“Plate this Bourdain”….Indian Vegetable Curry


“I gotta get better at plate-up Tony, I literally suck at this – how the fuck do you do it”?

I stared down at what looked like a pile of elephant crap on the pristine white flat-to-rim plate. This was my own personal favourite plate type, a ‘God’s-beard-white’ with just a slight cross groove running from 11pm to 4pm which could hold a brushed sauce…….but I had just defiled it with the vegetarian special that looked like a four-year old baboon plated it,

Tony didn’t look up…elbow deep in flesh….

“I know hundred of chefs Mate, literally hundreds and they all fall into just one of two camps, they’re either obsessed with what their food looks like on the plate or they can see beyond that and understand that whilst looks contribute they don’t and can’t ever trump taste. The chefs to avoid are the clampets that fall into the first category – the ‘Fur-Coat-No-Knickers’ brigade” stay the fuck away from them”.

He looked intently at the Sabatier in his right hand as a droplet of bold ran its length…

“The chef that gives me the bone is the one that can do both without even thinking about it…………. and is also female, single and has questionable morals…..plate-up is not a teach-able skill…you have it or you don’t…so don’t sweat it”

Tony had this skill stamped on his DNA, he was ‘shot-gunned’ into this world already knowing how to cook and how to prep a plate. Legend has it that he once banged on Bourdain’s kitchen door at Les Halles on 5th Avenue and told him his plate work sucked but the Steak Frites changed his religion. This resulted in Tony’s expulsion from the restaurant and a boot to his ass delivered by Bourdain himself. How true this is I dunno, but considering Tony worked and got in trouble all over New York and had balls of cast-iron I reckon its true.

“Yeah, but how do you do it Tony…your stuff always looks so……

Tony spun his head and fixed a gaze on me

“Be careful what you say next boyo..if the words beautiful, pretty or dainty fall outta your face I’m carving your nipples off”.

“Incredible Tony… fucking incredible…that alright”??

Tony went back to the flesh…

“I throw everything up in the air and see where it fucking lands Kid”

“Come again”

“Yeah, in my head obviously….bit tricky where sauce is concerned”

“In the air”?

“Yeah, in the air”

“How….in the air”

“In the friggin’ air man……in the sense of ‘not-on-the-fucking-plate'”

Tony mimicked throwing a handful of anything into the air and studied it for a few seconds before following it back to earth where an imaginary waiting plate received it…..possibly already prepped.

“In the air…see”??

“How the fuck does that work then”?

Tony sucked on his teeth, dropped the knife….the mound of beef fillets he was turning into Mignon, Chateaubriand and Tournados would have to wait…..

“OK…take every ingredient and girlie garnish you have in a dish and imagine them in space right in front of you…suspended…..the Cod Cheek, the pea purée, the basil oil, the puy lentils, the carrot, the shallot…split them up….separate them by colour, texture and flavour, figure out what goes where and why…what jars and what does not…how will the many flavours in this dish bleed together before a punter even gets his fork in the dish because this makes a difference…then bring them back together so they compliment and spark off each other then drop them back on the plate…study the plate….not from the point of view of how pretty the bugger looks but how it will hit a punters palate…..pretty comes second so maybe think about your ‘friend’ Stacey from last night right”?

“Bloody hell Tony, how the fuck do I do that with this Vegetable curry mate”!?!?

“Fucked if I know Kid”

♠ Vegetable Curry♣

Prep time: 10 mins ♦  Cook Time: 30mins ♦ Total time 40ish mins ♦ Serves 2


  • 1 medium aubergine –  roughly chopped
  • 1 medium red onion – roughly chopped
  • 1 large sweet red pepper – roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced
  • 20mls veg oil
  • 1 tbs cumin powder
  • 2 tps turmeric
  • 1 tbs coriander powder
  • 1 tbs gara masala
  • 1 tps chili flakes
  • 2 curry leaves
  • 1 stalk of lemon grass bashed up
  • Big squirt of tomato paste
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • 200mls vegetable stock
  • 1 tbs Mango Chutney


Step 1: The Curry Paste

In a mortar and pestle bash the garlic, cumin, turmeric, coriander, garamasala, chili flakes, lemon grass, tomato puree and curry leaves and oil to a paste

Step 2

Add a little veg oil to a deep-frying pan or wok and bring up to screaming hot then dump in the paste and fry out until it splits

Step 3

Add all of the vegetables into the pan, coat well with the paste and cook out for about 10 minutes moving constantly around the pan.

Step 4

Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the coconut milk and stock – simmer for a further 10 minutes or until the veg is just tender and you still have a working sauce

Step 5

Taste and adjust the seasoning as you like

Fancy a Beer? Try this

Tiger (what else!)

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