Britain’s love of Indian food
The former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook once famously said: ‘Chicken tikka masala is now a true British national dish...chicken tikka is an Indian dish. The masala sauce was added to satisfy the desire of British people to have their meat served in gravy.’ That may or may not be the case, but as Britain’s love of Indian food really took hold in the 80s and 90s, the growth of convenience foods went hand-in-hand with it. The more people ate out, watched the likes of Madhur Jaffrey on TV, bought recipe books and travelled more to the subcontinent, the more they wanted to replicate that exotic, spiced-up and flavoursome taste at home.
Quick and easy
‘What convenience foods and especially cooking sauces did,’ says renowned Indian cookery writer and food consultant Mridula Baljekar, ‘was not only to remove the hassle of preparation and skill, which is required, but also to do away with the time that goes into the cooking. You prepare the meat and vegetables, pour in the sauce and you have a quick and easy meal in minutes.’
Iconic curry sauce brands
Brands like Patak’s started out by offering flavours that were the standard Indian staples: tikka masala, bhuna, korma, Madras, rogan josh and so on. Though these flavours remain popular, in time they have become more sophisticated to cater for the more adventurous palate. What’s more, as well as easy-to-use ‘open and pour’ sauces, Patak’s also pioneered the development of pastes, in which combinations of spices, flavourings and aromatics are preserved in oil – their flavours are released when cooked.
More authentic flavours
‘On the one hand these manufacturers have tried to give the public what they want,’ adds Baljekar, ‘on the other, and this applies particularly to Patak’s, they have given good and more authentic flavours matched by very attractive packaging.’
This is such a dynamic market. In addition to the established manufacturers such asPatak’s and others, and every supermarket’s own label variants, there are now a whole spate of brands producing sauces: Bombay Authentics, Anila’s, Bombay Halwa, and Simtom as well as chefs and TV food personalities such as Loyd Grossman, Ainsley Harriott, Anjum Anand, and Cyrus Todiwala. ‘It just goes to show,’ says Baljekar, ‘that convenience foods are here to stay.’