For people who care about their food

British Indian Restaurant Curry – IV: Different curry styles

And now, finally – if you’ve worked your way through the three earlier parts of this series about making a British-style Indian restaurant curry at home – we come to the last stage. It’s time to customise your basic curry sauce into your favourite style of curry.


(serves 4)

1. Add some oil (about 5 tbsp) to your pan.

2. Take 800g of your basic curry sauce plus your chicken or other meat (but not prawns – they should be added later) and simmer on high heat for 2-3 minutes.



Now customise your curry!

First gather your ingredients. It’s a kerfuffle to be looking for them once you’ve started this final stage. Then click on the link to your chosen style (or just scroll down the page until you find one you fancy making):


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large onion, sliced into rings
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 4 green or red chillies, halved lengthways

Heat the oil and add cumin seeds. 5 seconds later add onions, green pepper and chillies and reduce heat. Fry until onions are soft and slightly charred.

Carry on to Step 3


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 large onions, sliced into rings
  • 4 green or red chillies, halved lengthways

Heat the oil and add cumin seeds. 5 seconds later add onions and chillies and reduce heat. Fry until onions are soft and slightly charred.

Carry on to Step 3


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 large onions, sliced into rings
  • 4 green or red chillies, halved lengthways

Heat the oil and add cumin seeds. 5 seconds later add green peppers and chillies and reduce heat. Fry until peppers are soft.

Carry on to Step 3


5 mins from end, add 1 tbsp of ground almonds and 3 tbsp of single cream. (It’s that easy!)

Carry on to Step 3


Replace the ¼ tsp chilli in Step 3 with 1 tsp of chilli. Add some lemon juice if you want.

Carry on to Step 3


5 minutes before end, add 4 tbsp of Heinz tomato soup (& red food colouring). Serve with single cream on top.

Carry on to Step 3


5 mins before end, add:

  • 1 tbsp of ground almonds
  • 3 tbsp of single cream
  • 1″/2.5cm of a standard coconut block
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp turmeric

Carry on to Step 3


Replace ¼ tsp chilli in Step 3 with 2 tsp chilli. 5 minutes before end, add 1 tsp malt vinegar.

Now carry on with Step 3…

3. To the simmering basic curry sauce, add your customised ingredients plus the following ingredients:

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp spice mix
  • ¼ tsp chilli powder

4. Continue simmering for 5 mins – no longer, or the sauce and oil will separate. (Add the prawns at the end of the 5 mins, if you’re cooking a prawn curry.)

5. Add any customised ingredients you’ve been told to add 5 minutes before the end, and continue simmering for another 5-7 minutes or until your meat/chicken/prawns are cooked. (Add water if you think it’s getting too dry.)

6. Add 1 tbsp of the onion paste in the final minute.

7. Taste. If necessary add more of the spice mix and some fresh coriander for garnish.

36 Responses to “British Indian Restaurant Curry – IV: Different curry styles”

  1. Matt

    Nice guide Not Delia. There is definitely a place for restaurant style curry, I don’t think I’ve ever tried to recreate one before. Slightly disappointed you haven’t posted my favourite restaurant curry, Pathia, do you have a recipe?

  2. Not Delia

    Hi Matt

    Sorry, I don’t have a recipe for a restaurant style pathia – not yet!

    I looked in the 50 Great Curries of India book and they have one for a Prawn Patia (is that the same thing as a pathia?). The trouble is that the book is about authentic curries and, as all we Brits know, the BIR (British Indian Restaurant) curry is anything but authentic.

    From the book’s description “The patia is a curry with sweet, hot, and sour flavours, equally balanced. … There are many chillies in this recipe but the heat is offset by the sour tamarind and the sugar.”

    I was going to have a go at making this today, but I don’t seem to have any tamarind. It’s on the shopping list.

  3. Matt

    Hi Delia,

    I’ve seen a few recipes for Prawn Pathia but it’s not something I’ve tried. I’ve always tended to go for lamb (or chicken when I mis-ordered!). I love them – just the right amount of heat for me, a bit like lots of Thai curries – hot but still lots of flavour, unlike something like a Vindaloo which is just hot and you can’t taste much. The description certainly sounds like Pathia. I’d be interested to know how you get on with it. How could you not have any tamarind?! To be honest I didn’t realise Pathia had any in.

  4. Not Delia

    I don’t know why I don’t have any tamarind. (Blush) I have just about every other spice in the known universe. I guess I’ve not needed it before.

    I definitely agree with you about vindaloo. For me a good curry is about taste and complexity of flavours. You might as well serve a cat turd with a load of chillies if the diner is only interested in how hot it is.

    PS: I’m NOT Delia – you can call me ND. 🙂

  5. Matt

    I’ve been so careful before with your name, but I guess I slipped up.

    I was the same with tarmarind, we managed to get by without it for ages. Now that we’ve got it I’ve come to appreciate what a great ingredient it is. I was looking around loads of Indian shops last weekend, there’s so many different types and forms of the stuff. Locally I’ve only managed to find concentrated tamarind paste, it’d be interesting to try out some of the other stuff.

    There is a lovely curry we’ve made with aubergine and tamarind, we’ll have to post it up some time.

  6. Not Delia

    Thanks, Matt. It looks likes I’m missing out on something good by not using tamarind. I’ll try get down to the local market tomorrow and see what I can find. I’ve just consulted the English-Thai dictionary and apparently tamarind is called ‘mabaam’. I don’t mind making an idiot of myself by trying to ask for it and getting the pronunciation all wrong. LOL! I’ll let you know how it goes.

    Looking forward to seeing your curry with aubergines. Mr ND loves aubergines.

  7. Tiddy

    Hi, I love your curry guide and i have used it several times. I have put your’e link on my site.

    RE: Matt, Have a look at my chicken Pathia recipe on my site, it’s bloomin’ wicked and tastes just like the real thing, that sweet taste with a firey kick!

  8. Not Delia

    Hi Tiddy

    Sorry for the delayed response. Thanks for your comment. I like your blog! Thanks also for the link – I’ll add you to my blogroll.

    BTW, I had a bit of a fiasco buying the right kind of tamarind. The post about that is coming soon. Then I made the prawn patia, as suggested in the Camellia Panjabi book. The photo of the patia curry looks very dark in the book, mine wasn’t anything like as dark as that, but it was still a lot darker than your chicken pathia.

    Anyone know if it’s patia or pathia?

    I’ve never had such a thing in a restaurant so I’m not really sure about how it should look and taste. My favourites were usually bhuna or Madras.

  9. brian

    it seems restaurants can call it either patia or pathia, it’s one of my favorite BIR dishes.
    i always thought it was just a bhoona but a little hotter with sugar and vinegar added to bring out a sweet and sour taste.
    when i had a ‘one to one’ cookery lesson with a real indian cook last year, although she was able to help me with many of the dishes we all know, she had never heard of pathia, so i guess that’s another made for the european palette. very good though!

  10. chinoischef

    Patia can be spelled however you want because hindi (and other indian languages) use a different alphabet and so there is no correct translation. If there is an H it is silent.
    How many spellings of poppadom and jalfrezi have you seen? I think i’ve seen them all!
    The patia’s i’ve had are usually tomatoey and are sweet, sour an hot. The sour often comes from lemon but tamarind can be used.
    2 tbs mango chutney, 2 tbs of sugar, 3 tbs lemon and some chilli powder should work well with notdelia’s guide.

  11. RolandRB

    Why do I see the word “tamarind” in seven of the responses but not the word “tamarind” in the recipe so far?

  12. RolandRB

    In my own experience of using British Indian restaurants over a period of 36 years then I would have thought the difference between a vindaloo paste and a madras paste would be more different than one teaspoon of chili powder and using a teaspoon of vinegar instead of lemon juice.

  13. Mr Not Delia

    @RolandRB 17:59 From reading the discussion, it’s simply because the very first comment mentioned a curry recipe not listed in the article, Patia/Pathia, that calls for tamarind. The discussion went on from there and happened to focus on tamarind.

  14. Not Delia

    Hi RolandRB, sure, I know it’s not authentic Indian food but that’s not what the BIR curry is about. Most often they’re bastardised versions of the authentic sub-Continental experience.

    Actually, in my many years of experience of British Indian restaurants I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that many of them have one big pot of a basic curry sauce and just add a few odds and ends to customise it.

  15. Buddyboy

    I finally had a crack at the madras version of this BRC. As suggested by you, ND, it is a little labour intensive, but the process will be much shorter for subsequent curries because I now have a spice mix and onion paste enough for several more curries and it’s always quicker the second time on. The result was delicious. I have been looking for a recipe which would allow me to use virtually all dried spice ingredients, and this fitted the bill. I had one issue with the recipe that I remain unsure of. The sauce calls for a tin of chopped tomatoes but does not specify the size of the tin. While such is certainly sometimes a matter of taste, I like to get the first stab close to the described amounts then adjust after that for taste. I used a 28oz tin of tomatoes, finding that the resulting sauce was a little thick, a little too tomatoey. I think a 14oz tin is what is called for. Does anyone else have any feedback in this regard?

    Overall this is a great recipe. I have enough sauce for another couple of curries then I’ll take another stab. Thanks ND.

  16. Not Delia

    Glad to know people are having fun and enjoying the food.

    If you want recipes to follow exactly, you’ll need to head over to Mrs Smith’s site. This is Not Delia, remember. LOL!

  17. Buddyboy

    This seems the most appropriate place to post this, ND.

    I am a curry fan – no surprise. A while ago I found a series of superb videos posted on YouTube by a resident of California of East Indian origin by the name of Manjula. She has her own web site at where you can see her videos and more.

    It’s like being invited into an East Indian chef’s kitchen and being given personal lessons. The videos are wonderful, but there is a down side. She and her videos are vegetarian. I find them perfect for all things vegetable, but I am looking for similar web videos for the ,eat side of things. There are many on the web, but I have yet to identify any that are anywhere nearly as good as Manjula’s. Do you or any or your readers have any web video suggestions for Indian meat cooking?

    In any case, I offer Manjula’s Kitchen videos for your readers’ enjoyment.

  18. RolandRB

    Is there some place we can debate what constitutes the British Indian Restaurant taste/style? I do not agree that this taste/style comes from using a basic sauce and adjusting it, although I know this is common practise – not just in the UK but even in Mumbai. I read here that the difference between a vindaloo and a madras is a few more teaspoons of chili and using vinegar in place of lemon juice. This will not explain the difference in taste between these two dishes I have experienced in the better restaurants in London in the past. Also the Ceylon style of curry had a distinct roasted spice taste to it and may or may not have contained coconut powder or milk, depending on the restaurant you frequented. As for the phal, then that was entirely dependent on the chef in the kitchen at the time you asked for the dish. All these tastes were very different in the better Indian restaurants in London and can nto be explained nor recreated by adjusting as base sauce. I call for a section where we can debate this topic of what constitutes the British Indian Restaurant taste and how this can be reproduced today.

  19. Not Delia

    Hi again, Roland. I don’t see any need for me to create a new section for us to debate the issue. Such a thing already exists – it’s here in the comments section.

    I’m not sure what you’ve got a bee in your bonnet about to lead you to do nothing but make highly critical postings on here. The info on Not Delia is offered free and in good faith. If you don’t like it, then why keep coming back?

    I’ve no doubt that some of the “better” Indian restaurants do things differently but the typical BIR taste is that of the local curry shop rather than fine dining Indian style.

    As for what they do in India, having spent the best part of a decade living and working in the Indian sub-continent, I have a pretty good handle on that too. And the typical BIR is nothing like the Indian food you get in the top class Indian restaurants in India either.

    The simple fact is that lots of people crave for the kind of thing they get (or used to get) from their local British curry shop and I’m trying to produce it.

    What’s the problem? I could understand it if you’d paid for something and don’t like what I sold you. But I simply don’t understand why you appear to be so put out because my opinions differ from yours.

    Actually, my opinions differ from lots of people’s, such as Delia Smith and BBC Good Food magazine. They make suggestions which I think are ridiculous (especially about making Thai cuisine). I don’t go on their sites and ask them to debate with me about it. I just add my own opinions on my own blog.

  20. RolandRB

    Hi, Not Delia. Thanks for your response. Why I am “put out”, if you want to call it that, is that in my opinion the use of a base sauce for making the wide variety of Indian curry flavours is simply not possible and promoting it is leading people down the wrong path. Take the Ceylon curry taste, for example, with its roast spice flavour then this could never be achieved by adjusting a base sauce. So the method of using a base sauce for this purpose is just plain wrong and people should be prepared to look for alternatives if using a base sauce does not give them what they want. It makes more sense to me to start with different spice mixtures, bearing in mind that you may have to roast spices for some of these and you may have to freshly grind them and use different techniques. Doing so will give you a much greater potential for having radically different flavours for different dishes. Where I am put out is not ths existence of this site or your opinions – it is rather beccause I consider the use of a base sauce leads to a poorer product for people buying curries in Indian restaurants if the restaurant uses this technique, which on further reading it seems that many do. However, I applaud your efforts to try to recreate what you consider to be the authentic British Indian Restaurant taste. I just think you have gone down the wrong path.

    If I were to side with a single web site for the creation of the British Indian Restaurant taste then it would be the following.

    …..however, this is not because of the individual recipes. It is the starting point of using different spice mixes and the possible roasting of spices. This may not be able to recreate the tastes that your readers know and love but it has the potential for the recipes to be adjusted to recreate just about any taste of curry they have experienced in the past, given a bit of experimentation. I hope you are not offended that my opinion differs from yours. I am just trying to give people a broader awareness of what is possible in order that they may also recreate the dishes they remember from the past.

  21. Not Delia

    No worries, Roland. Not Delia, and her readers, love a good debate. I like to learn new things too – so I’ll go and have a look at the site you recommended.

    I think you’re a perhaps a bit evangelical about “proper” British-Indian curries. I know the feeling, cos I’m the same way about Thai food and had a bit of a rant the other day.

    If you read that, you might find that we have more in common than we might have first thought. 🙂

    I was just a little taken aback because I evangelise on my own place and not on other people’s. But all comment and debate is good (except spam – which gets deleted), so you are most welcome to keep coming back even if it is only to disagree with me.

    I’m tempted to throw down the gauntlet, though, and say if you’re so smart at making BIR curries then why don’t you do a guest blog posting for ND? You’re obviously a good writer and very opinionated and articulate.

  22. Not Delia

    @ Roland, I just looked at the site you recommended. Gee, I could barely see the content for the confusing site design and navigation.

    And then… I saw that website is for sale. Hmm, I’ve got dozens of websites already but I could be tempted by that one at the right price. (Not for Not Delia, but for something else I have on the go – coming soon.) Mind you, some of the metrics they’re claiming don’t stand up to reality. My gut feeling is that I don’t like the smell of that one.

    There’s a lot of content but they seem to have gone for quantity not quality. Either they need to invest in a big revamp or sell to someone else who will. Meanwhile, they need to be more honest about their claims.

  23. Mr Not Delia

    @Buddyboy (17) – Thanks for posting. Horses for courses, but Manjula’s style of food (essentially North Indian veg) was exactly the sort that ND and I very rapidly tired of in Delhi and went out of our way to avoid! (Not always easy – catering at Indian functions had a heavy bias towards the many vegetarians around.)

    I once had the misfortune to be given an Indian Airlines in-flight vegetarian meal – it was edible, if you were desperate, but disgusting.

    It’s not that I’m biased against Indian vegetarian food per se, or even transport catering – I had a veg meal on the Shatabdi Express from Delhi to Agra which was perfectly OK, and I’ve enjoyed lots of veg curries. It’s just that dal makhani and mattar paneer have pretty well lost any attraction for me.

  24. Not Delia

    Gotta agree with Mr ND on this. If you’d lived in Delhi for three and a half years, like we did, you’d probably feel the same way. If I ever see another dal makhani or mattar paneer in the rest of my life, it will be too soon.

    It might be OK for a change but that’s what you get there so often. It’s so boring and tedious.

    To be fair, Delhi had a lot of innovative new places too, some of which were wonderful. And they also had a few restaurants doing other Indian cuisines – also delicious. But Manjula’s style absolutely epitomises the stuff that had us running for the hills pretty soon after we moved to Delhi. I’m afraid it’s a big two thumbs down from me.

    By the way, I like vegetarian food. I just don’t like very boring food. Nah, Manjula is not for me.

  25. azzy

    ive worked in the kitchen of 3 differnt indian resturants and they all use 1 large pot of curry then customise it to make differnt currys.and madras and vindaloo are almost identicle ROLAND. the only thing i will say is never seen them use ketchup

  26. Andrew

    Thansk for the recipe Not Delia, this makes a fantastic curry. Do you have advice on how I could use lamb in these dishes? With Chicken i tend to oven cook and then throw it into the gravy a couple of minutes before the end. I want the lamb to be tender so oven wouldn’t work. Any ideas?

  27. Mike K-H

    I used to eat Madras and Vindaloo curries a lot when I worked in London in the early 60s – at that time, a Vindaloo was not just more acid and slightly hotter than Madras – it had far less depth of flavour and the sauce was thinner.

    I’m surprised you don’t use any ghee. Do modern popular Indian (usually Bangladeshi) restaurants stick to oil these days?

    I have also eaten in Veeraswamy’s a few times. Fancier, but definitely British Raj food rather than native Indian…

  28. Steve

    Hi ND,

    Will you be putting up a recipe for Rogan Josh? It is good with chicken , lamb or prawns.

    very good site keep up the good work!


  29. Not Delia

    Hi Steve, thanks for the compliment.

    I’ve also just noticed Andrew’s comment about lamb above. I spend a lot of time in SE Asia and can’t easily get lamb here (except for expensive imported cuts from NZ).

    However, I’ll be going to Scotland in a couple of weeks and that will be the perfect opportunity to make a lamb Rogan Josh. Delicious!

  30. Gav

    All of you saying vindaloo has no flavour either can’t handle the heat or can’t make a good one, vindaloo is full of flavour if you can handle the heat and my second favourite curry after a pathia made vindaloo hot, pathia vindaloo hot is the way to go nice sweet taste followed by a nice tingle from the heat of the spices proper job! Has to be lamb for me to as chicken is bland 🙂

  31. peter

    just one question… ive been using this or a recipie similar one for a while now and just wanted to ask… if im making a 200ml portion curry i.e just for me am i to use a tbl spoon of onion paste per 800ml or 200ml… as all recipies are for 800ml of sauce.. its just confusing as if u state u can make individual currys for guests then surley all 4 would have to be madras or jalfrezi e.t.c…. or maybe its just me being a tad retarded!

  32. gomez

    This looks really time consuming to do but I suppose it’s worth it. MMMmmm. I love curry.

  33. neil

    I have been following the recipes and have a couple of questions please.

    Should I put in just a quarter teaspoon of chilli powder for 800 grammes of the gravy? or per portion? I added more chilli for the Madras (like, 3-4 tsps not just 1 tsp).
    The Madras needed more red colour, so I added paprika. Is that the way it should be?
    Should I add any fresh chilli or garnish to the Madras?

  34. Mr Not Delia

    Neil, I think it’s really up to you! The basic recipe as given above calls for ¼ teaspoon for 800ml in Step 3, but there’s no iron rule about how much of any particular ingredient you have to add, or indeed that you must add every single ingredient on the list even if there’s one or more that you violently dislike. Each restaurant will have its own version anyway, just as recipes vary from household to household the world over. If you like extra chilli in your curries, go ahead and add it, without fear of a raid by the British Indian Restaurant Police. 🙂

    Garnish sounds like a nice idea. Arguably it’s a cut above what most BIRs would give you (in a takeaway, anyway) but if you want to add a sprinkling of something (eg fresh coriander) to add an extra dimension, personally I’d be all for it.

  35. TJ

    I like your approach, Not Delia. Speaking as a chef, this is exactly how a curry chef thinks about the various dishes: they are all based on a single gravy and some are very similar to each other (interesting post above where someone with a good palate has spotted that Vindaloo is much the same as Madras, but with vinegar and an extra tsp of chilli powder). Most of the dishes on your list are pretty similar to ours, but we cook korma in a style all its own: hot pan, oil. white sugar (yes – sugar into oil!), almond powder, gravy, coconut powder, more gravy, evaporated milk, UHT single cream, then finally ghee. Our pathia is hot, sweet and sour: oil, garlic/ginger mix, fine red pepper, tomato paste, chilli powder, mix powder, paprika, methi, sugar, gravy, coconut powder, lemon juice, tamarind.

  36. Not Delia

    Hi TJ, thanks for your comment. I’m sorry I didn’t let it through until now. We get so much spam that it’s hard to spot the good comments amongst all the rubbish.

    Where are you based? We might come and try your curries if we’re passing through your neck of the woods.

    I must admit, I’ve not heard of your method of korma before. Interesting!

    Sorry again for replying so late.

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