Some Pilau Talk With ... Tom Shields!

Everyone in the TATTGOC brotherhood loves curry – we even have an award that says so! But surely we could still learn a thing or two from other prominent curry lovers? And maybe even go round to their house for tea? In a special summer series we're calling Pilau Talk: The Legends, Trampy and The Tramp will be asking well-kent faces to recommend some of their favourite curry haunts and recall some of their most memorable spicy experiences. First up is Tom Shields, long-serving Herald diarist and columnist, celebrated bon vivant and, more recently, garlanded author of Fifty Ways To Leave Your Liver, a lush, intoxicating account of journalistic life in 1970s and 1980s Glasgow. Over to Tom ...

What are some of your favourite curryhouses, past or present?
These days it is usually one of the places in which Monir Mohammed is involved: Mother India, Mother India's Café, or one of the Wee Curry shops. My connection and friendship with Monir goes back 20 years to when he served fabulous food at small prices in what looked like a second-hand furniture shop but was actually Mother India in Argyle Street.

Also, any of Balbir Singh Sumal’s establishments. Balbir changed the face of sub-continental cooking when he ran the Ashoka in Elderslie Street back in the 1980s.

And your favourite curry takeaway?
Cabbage Fogath from Banana Leaf. With a lamb biryani and roti on the side

What’s your all-time favourite curry dish, the one to which you always return?
The full bhoona. Lamb.

And if you had to choose just one accompaniment, would it be rice or naan?
Neither. A thick rustic roti just like my granny would have made if she hadn’t been Scottish and cooked ham ribs and cabbage all the time.

Could we trouble you for an anecdote – a beloved curry-related memory?
How Johnny Taylor, doyen of Glasgow artists, invented the takeaway back in the 1960s in the Green Gate. Unable to consume the meal he had ordered due to over-consumption of packets of crisps in the pub beforehand, he asked if he could take his food home. The lamb curry went into an empty pineapple chunks tin, the rice and chapatis into paper bags.

My own favourite memory was going to the Shenaz in the early 1970s and eating an exotic dish they called Indescribables. Now known as pakora.

Where’s the most exotic place you've had a curry?
Mumbai; none of the meals as good as you get in Glasgow.
Paris, restaurant near La Bastille; chef should have been locked up it was so bad.
Barcelona; the chef was from Oldham.
Kuala Lumpur; breakfast or supper is a dish called roti canai. A big daud of flatbread like a chapati but lighter in texture. It comes on a tray (not unlike the TV dinner of yesteryear) with various dips and gravies, daal, coconut chutney and random chicken and fish curries.

Most exotic was as a teenager on a beach near Seamill in Ayrshire. The dish was made from a tin of corned beef, curry powder and raisins with Branston pickle and boil-in-the-bag rice. My repertoire has moved on a bit since then.

Can you actually make a decent curry yourself at home?
Yes, with the help of my friend Monir. He comes around occasionally to give me a cookery lesson. First, he condemns my out-of-date herbs and spices. But, really, I am too fond of curries to eat my own cooking when there is so much great stuff out there.

Can the TATTGOC brotherhood come round for our tea?
Of course. I’ll be dining out but help yourself to anything in the tin cupboard.

If you could enjoy a curry dinner-for-two with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
Mahatma Gandhi. Because of his wisdom and inspirational teaching. Not because I would get to eat most of the food.

And finally, as a celebrated diarist, have you ever considered keeping a curry journal, the better to keep track of dishes past?
I usually keep a record of my curries down the front of my T-shirt.

Cheers Tom! Who'll be next in the Pilau Talk: The Legends hotseat? Tune in next Thursday to find out ...


Will said...

That did peak my interest - makes me want to order a Lamb full Bhoona immediately (+ rustic roti). Maybe tonight I will seek it out! I look forward to more legends (and eating curry when I am next in Glasgee).....

Will said...

I did indeed seek and find a lamb bhoona last night - good recommendation - can see why its a classic dish and not sure if I ever had one before - thank you all!

Trampy said...

It's easy to overlook the classics ... but they are classics for a reason. Glad you enjoyed your lamb bhoona Will, and we'll have to get you out for a curry next time you're in the Weedge.

The Tramp said...

It is a classic Will. I hadn't had it in years but at The Commanders birthday dinner we included a Chicken Bhoona from the Shish - what a dish. Must remember to order it more often.