Introducing Pestle, handmade small-batch curry pastes | The Ethical Butcher

Introducing Pestle, handmade small-batch curry pastes | The Ethical Butcher

It is difficult to think about the culinary history of Britain without considering its ties to India, which go as far back as the Bronze Age when the Silk Road and later direct sea routes were used to transport spices and plants. Over hundreds of years, a culinary love story developed and dishes like coronation chicken, kedgeree, chicken tikka masala and mulligatawny became part of the national identity.

The love for ‘curry’ weaves through many generations and Indian cuisine has firmly made it into the hearts and on to the plates of Britain. Over time, flavours have been adjusted to suit the British palate, making dishes creamier, thicker, and sweeter. Menus are often long, and in order to to create options for all preferences, dishes are categorised by heat level – a concept unknown in India.  

Now tastes are changing, and people are looking to connect with other cultures and communities in a more authentic and meaningful way. Our Behind the British Curry range with Pestle shares stories of the ancestral heritage of well-known curries, introducing you to the exciting and flavoursome truths of this wonderful cuisine.

Pestle is the lovechild of chef and world traveller Neha Hampton, who developed the British Curry selection concept for The Ethical Butcher. We're very proud to launch her exceptional ready-to-cook pastes.

The range consists of three pastes to make at home with our meats, and we've chosen three British classics: Korma, Vindaloo and Tikka. Each represents a tie between India and the UK: the Vindaloo has its origins in trade routes, the Korma in colonisation (it was adapted to suit British tastes in India), and the Tikka was invented in the UK but thought of as being Indian, showing how we borrow from other cultures.

The pastes are amazingly easy to use, making them a real treat for a weekday supper.

 

Tikka 

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There are a number of theories surrounding the origins of tikka masala. The most widely believed is that it was created in Scotland in the 1970s by a Bangladeshi chef, who added a creamy tomato sauce to spiced marinated chicken after a customer complained the dish was too dry. Whatever its history, this distinct fusion of British and Indian tastes makes it the UK's most popular curry dish.

 

The origins of tikka date back 5,000 years to the Mughal Dynasty. This popular tandoori meat was later adapted to become murgh makhani by Kundan Lal in Delhi, Northern India, and it still bears an uncanny resemble to the nation's favourite curry.

 

The paste is blended with warming spices such as cardamon, fennel, mace and cinnamon, with caramelised onions, garlic and ginger added to create an indulgent curry that will be a hit with all the family. 

 

Recipe

This easy recipe takes just three steps, yet moves you leaps along your culinary journey.

 

You’ll need:

500g diced chicken

400ml passata

50ml cream (dairy or non dairy)

30g butter (optional)

 

Cooking instructions: 

  1. Brown chicken in a dry pan for a few minutes 
  2. Add paste and passata, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook on a medium heat for 30-40 mins 
  3. Remove from heat and gently stir in cream and butter (optional) 

 

Useful tips: Stir frequently and add water if sauce thickens too quickly. Allow to cool for a few minutes before adding cream and butter to avoid splitting. 

 

Alternative uses: This paste also makes an incredible marinade for BBQs or slow roasts – simply mix with 1 tbsp yogurt and 1 tsp tomato puree, and marinate for 4-24 hours before cooking.

 

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Korma

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The famous ‘Brindian’ Korma is safe for even the novice to try – a perfect marketing tactic for restaurants to create a range suiting all heat palates. This sweet, creamy curry – made with coconut milk or cream – is a firm favourite, but the British version couldn’t be further from its origins. 

 

Korma is an adaptation of the Urdu name Qorma, meaning ‘to braise’. The dish originates from Moghul rulers and can be traced back to a 16th-century banquet dish. This curry is rich, can be served alongside various meats or vegetables, and would usually be medium heat – but can vary. Said to have been served at the inauguration of the Taj Mahal by Shah Jahan, this dish now has many variations and styles across the subcontinent. 

 

This paste is made of warming spices such as mace, cinnamon, coriander and cumin combined with yogurt for a luxurious celebratory dish. 

 

Recipe: 

This easy recipe takes just three steps, yet moves you leaps along your culinary journey.

 

You’ll need:

500g diced lamb

250ml water

1 heaped tbsp yogurt (dairy or non dairy)

 

Cooking instructions: 

  1. Add paste and water to pan and bring to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes before adding lamb
  2. Loosely cover and cook for 60 minutes until tender 
  3. Remove from heat, then gently stir through yogurt

 

Useful tips: Stir frequently and add water if sauce thickens too quickly. Remove lid for last 10 minutes of cooking time. Allow to cool for a few minutes before adding yogurt to avoid splitting.

 

Alternative uses: This paste makes an incredible marinade for kebabs or slow roasted lamb – simply mix paste with 1 tbsp yogurt and marinade for 4-24 hours before cooking.

 

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Vindaloo 

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‘The hottest curry on the menu’ – this British adaptation is a fiery, tomato-based curry, often with fresh and dried chillies and definitely not one for the faint-hearted.

 

In India, the dish traces back to Portuguese explorers in the 15th century who introduced ‘carne vinha d'alhos’, traditionally meat cooked in wine vinegar and garlic. The dish was adapted to local conditions; with no vinegar, they used palm wine and added local ingredients like tamarind, black pepper, cinnamon and cardamom. Chillies arrived with Vasco De Gama in 1498, eventually replacing or complimenting black pepper as a source of heat in Goan cuisine. 

 

This Goan version is hot, but the flavours of dried aromatic spices, such as roasted black cardamon, kashmiri chillies and pepper with tangy vinegar and tamarind create a delightful, fiery and aromatic curry.

 

Recipe

This easy recipe takes just three steps, yet moves you leaps along your culinary journey.

 

You’ll need:

500g diced pork or beef

250ml water

 

Cooking instructions: 

  1. Add paste and water to pan and bring to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes before adding meat
  2. Loosely cover and cook for 60 minutes until tender 
  3. Remove cover and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes to thicken sauce

 

Useful tips: Brown meat before adding to curry. Stir frequently and add water if sauce thickens too quickly.


Alternative uses: Use paste as a marinade for meat or paneer. Marinate for no more than 2 hours, as vinegar can toughen meat.