil being heated to a high temperature, with a little partly burned food thrown in for good measure. If that food is onion, tomato, and some spices, in particular   cumin and a hint of garam masala, well, the result should be obvious. But get a large dose of fumes, and   the effect is ruined, often for several hours, until your nose recovers. 

AND WHAT ABOUT THE RESTAURANT FLAVOUR? Simply a result of being able to smell our food as well as taste it. 
You  might have guessed by now what I am leading up to. It is simply this - that the restaurant smell / flavour is not that difficult to produce. It is a by-product of certain things being right. The difficult [ if not impossible ] part  is knowing when you have achieved it . But if the curry you have just cooked tastes wonderful to you, and you used typical restaurant methods, then the chances are that you have. You just need the confidence to know that you did everything  right and nothing went obviously, drastically wrong.

Before I finish, I would like to reply to some posts that have recently appeared:

The method I have presented is tailored for home use. In a restaurant, it will be modified to meet local requirements. If, for instance, the production of sauce is on-going and it is being used straight away, it could be blended while still hot on top of the cooker, and used immediately. The remnants of one pot could be added to the next; after all, it has more flavour than water. I have done this myself. It gives some interesting variations of flavour. What I wouldn't do is re-heat blended sauce that has been allowed to cool, as there will be a marked change / deterioration in flavour. And of course, any excess oil floating on the base sauce can be used in the cooking of dishes. 

On the subject of meat - when I first saw a take away kitchen in operation nearly twenty years ago, I was surprised at the quality of meat being used. I asked about this and was told that the chickens were roasting birds from a local butcher who they had an arrangement with. As for lamb, they used best quality leg meat only. I saw all of this being prepared. The meat was stripped from the bone, and cooked as a traditional style curry with lots of whole spices. I was also quite surprised to see all the bones and chicken carcases going straight in the waste bin. I commented that this would make good stock - they agreed but said that they never used stock.   

That's all from me for now. I will check posts from time to time, and if there is sufficient interest, I thought I might give some pointers on making dishes other than the basic curry next time, probably early in the new year. So have a good Christmas, keep the comments and observations coming, and hopefully we can all learn something.

                                        BRUCE EDWARDS.
                                        NORTH NORFOLK.
                                        7th. OCTOBER 2008.
               

Offline billycat

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Re: Bruce Edwards Comments and Advice - from the man himself
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2008, 07:16 PM »
THANKS FOR YOUR TIME BRUCE

MARK
Mark


Offline joshallen2k

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Re: Bruce Edwards Comments and Advice - from the man himself
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2008, 07:30 PM »
Bruce, thanks for the post.

Quote
This base works well with most. I wouldn't say that it's my favourite, but I do see it as a bit of a classic which is easily modified

Interesting. I take it then that this base is tuned for the curry/madras/vindaloo variety. What changes would you suggest for, say, a Rogan Josh, or a CTM or a korma?


Quote
if there is sufficient interest, I thought I might give some pointers on making dishes other than the basic curry next time

Bruce - the interest is there! Please post away. Really trying to nail Chicken Tikka Masala

Offline chowie

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Re: Bruce Edwards Comments and Advice - from the man himself
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2008, 07:38 PM »
Great stuff, that all makes sense to me, I do enjoy my curries but think like many others I'm just to critical of my own stuff, guests that come to my house think it's the best food since god knows what and do not shut up about it, even when I bump into them on the street and asking when we going to have more etc.

I always find food I've cooked better the next day, same with a simple chili yesterday, just thought, ah this ok, eat the next day and thought this is actually quite good, not very often curry is left for the next day and if it is the wife eats it early.

Like I've said before I'm sold on these bases unless I see anything drastically different but I feel I'm getting better with techniques  
 and qty's etc on every curry so I'm going to keep plugging at the Chicken Madras and base (1st thought adding little more carrot and oil) until it suits me, will be looking forward to your updates in the new year, Thanks Bruce.


Offline Curry King

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Re: Bruce Edwards Comments and Advice - from the man himself
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2008, 10:11 AM »
Thanks for coming back to us Bruce and I think you are right, I came to the conclusion that my curry's are as good as a takeaways a few years ago now.  These days I actually prefer mine to most of the locals round where I live, there is one that I don't think I can match but thats the challenge.

Thanks for taking the time to respond to all the comments  ;)
Cr0, simply the best FREE curry site on the web

Offline SnS

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Re: Bruce Edwards Comments and Advice - from the man himself
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2008, 12:13 PM »
Bruce

Thanks for taking the time to produce this excellent and informative post ... a lot of useful comments, especially regarding the 'missing 5%'.

SnS

Offline JerryM

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Re: Bruce Edwards Comments and Advice - from the man himself
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2008, 07:01 PM »
very much appreciate Bruce taking time to help us. the suggestion on going fwd to help/guide on recipes is spot on for me. i've really enjoyed the journey of his post so far (as i am sure all members have too).

the "wood from the trees" sits very well with me - i often feel there is conflicting info but this can be resolved through trial and error (not unexpected given we rely so much on the written word and no blame intended in any way)

i've read the post several times on the "5%" element as it is this place that i find myself.

i'm struggling understanding what is meant by "this is the issue" though and would appreciate member's thoughts to help my understanding of what Bruce is getting at.

i fully understand on the other hand the remedy - keep cooking and learning and the gap will close by knowing where u are and where u want to be. the complete set of information is on the site and just needs weeding out and assimilating.

« Last Edit: October 16, 2008, 07:07 AM by JerryM »


Offline Bobby Bhuna

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Re: Bruce Edwards Comments and Advice - from the man himself
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2008, 09:08 PM »
Thanks very much Bruce, we all really appreciate your efforts. I'm particularly intrested in your 5 percent bit too as yours and the filth factor are the only reasonable explanations I've come across to date.

Offline adriandavidb

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Re: Bruce Edwards Comments and Advice - from the man himself
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2008, 02:41 PM »
Thanks Bruce, very helpful comments.

Offline Cory Ander

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Re: Bruce Edwards Comments and Advice - from the man himself
« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2008, 09:52 AM »
Hi Bruce,

You make several interesting comments and I would appreciate it if we could please explore them further.

Quote from: BE
OTHER CURRYS. This base works well with most. I wouldn't say that it's my favourite

Could you please tell us which is your favourite base and how it differs from this one Bruce?

Quote from: BE
It seems to me that there is an issue here, but no one has actually said what it is....yet the final '5 %' still eludes you. I see this as the issue, rather than the many details that keep coming up, and are resurrected every time new members join this forum.

I'm not sure if you are saying that the "issue" is achieving "the final 5%" or that the issue is people wrongly thinking it exists?

Quote from: BE
This is a stage that I got stuck at quite a few years ago. I eventually worked through it, but I can't tell you what to do, although I may be able to advise

I'm not sure why you feel unable to tell us what to do?  Nevertheless, could you please tell us how you "worked through it"?  I think this would be most informative and instructive.

Quote from: BE
Always remember that technique is everything

I've heard this said so many times but have rarely seen anyone define what they actually mean by it.  Your view on what "technique" actually means to you (with examples) would be most informative and would be very much appreciated.

Quote from: BE
I remember seventies curries as being fairly dark brown in colour, so onions were fried at this stage. Then around nineteen eighty, red currys appeared. Within a year or so, the dark brown curry had disappeared. This was when the present day 'boiled' sauce took over.

What do you ascribe the "red curries" to; aside from boiling, rather than frying, the onions?

Quote from: BE
the restaurant smell/flavour is not that difficult to produce.


I am suprised that so many people appear to be struggling then Bruce (rather than simply producing "enjoyable curries")!  :P 

Hence my request if you could please elaborate on how you achieved it and by using which specific techniques?

Thanks for your input Bruce, much appreciated  :)
Regards,

CA :)



 

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