Story by Jane Hall
An award-winning North East restaurant has invented a unique new curry that is helping in the fight to save the lives of seriously ill children. The Newcastle Curry is the brainchild of chefs at upmarket Raval Indian restaurant in Gateshead. Made using lamb, potatoes, carrots and asparagus, it is far removed from traditional British curry house fare with their viscous, brightly coloured sauces and rice. Now Avi Malik of Raval hopes Tynesiders will develop a taste for the modern-day curry – and help support the work of the Newcastle-based Bubble Foundation UK.
The dish which Avi describes as a “meeting of east and west” and brings together culinary influences from across India, has already raised thousands of pounds for the charity after going on the menu at other top North East restaurants between June 6-12 as part of a unique week long food festival organised by Raval. Called “Curry for a Cause”, food lovers were invited to eat their way around India at a series of banquets held at Raval, as well as try the Newcastle Curry at participating restaurants. In an unprecedented act of generosity, 15 of Tyneside and Northumberland’s top eateries and delicatessens specialising in a range of cuisines, agreed to champion the curry – with all profits going to the Bubble Foundation UK, which saves the lives of babies and children born with no immune system.
Newcastle City Council also agreed to serve a canteen version to its staff working at the Civic Centre -reaching an extra 1,000 diners’ over the week. The Newcastle Curry is the polar opposite of Britain’s number one Indian meal, Chicken Tikka Masala. Collated using prime Northumberland lamb strip loin, Carroll’s Heritage potatoes from Coldstream, carrot battens and asparagus, it is presented in a European style. The curry element comes from the lamb marinade and rich, spicy sauce. The carrots are sautéed with mustard seed, while the potatoes have been turned into a gratin using double cream and freshly prepared garam masala made using 12 different spices. The result is a 21st century fusion curry that stands up for the best local produce the North East has to offer – and can proudly take its place on any top restaurant menu.
Avi and his team of chefs were inspired to create the recipe after discovering the North East could lay claim to being the spiritual home of the Great British Curry. Northumberland woman Hannah Glasse is credited with kicking-off the nation’s love affair with the culinary medium after her recipe book, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, took the Georgian world by storm. Hailed as the Domestic Goddess of her day, Hannah’s Currey [sic] the Indian Way using readily available game and more akin to an aromatic stew than today’s complicated offerings, proved an instant hit when it was published in 1747.
Last autumn Raval revived the dish using rabbit and offered it for a limited period on its own menu. It proved so popular Avi decided to create a modern day classic in the spirit of Hannah Glasse. Avi says of Raval’s creation: “It is an absolutely amazing dish and one we hope will blaze a trail for the North East and raise many, many thousands of pounds for the Bubble Foundation. “It is a curry, but not as most people would know it. There is no gloopy sauce, no lurid colours and no starchy rice. It is a modern day North East interpretation using the best local ingredients and presented in a European context. “It unites India in one dish with its flavours – curry leaves from south India, garam masala from north India, mustard seeds from Bengal – but it also brings North East elements into it as well.
Epicureans were able to try it for the first time on June 5, when Raval’s Curry for a Cause week in aid of the Bubble Foundation UK, launched in Newcastle’s Northumberland Street with Indian music and dance and food tastings. At the same time it went on sale in Fenwick department store’s Food Hall in Newcastle for shoppers to take home and try, before going on the menu at restaurants from June 6.
The Newcastle Curry proved such a hit that many of the participating restaurants are continuing to offer the dish – and pledged to carry on their support of the Bubble.
Avi says: “I am immensely grateful that so many restaurateurs agreed to put the curry on their own menu to help support the vital life saving work being done by the Bubble Foundation UK. “What could be an easier and more enjoyable way of raising money and helping in the fight to save children’s lives than being among the first to try the Newcastle Curry.”
The Bubble Foundation UK is based at Newcastle General Hospital’s Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. Chronically ill babies and children from across the UK and the Republic of Ireland are successfully treated there. Often referred to as ‘Bubble Babies’ because they have to live in sterile conditions, these children are unable to fight off infection, meaning even the simplest common cold virus passed on by a parents’ kiss, could kill them. The only cure is a full bone marrow transplant. Thanks to the dedication of staff at the unit – one of only two in the UK – survival rates have risen from 50% to nearly 90% in the last five years alone. But more money is needed to continue the unit’s pioneering paediatric work.
It was following a visit to the ward that Avi decided to launch a fund raising week and roll out the Newcastle Curry to other restaurants and the wider public. Curry for a Cause raised money by encouraging food connoisseurs to eat their way around India at four banquets – Goan, Punjabi, Bengali and a VIP event. At the latter guests, including Bubble Foundation President, Denise Robertson, were invited to dine like a president, as Raval recreated and added its own innovative touch to the menu first served by Barack Obama to Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on his state visit to Washington last November.
About the author: Jane Hall works for Smart Cookie Media
For more information on the Bubble Foundation
For more information on Raval restaurant