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Nowadays, curry is right up there with fish and chips and even the beloved Sunday roast as one of Britain’s national dishes, but the ability to cook the perfect pilau or a magnificent madras remains a hit-and-miss affair for many.

If you’d like to help a friend or loved one discover the secrets of spice Indian-style, why not treat them to a half-day cookery course at the Saffron House restaurant in Hertfordshire (everything prepared on the day can be taken home), or, if they are of a more DIY bent, to a six-month Indian recipe subscription, complete with monthly deliveries of spices and full instructions for preparing a meal for four.


Q: I assumed I was an expert at Indian cuisine, but then I made a Madras that made my neighbours alert a SWAT team. Can you help?
A: We can! We have an amazing Indian cookery course, instigated by the geniuses at Saffron House.
Q: A house made from... SAFFRON?
A: No, that is just what it is called, it’s a cooking academy filled to the hilt with culinary experts who want to share their food smarts with you. They have been teaching amateurs and professionals for years, so this will be perfect for your endeavours.
Q: Where is this magical house of Saffron?
A: As I explained, that is just the name of the place. It is in beautiful Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire.
Q: What kind of stuff will I be knocking together?
A: You’ll be dabbling with all aspects of Indian cuisine, from an understanding of spices and marinades, to selecting the best ingredients. You will prepare a chicken dish, a fish dish, a vegetable dish, a salad and Indian dressing dish, as well as a classic sauce based dish like Channa Masala. It won’t just be curries, you’ll be dealing with canapés and desserts as well.
Q: And should I become thirsty?
A: Lucky you! You get complimentary wine throughout the course. .
Q: But won’t all this food handling make me hungry?
A: You’ll be sampling items throughout the course, plus you can eat or take home all the food you make. Which will be delicious. Because we believe in you.
Q: Should I arrive in any special sort of costume?
A: We shudder to think what you mean by that. No, but please do wear lightweight clothing and sensible, covered shoes with a good grip.
Q: And if I have any unusual lifestyle choices?
A: If you have any dietary requirements or if you’re a veggie, then just let them know when you book and they should be able to sort something out for you.

Fun Facts

  • 1. The word curry comes from the Tamil word ‘kari’ or ‘karil’, meaning spices or sautéed vegetables. Does the name Carol derive from the same source, as I went out with a Carol once and she was far from spicy.
  • 2. There are more curry houses in London than in Mumbai, with the first English one opened by Shaykh Din Mahomet in 1810. The first confusion over poppadom ordering was also recorded around this time.
  • 3. The first curry recipe in English appeared in Hannah Glasse’s The Art Of Cookery in 1747. As it was so long ago, I imagine it was for a boil-in-the-bag one.
  • 4. In 1846, William Makepeace Thackeray wrote ‘A Poem to Curry’, as part of his Kitchen Melodies. Which is pretty easy as so many things rhyme with curry: Hurry, McFlurry, Bill Murray. It writes itself.
  • 5. In honour of Queen Elizabeth’s 1953 coronation, a special curry dish, Coronation Chicken, was invented. And soon a new phrase, ‘Anything but Coronation Chicken’, entered the lexicon.
  • 6. There are 60 different ingredients in a typical curry, which varies according to region, tradition and religion. Where there are only two ingredients in my Egg Surprise. Egg and Foot Powder.
  • 7. Tablets dated 1700 BC found near Babylon in Mesopotamia contained recipes for a curry-like mixture of meat with a sauce and bread probably as an offering to the gods. Those Babylonian gods were easily appeased weren’t they? Everywhere else they were offering up human sacrifices, while they were happy with a Bhuna.
  • 8. Biryani was originally created as a ready-to-eat food for soldiers during time of war. Until the use of gas in military operations was outlawed of course. (Sorry).
  • 9. Korma means ‘slow cooking or braising’ rather than a mild curry as it has become accepted in Britain. It can actually be very mild or fiery hot, with rich ingredients. I always assumed it translated as ‘shame’ as that’s the emotion I feel when I order one, being the wuss that I am.