Whilst pregnant with #2, I abused the rights of pregnant women and decided to feign cravings for curry and thus gorged myself on Pav (pronounced 'pow') Bhaji for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every day. As they were the cheapest curries in the whole world, being made purely from potato, tomato, peas, chilli and onion, (some put cauliflower into it, but that is revolting and we won't go there...) it saved the ex a fortune on food bills, so his only complaint was having to drop into the 'pow barjee caff' each night on his way home from work. Unfortunately, what I saved on food, I lost on Gaviscon, as those curries certainly made their presence felt in the early hours of the mornings...
My very first curry was in the 80s when a group of us staggered from a seedy nightclub in St Helens, called Sindy's, decided we were hungry, and couldn't find a Donner Kebab van anywhere (which is a blessing in disguise when you consider that gunge aside →, from which they SHAVE meat into a warm pitta bread. It's reputedly lamb. I don't think it has ever baaa'ed in its life. Squeaked, maybe. Possibly even gnawed a few electric wires in someone's attic. But never baaa'ed).
So, into Tarik's we went. Being a nube, yet not wanting to appear a gurlie-wuss, as I was out with a group of rufty-tufty blokes who had been strutting their stuff on the dance floor to Mel & Kim and Wham!, I went for the chicken korma. A curry, but a mild one with coconut and mango. Sounded good. Unfortunately, my virgin tastebuds had never managed anything hotter than a Spicy Beanburger from Wimpy. The sweat oozed from every pore, I panted like an ageing incontinent Labrador, swigged back a few gallons of water and used every napkin on the table to mop up my tears. What a Girl!
Yet, there was something about those exotic spices which addicted me. And I persevered and toughened up. Every week, I would attempt a curry after Sindy's, and when the sweating and tears started to abate, I moved up a spice notch and tried the next one.
So, by the time I hit Oman, I was a Vindaloo Virtuoso and thus the whole menu had opened up to me and by gum, I hit the ground running...no wonder I ballooned at one point, what with all that ghee and coconut milk!
One summer, when most of the expat wives had fled the scorching heat of Muscat for the cool, wet climes of the UK, I was asked to write a "Challenge the Chef" article for Living in the Gulf magazine in Dubai. So, it was time to collar the bachelors. Those poor saps whose wives had abandoned them, who were living on shish kebabs, samosas and schwarmas, and teach them how to cook. So, what was the best thing to teach them? Yup, how to make a curry. I visited the restaurant, Passage to India, collared the manager, explained that it would be excellent publicity for them, being a brand new restaurant, blagged a free meal for four out of him for that night, and set the date up with their chef, Sanjay. And so, The Curry Munchers' Club was borne from that night.
Dave (the bachelor hosting the challenge) and I went to the shop with Sanjay and gave him carte blanche on what to buy with 20 rials (our budget to feed four starving bachelors, me and the photographer, Richard). All manner of odd-looking vegetables went into our basket which I couldn't name now if you paid me as well as chicken, fish and loads and loads of firey chilli peppers. We sped back to his house where the other three bachelors, which included my ex, who had whinged at me so hard about being left out that he had to come, were well stuck in to their Millers. Richard and I set the shots up, dragged the lads away from the footie on Dave's 42" telly and got them to work. To be honest with you, the lads were so drunk by this stage, they couldn't have opened a packet of crisps, let alone made a Korma, and so Sanjay and I did most of the work.
The food was utterly fantastic, the atmosphere was buzzing and we were all having a whale of a time. Until Dave got his 3-litre bottle of Famous Grouse whiskey out (1 litre left) and started pouring out the drinks. This was around 1am and Sanjay was long tucked up in his bed. I demurred and asked for a Miller Lite instead. But Dave set up a chant of obnoxious insults, to which the others joined in and suddenly my hi-ball was a third full of Famous Grouse. Then it was a case of "Down in One or Show us Yer Bum!". And, always one to accept my own challenges, I acquiesced...time, and again...
It's not a good idea to eat firey curries, drink a load of lager and then toss back treble whiskies as though they are Dandelion and Burdock. It's also not a good idea to be the only woman in a group of hardened drinkers who have taken you to their bosoms and decided to make you an honorary bloke for the night.
I wasn't very well the next day. I had an article to write up, photographs to develop, two children to care for and another interview to set up. I just went back to bed and died a thousand deaths.
At 3pm, Dave called me to see how I was. I simply groaned. He sounded lighter than air; all fresh and fun. Reckoned the spices had given him a few grumbles in the night, but had really enjoyed himself, thanks very much and all that. I gently put the receiver back on its hook and covered my throbbing head with the duvet.
There is a saying in the UK that the only way to kill a Vindaloo is with a lager. Take heed of that, fellow curry munchers. Because the only way to kill yourself is with a Vindaloo and many treble whiskies.
The curry I partook of last night (as we have finally found a superb curry house in Northwich) was accompanied by Adam's Ale. Aqua Vita. Water.
Hence why I am awake at 6.30am, writing this drivel, and feeling tickety-boo.
Learn from my research. That's why I do it. For you...