Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The World Curry Festival - Leeds

Just a short post about The World Curry Festival that took place in Leeds last weekend...

Apologies for the photo quality, I was in such a hurry to get there I didn't pick up my camera. I did have my trusty iPhone with me which I think held up quite well on this occasion.

I'm sure most of you reading will already know something about the World Curry Festival or have at least heard of it (or seen it). This year was the second Word Curry Festival to be held in Leeds. Last year's was such a success they decided to do it all over again this year (Yipee).

There are many different layers to festival, including stalls from local sellers and your more high street sellers such as 'Pataks', to your local restaurants serving fresh food, and a main demonstration stage where several famous and non-famous cooks staged their own unique presentations.

I planned ahead and booked tickets... only to be told that tickets didn't guarantee entry... and when we got there we didn't see anybody asking people if they had prebooked... not entirely sure what the point was?

Morrisons was one of the big sponsors and had their own stages for their very own presentations between the main ones. They had laid out a few displays of fruit and vegetables typically used in Eastern recipes.

I really do hope you can get all the produce they had on show in Morrisons as I know my local Tesco definitely doesn't stock half of this. If I ever need lemongrass that doesn't come powdered in a plastic tub I have to source my ingredients from Leeds Market.

There were several restaurant stalls, with promoters out and about milling in the crowds trying to entice you to their stalls with suave conversation or freebies. One of the most popular stalls was a Bradford based restaurant who were offering £5 all you can eat buffet.

One example of the local sellers stalls was this one below which is a wholesaler who sell speciality equipment, the things you would normally find in your local Indian restaurant that you would struggle to find in Argos....

Unfortunately I lost the leaflet they gave me. I was surprised to find that most of their wares were reasonably priced and not overly expensive due to not being available mainstream.

I stumbled in to the main demonstration area at exactly the right moment and managed to catch a presentation by 'The Grand Master' Hemant Oberoi. With great seats as well although I have a feeling sat so close to the front I was caught on camera a few times... there was a lot of 'press' in the tent.

Hemant Oberoi is the Grand Executive Chef of the Taj Mahal Palace and Towers. He has made his way right from the botttom to the very top. He heads a number of hotel restaurants and has fed many famous mouths. He has suffered heartbreak and sorrow during the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks when 7 of his own chefs sadly lost their lives. You could feel the pain in his voice as he told us about this. However he is in general a very cheery, heart-warming and wise man (and also clearly very clever and a great chef!).

He was very laid back throughout the demonstration and didn't lose his temper once with the interviewers senseless and dumbing questions. He gave not only advice for food but advise for life. A couple of his phrases will stick with me for life.

"You can't make curry in a hurry, making short cuts in cooking is making short cuts in life and why would you want to cut your life short?"

"We in Indian only count calories after we have eaten" whilst laughing and shaking his head when the interviewer asked him if you could you use reduced fat cream.

He also told us about Garam Masala and that everyone will taste different largely depending upon how you roast it and how long for, a lot of people these days take short cuts and the taste isn't nearly as complex. I wish I knew where I could get Garam Masala that has been made with love and care.

At the end of the demonstration everyone had the chance to queue for a picture of the finished meal and also have a bite-sized sample. We were lucky to be sat on the second row and so were one of the first to get a picture and a sample. It was a little bit crazy everyone trying to get a taste of a master chefs creation. The sample was small but mighty. The flavours were like nothing I have ever tasted before and yet he used all the same ingredients I use at home. It was spicy but not overly so, there were so many flavours coming through even after I had swallowed I would have no problem in finishing a full plate of this.

(That basket-like thing is made from potato)

I have since learnt after watching this demonstration by the Hemant Oberoi how truly wonderful he is. During the Mumbai terrorist attacks Hemant continued to serve the hotel guests amid bullets and grenades trying to keep calm in a very terrifying situation. Hemant also managed to save some guests by ordering everyone to close all windows and doors and turn off the lights which meant the terrorists passed by these restaurants. A truly astonishing man.

After the demonstration you were able to buy his book for a reduced price of £20 and he would personally sign it for you too. I really regret not doing this especially when I found out how much it was on Amazon.