Shopping: Taking pot luck on a bought-in curry

Do the new range of sauces tickle the taste-buds?

Take five foodie men, three hungry women and a kitchen in Clapham. Mix well, dilute with lager and add curry sauces one by one. Leave to simmer and remember to stir occasionally. When a colourful press release landed on my desk a few weeks ago describing The Curry Sauce Company, and its range of fresh and natural gourmet curry sauces, there was nothing for it but to call some in and invite round a group of curryholics to give it a serious testing against the competition.

From Booker prize-winning The God of Small Things to Fat Les and "Vindaloo", things Indian - and in particular curry - have never been more fashionable. Despite its very anglican origins, tikka masala is still apparently the most popular British curry dish, so this seemed the natural flavour to put to the test.

The tasting started off well. "That's fantastic" was Matthew's comment when the Curry Sauce Company's finest tikka masala hit his tastebuds, hastily followed by "no, it is good, really". Pascal thought it vinegary and Simon wondered whether the vinegar was concealing something. El liked the blend of spices and thought it had a good, natural texture, but less well received was the Marks and Spencer's sauce which was deemed by all as not particularly tempting. The sauce was perfectly pleasant but went down more like a strolling, spicy gravy than a fox-trotting, sharp sauce. Joe even asked whether it was curry.

Patak's tikka masala came in for a similar bashing from Joe, who compared it to baby-food. After several beers, Matthew was describing curries in terms of textiles, and this one was sadly a definite brown corduroy. Charlotte and Pascal agreed that it was bland and just tasted of masses of chilli powder, but Simon was the most scathing. "If I was served this in an Indian restaurant, I would send it back," he spluttered.

More popular was Tesco's fresh tikka masala. The consistency, although creamy (Pascal described it as "Italian Bombay"), had big chunks of onion in it that gave it a home-made feel, and the spices were more subtle than the rest of the competition so far. The "healthy eating" sauce was not a winner. It was variously described as sweet and sour (Matthew), hot- dog topping (Simon) and a dollop of artificial thickening (Pascal). Richard, who had been busy cooking his own curry, felt it was getting hard to tell the sauces apart, and suggested we should cleanse our tastebuds with something. Luckily Simon was on hand to pass him a cold beer.

On to the Tilda and Madhur Jaffrey sauce and, according to Simon, this is exactly the kind of thing he would bring home if he fancied an Indian meal. Charlotte described it as being a lot more balanced and back to the more appealing shade of the Curry Sauce Company's blend - some of the others had been a bit ketchupy.

Finally, for good measure, a Homepride curry (rather than tikka masala) cook-in-sauce was proffered to the testing table to see whether the comments were all just hot air. The judgement? It looked like toffee, was the wrong colour for tikka masala, tasted like school curry and, as Richard quipped, "the only place this belongs is on top of chips".

The truth is, a bought-in tikka masala will never taste as good as it will in an Indian restaurant, but, if you do want to have a go at home - and Richard's home-made "control" sauce on Wednesday evening was far more popular than any of the tested sauces - take yourself off to Leicester on 20-22 November for a Taste of Asia weekend (0116 254 7400 for details), and learn how it's done.

The Sauces

Tikka masala, pounds 23.10 for six pots, The Curry Sauce Company (01428 685440)

St Michael tikka masala, pounds 1.39, Marks and Spencer (0171 935 4422 for stockists)

Patak's tikka masala, 89p, Tesco (0800 505555)

Fresh tikka masala, pounds 1.49 , Tesco (0800 505555)

Healthy eating tikka masala, pounds 1.19, Tesco (0800 505555)

Tilda and Madhur Jaffrey tikka masala, pounds 1.49, Tesco (0800 505555)

Homepride curry sauce, 85p, Tesco (0800 505555)

THE ULTIMATE

Curry Kit

A TRUE curry experience demands the best so splash out on Mango chutney, pounds 2.95, and Pear and Cardamom chutney, pounds 2.95, both from Harvey Nichols, (0171 235 5000 for mail order) and serve your poppadoms on a sleek brass plate, pounds 10 from The General Trading Company (0171 730 0411)

ONE OF the rules of entertaining is to impress your guests with the proper equipment. If it's a balti or karhai you're cooking, serve it sizzling in a shiny silver bowl. this one is part of the Madhur Jaffrey non-stick Karhai cooking set, pounds 19.99, Argos (0870 6003030 for nearest store)

DESPITE THE poor performance of Patak's tikka masala sauce, Patak's Mild Lime Pickle, which costs pounds 1.59 from Planet Organic (0171 221 7171), can't be bettered. And, if you prefer variety in your condiments, Patak's does a whole range of pickles and chutneys including tomato and mango

FRESH INGREDIENTS are most definitely the way forward in Indian cooking but the great thing about them is that you don't have to travel far to find them. These green chillis, 79p for 20g, and large mango, 99p, are both available from your local Sainsbury's (enquiries 0800 636262)

It is a well known fact that curry and lager go together like bees and honey - for want of a better expression - but, as we're talking the ultimate curry here, the beer has to be Indian. A large bottle of Cobra beer is the perfect drink and costs pounds 1.30 from Bluebird (0171 559 1153 for mail order)

FOR THE perfect ready-made dessert, indulge in a large tub of Hill station Cardamom ice cream to share, pounds 3.95 from Harvey Nichols (0171 235 5000 for mail order). The flavour is delicious, thanks to being steeped overnight before freezing; and even those with the smallest appetite will be tempted

HELP SHED any connotations of lager-lout behaviour from the curry scene by investing in this set of horn bowls and rice spoons. New to their collection, they cost from pounds 6.50 through Bombay Duck (0181 749 8001) and, being both handsome and delicate, this is just the tableware you need

CONJURE UP images of sultry Indian evenings by dressing your dining table with a bunch of small and sweet Caribbean bananas, four for 69p, prepacked, Sainsbury (enquiries 0800 636262). The good thing is that, if your guests are not ice-cream fans, they will double up as dessert too

IF YOU are in a hurry then it's easy to neglect the details of a meal but, for the serious curryholic, there is nothing to beat a soft and fluffy pile of basmati rice gleaming up at you from your plate. A 2kg bag costs pounds 3.79 from Tesco (enquiries 0800 505555) and is money well spent

WHAT BETTER way to serve your high class pickles on than layer upon crispy layer of spicy poppadums, pounds 1.19 for eight, from Tesco (0800 505555). For the kitchen, Madhur Jaffrey's non-stick Karhai cooking set, pounds 19.99, Argos (0870 6003030 for nearest store) includes this large and useful pan

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

    £30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor