Food & Drink Survey 2014: Cook a Curry the Mughli Way

How many restaurants can say they’ve fed the Prime Minister, Nigel Slater and Jared Leto? There's only one we know of, and it proved one of your favourites in the Indian Sub-continent section in the Northwest: Rusholme's Mughli

Feature by Anna Tully | 07 Jan 2014

Manchester's Mughli as we know it today hasn’t always been so: it first opened back in 1991, after the late-owner, Peter Arshad, decided he wanted to up the game of the ‘Curry Mile’. Over 20 years later, and the restaurant is now headed up by Peter’s son, Haz. He’s been heavily involved since 2006 and was proud to see the loyal following his father created still coming back, years later. More recently, he’s created some innovative twists to the menu, educating diners in the ways of ‘Mamma Mughli’ cooking and promoting a family style of dining.

You might have guessed by now that Mughli is no ordinary Indian restaurant: don’t let its location on the ‘Curry Mile’ fool you into thinking you’ll be devouring food best left to 2am on a Saturday night. Haz spent weeks in his parents’ home countries, exploring the street food of Lahore and the ‘dhaba’ curries of the roadsides to bring to Manchester an altogether different ‘Indian’ experience. With a menu heavy on street food and staff who actively encourage diners to share dishes, the ever-popular Rusholme restaurant has kindly shared with us a few of their top tips for the perfect curry...

1. You get out what you put in

Sounds a little obvious, but using fresh, quality ingredients can really transform a mediocre dish into something rather special, especially where the 'curry trinity' and tomatoes are concerned.

Use ripe, red tomatoes (rather than tinned) together with a mixture of both red and sweeter Spanish onions with freshly crushed garlic, and you’ll taste the difference.

2. Choose your spices carefully

Mamma Mughli will always tell you to use freshly ground, toasted spices in your curry dishes but it takes some experience to come up with a well-balanced, great-tasting blend. Instead buy good quality blends kept fresh by storing in air-tight containers. 

What’s this ‘curry trinity’, we hear you ask? Turmeric, cumin seeds and mustard seeds are the beginnings of nearly every curry.

3. Oil – 'the elephant in the curry-kitchen'

Traditional Indian recipes aren’t shy when it comes to the use of oil in cooking curry. It is used to protect the onions when sautéing and, more importantly, prevents the spices from burning. The oil will always separate from the sauce once the dish is ready, and can be drained off at this point in any case.

The choice of oil also has a big impact on the final taste of the curry. Ghee (or clarified butter) is often used in Indian cooking to provide a richness and depth to the sauce, but sunflower or vegetable oil is also used for a more neutral flavour. 

4. Timing

Timing is one of the key factors when cooking a curry. You could give two chefs the same ingredients and they could end up with two very different-tasting dishes depending on when those items are added to the mix. Mamma Mughli, for example, would only ever add tomatoes to a dish once the onions have been browned, the meat, garlic and ginger paste added, and all first given time to 'sweat' and then reduce.

At what stage you add chilli also makes a difference, especially where fresh chillies are concerned – the later they are added, the spicier they tend to be.

5. Accessorise your curry

The perfect and most obvious accompaniments are your traditional tandoori naan and lightly browned basmati rice. Don't forget to embellish your table with other simple-to-prepare accompaniments such as a mint and cucumber raita, mixed-fruit lime pickle or an 'Indian salad' tossed in olive oil, lemon juice and chaat masala.