Well, I’m back in Brida again. Just had to sort out a few bits and pieces that crept their way into the inbox whilst I was away, so I really couldn’t get back to my column. Sorry about that!
I do have to admit, I was a little bit sorry to leave England again. I had a blast there. I met lots of friendly people, ate different, wonderful food and, most importantly, found lots of new ideas for the catering company. There are a lot of things which I ate which I haven’t written about (yet).
Right. Now, before I continue, I actually have some fantastically great, terrific, exciting, news for you. I’ll let you in on a secret, pssst……I bought a car! A dream car….and I have a new adventure planned…but more about that later.
Now! Here’s a question. How on earth do you top the fish & chips, the Burns Night Supper Haggis, the pub crawls (there were several, but that’s for another time), the Welsh Laverbread, the (eye wateringly expensive) Afternoon Tea and all those belt-busting English breakfasts? And that is only what I wrote about. I have to admit, I thought it was a pretty tall order.
Well, so I thought!
Until I received a rather intriguing phone call. I didn’t recognise the number (it was an English one) so I let it go to voice mail.
When I got around to listening to it, I heard a message left by a woman called Nasrin. She had been following me on social media and wanted to know if I liked chicken? And perhaps I could call her? You know, just on the off chance that I might have some time?
I mulled this over for a while and then decided, oh, why not. Well, am I ever glad I did!!
Nasrin is a first-generation British woman. We spoke for quite some time and like some exotic tale out of 1001 Nights, she cast a magic spell that involved chicken, Manchester and lots of curry. I was so enthralled and said, “Ok, let’s meet!”
Hastily rearranging my schedule, I hiked all the way from London back to Manchester and we met at Piccadilly Station. We had a cup of tea (as you do) to lay the final plans.
Nasrin is about my age. Her parents emigrated from Bangladesh many years ago and settled in Bradford, about an hour north-east of Manchester. Nasrin represents that part of English society who is British by nationality but not ethnicity. But it was people like her that gave much to British cooking. Although quite a few would definitely disagree with THAT statement.
Finishing our cuppa (only £1.50 but no scones), I got a taste of what was to come when Nasrin brought me to my B&B. It was run by a cousin of hers. Clean and comfortable it was, but what bowled me over was that oh so warm and hospitable caring approach, so typical of her homeland. It felt like we had been friends for donkey’s years. Leaving me to settle in, she said she’d pick me up around 8 pm and we’d go and eat some chicken.
That evening, I left England. But I didn’t leave the country. Nasrin and her cousin, (the one from the B&B) transported me to a totally different world. English was barely spoken. Instead, I heard a whole host of other languages and dialects. A lot of the signs were in Arabic and strange-looking writing. It was bright, loud and incredibly intense. The smell of delicious exotic foods and all those delicious ingredients waged a ferocious battle for my attention. It was absolutely brilliant and I felt so alive!
Nasrin and Ahmed took me to Manchester’s Curry Mile. It is, quite literally, only a few streets with door to door, wall to wall restaurants from the Middle East to the Indian Sub-Continent. I don’t think any country was missing. Food unites people and while the atmosphere was strange and excitingly different, everybody mixed and mingled, seemingly without any problems. OK, so there were men displaying their testosterone levels driving their big and expensive cars slowly down the road. Music from all corners of the region was blaring out of the cars and restaurants. People sat, engrossed in earnest, happy, interesting conversations, some smoking shisha pipes. I mean, I might as well have been 10,000 kilometres from England.
Nasrin and Ahmed steered me to a rather unassuming eatery (there are some pretty garish places in the Curry Mile). It turned out that Ahmed had a friend (surprise surprise!) whose chicken was to die for, plus all the other things he was serving. And mercifully, no alcohol.
I was encouraged, putting it mildly, to try the English national dish, Chicken Tikka Masala. “Hang on”, the astute readers amongst you will say, “didn’t you say that was Fish and Chips?” Well yes, but this is the OTHER national dish the English have.
It’s not really clear where the recipe comes from. There are so many variations of this story, that for all I know, it could have been Ahmed’s friend here in Curry Mile. The one that sticks the most seems to be that of an Indian Chef in Glasgow, yes, you heard right, who created it back in the 1970s. Who cares! When my chicken arrived, it was, wow, delicious. Succulent pieces of chicken, a creamy, tangy curry sauce with just enough bite to make my mouth tingle…it was really good.
We had settled down at a simple Formica table. This was a place that did without all the fancy trimmings. The food is good, the rest is unimportant. Good food, good company, not more, but certainly not less. We got into a great conversation about their lives in England, the differences, traditions and trying to combine the best out of all the cultures. But you know what I loved the most? It was listening to their pronunciation. Food, culture and lovely, lovely people. I was in heaven.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Nasrin and Ahmed. I had a wonderful time and I am sure we will meet again soon. It’s a promise!
I suppose the problem with such a recipe is that there are so many takes on it. Google Chicken Tikka Masala and you’ll see what I mean. I’ll leave you with a video – because the English sounds so nice.
Now! At the beginning of today’s column, I mentioned I had a surprise. Yes. I bought a car. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse, and so I didn’t. I am now the proud owner of a 2CV. And guess what colour it is? It’s PINK!!
And I am planning a new trip. It will involve eating more interesting dishes, drinking the wines and driving from place to place in my delightful mode of transport. I just need a name for my pink car now. Any ideas?
So, I will see you in a couple of weeks. Oh, did I say where I was going? Sorry! See you in Burgundy.
Members of “Our Brida” can download the French & German translation sheet. Go to the “All Courses Section” and select Phrases & Words.