n I never use tinned tomatoes in a curry. Fresh are much better.
This year she clocked up 30 years in the curry business, but she’s been cooking up fine Indian cuisine for a lot longer than that.
Nirmal Gupta started learning how to marinate and create her spice blends at the tender age of 10 back home in Delhi and loved it.
And what she would like to see, as Britain marks National Curry Week, a celebration of what is now one of our favourite foods, is not only more people through the door of Nirmal’s, her restaurant on Glossop Road, but more people learning how to do a DIY dopiaza and a self-made samosa or two...
“In 30 years I’ve seen Sheffield’s love of curry grow – and I’ve also seen people learning so much more about good food and wanting to learn how to cook it themselves,” she says.
“I think that is fabulous. They are doing what I did at the age of 10.”
Curry is one of the easiest things to cook; there is no set rule on what the exact flavour of a dish should be, she says. “You can adjust it to suit your tastes and add new things that take your fancy. East can meet West,” she says. “My kids love parsnips, so I tried currying them. They are the best selling vegetable dish on our menu now.”
The most important thing you need is patience, she says. You can’t hurry a curry.
“You need to slow-cook it at a low temperature, either in the oven or on the hob,” explains the woman who arrived in an almost curry-less Sheffield in 1969 with her husband, who was doing a PhD in environmental studies at Sheffield University.
Nirmal opened a little deli in Crookes and began giving cookery lessons there. They were so popular, she set her heart on a restaurant.
“There were very few at the time - but then, I don’t think there are that many now. There are more Asian takeaways than restaurants.”
The fact that carry-outs are tickling our taste is no bad thing. Although she advocates slow-food, she recognises the fact that most people are in a hurry.
For that reason, she says home cooks shouldn’t beat themselves up about not grinding spices and making curry pastes from scratch.
“Indian food requires a lot of preparation. All the chopping, the grinding, the marinating... it can put people off. It’s OK to buy your spices ready-made.”
Nirmal’s is staging a night in aid of Cancer Research on November 29 with a £25 gourmet buffet. And a National Curry Week discount of 15 per cent on starters and mains runs tonight, tomorrow and Sunday.
Nirmal’s hot tips
I never use tinned tomatoes in a curry. Fresh are much better.
Fresh ginger is essential to flavour - and it’s good for the digestion
Use vegetable ghee not the dairy version - it is much healthier.