Curry Confessional: The Tramp's Forbidden Love

Forgive me, curry brothers and sisters, for I have sinned. The guilt has been building for some time now and the recipe included in my recent Jukebox Puri was the final straw – I have to confess for the sake of my own sanity. For while I mocked Moe Koffman's Curried Soul recipe as "quite a bizarre one" I was actually subconsciously deflecting attention from the fact that it bears an uncanny resemblance to one of my darkest guilty pleasures. A dish that would haunt the psyche of any self-respecting Curry Lover of The Year ... yes, yes, I CONFESS! I'm partial to the old-fashioned, warped version of our favourite foodstuff – that bastardisation often referred to as ... the English Curry.

It feels good to finally have admitted the truth.

Where did this love of the English curry come from? I was brought up in a household where the Shish Mahal was revered and a home-cooked curry was the real deal – probably something of rarity in early 1980s Scotland. The Commander (my Paw) often proudly served up authentic dishes, complete with homemade chapattis which my brother and I eagerly helped cook.

However, going for dinner at friends houses often saw the serving up of something very different: an English curry (which I think probably appeared in an early Delia Smith book). Instead of being weirded out by the strange sauce and copious amounts of fruit I like to think that I embraced the dish without ever really linking it to the proper Indian stuff. Of course, any curry ordered during a pub lunch or at a roadside eatery back in those days resulted in the same thing, maybe served with sides of dessicated coconut, some sliced bananas and the obligatory pot of plain yogurt. But as proper Indian curryhouses began to dominate, the English curry fell out of favour and by the 1990s had all but disappeared from menus across the land. I, however, secretly kept the dish alive for my own guilty consumption ...

When Maw and Paw packed me off to University in the big city they tucked a copy of The Glasgow Cookery Book into my bags in the hope that I wouldn't starve whilst out there fending for myself (fat chance o' that!) Originally published in 1910 as the textbook for The Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science, this classic cookbook features all the basics you could possible need to get started – even how to make a cup of tea and piece of toast.

My copy was the updated 1975 edition (the first in metric, no less) and hidden away within the sauces section is the recipe on which I've based my own version of the English curry. Founding Saffrongette Evo (currently on a world tour which has so far taken in India, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam, so she knows a thing or two about spicy food) particularly encouraged the development of this recipe as a way to deal with leftovers. As part of the cathartic process of getting this confession out there, my shrink – Dr Trampy – has encouraged me to share it with you now. 

First of all I'd like to point out that this is not something that I make very often, but I've come to see it as one of my favourite ways to deal with leftover roast chicken. It seems to work magically with the stringy scraps and torn-up chunks of meat salvaged from the remains of last night's dinner. Fresh chicken thighs, on or off the bone, work well here too. And you certainly could use fresh breast but it seems like a bit of a waste to me. This should really be a thrifty treat, not a signature dish. So here we go, my take on the English Curry:

The Tramp's English Curry (serves 4)


1 onion (chopped)
1 apple (peeled and chopped – I usually use a Braeburn)
3 heaped tsp good curry powder
2 heaped tsp curry paste (I use Pataks Madras paste)
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
1/2 litre bouillon or vegetable stock
75-100g creamed coconut
Leftover scraps of a roast chicken or enough thighs/breast pieces as required
Handful of sultanas


1. Heat up some oil or butter and soften the onions and chopped apple in a pan. While this is happening make up your stock and dissolve the creamed coconut in it, then put aside for later.
2. Once the onions and apple have softened and are starting to turn golden add the curry powder and curry paste and mix through thoroughly. Turn down the heat and cook out for about five minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and burning (the mixture is very dry at this stage).
3. Add the flour to the pan and stir through thoroughly then begin adding the coconut/stock mixture gradually, stirring while doing so. This basically comes together like some sort of curry roux and you'll now have your basic English Curry sauce.
4. Add the scraps of chicken (with any juices and jelly that are left in the roasting tin) and mix through along with the sultanas and continue cooking for another 10 minutes at a low heat. If adding chicken thighs or breast to the dish then put in now and heat through in the sauce until cooked.
5. Serve with rice and whatever crazy side dishes you like – I usually don't bother but old-school classics would be chopped banana, chopped pineapple, dessicated coconut and plain yogurt.
Note: Evo's own take on the recipe also adds peas into the mix, which works really well. Add some frozen peas when you add the chicken and sultanas to try this awesome variation.

So there you go. My conscience can rest easy again with my terrible secret finally out there. I won't apologise though, I'll stand by this dish as a tasty, guilty pleasure. Mmmmm.

Do you have a curry confession to make? If so we'd love to hear it, although we're not interested in lavatorial tales. Get in touch by emailing



Lord of the Dansak said...

There certainly was a Delia recipe very much like this, for it was the curry on which I was raised. I don't think I tasted an authentic (well, British curryhouse) curry until I left rural Scotland and went to university.

I haven't had one of these in years, and now I've been reminded of them I feel a surprising nostalgia. I may have to give the Tramp's recipe a try...