While it’s not exactly a curry house staple on these shores, egg curry is a staple of Indian home cooking. Its spiritual home is probably in northern Indian - specifically the Punjab state - but it’s been adopted throughout the subcontinent and, inevitably, adapted. “Each region has its own version that makes use of local ingredients and spice blends. In the south it’s made with coconut milk and curry leaves, for example,” says Rohit Ghai, the chef patron of top-end Chelsea Indian restaurant Kutir. “There are lots of different ways to do it - some people make it with chopped up omelette, for example - but I prefer whole eggs as the texture is more interesting.”
The dish is regularly on the menu at the chef’s home and will play a starring role on the menu at his Mayfair restaurant Manthan, which is set to open next month. “The menu there will be more homely,” he explains. “There’ll be a much bigger focus on vegetarian dishes too, so the egg curry is a perfect fit.” “For us and many other Indian families it’s pure comfort food,” says Ghai, who oversaw the menu at a number of other critically-acclaimed Indian restaurants including Jamavar and Gymkhana prior to launching Kutir in 2017.
“We use British Lion-marked eggs both at home and in the restaurant, and I source them as locally as possible. The mark is important because it gives me the confidence to serve them raw and lightly cooked. This is especially important in cocktails. We like to do things properly here and don’t take shortcuts, so that means using fresh eggs.”
Eggs are a surprisingly important part of Kutir’s larder. They’re used to enrich some of the kitchen’s breads, in desserts, the aforementioned cocktails and they’re the star of the show in one of the restaurant’s best-selling dishes - a naan bread topped with masala-scrambled eggs and lavish amounts of black truffle. “I’ve also done a take on nargisi kofta (lamb and egg curry) which is another well-known egg curry back in India. My version has the addition of bone marrow. It’s extremely rich but very delicious.”
Rohit Ghai will launch the more casual Manthan next month
The ingredient list for Ghai’s simpler, Punjab-inspired take on egg curry (below) might be long but the dish is about as simple as an authentic, scratch-made Indian curry gets. Watching Ghai cook it speedily as he does at home - he has two young children - is an education. He starts by crackling whole spices before adding the onion and cooking at a surprisingly high heat in plenty of oil. Properly cooked onions are key to a good curry, Ghai says. “Patience is important when cooking onions but it’s also possible to cook them too slowly. You don’t want to steam them. The more oil, the higher the heat can be and the faster the onions cook. If you’re worried about the amount of oil you can always pour some off once the onion is cooked. That’s what we do in the restaurant when we’re in a hurry, which is most of the time.”
While curry should not be served swimming in oil, it’s worth remembering that a bit of oil in the final dish is important because it coats the palate and improves the flavour. Once the onions are a uniform golden-brown garlic and ginger is added and cooked briefly before adding chilli, salt and most of the powdered spices. Rohit then adds tomato, which are cored, halved and sliced thinly (this approach removes the need to peel the tomatoes - the skin magically disappears into the gravy once cooked). While the gravy is thickening, Ghai finishes his hard-boiled eggs by briefly frying them off in a non-stick frying pan with a pinch of turmeric and a pinch of salt, which gives them a beautiful roasted appearance.
The eggs are then added to the curry and cooked briefly to fully reheat. The dish is garnished with a julienne of ginger and roughly chopped coriander. At Ghai’s home the curry is always served with plain boiled white rice but paratha - a layered flaky flatbread brushed with ghee - also makes a great (and rather more indulgent) accompaniment.
Rohit Ghai’s Punjabi egg curry
Ingredients (serves two)
For the eggs
4 to 5 eggs
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
Pinch turmeric powder
For the gravy
70ml rapeseed oil
1-2 small bay leafs
1 cinnamon stick
4 green cardamoms
2 black cardamoms
200g sliced onions
100g sliced tomatoes
2 chopped green chillies
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 tsp dry fenugreek leaves
1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
Chopped fresh coriander
Finely sliced ginger
1. Boil the eggs for 9 minutes. Chill in icy water.
2. Heat the oil in the pan and add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, green cardamoms, black cardamoms and cloves. Once they start to crackle add the onions and cook over medium heat until the onions turn light golden brown.
3. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the raw aroma goes away.
4. Add the chopped green chilli, salt and all the powdered spices bar the dry fenugreek and garam masala.
5. Add the tomatoes and sauté well until the mixture turns mushy. Cook everything well until a nice aroma comes out and the mixture leaves the sides of the pan.
6. Add the dry fenugreek and garam masala.
7. Pour water just as needed to make a gravy. Cook until the curry thickens and the oil begins to separate out.
8. Shell the eggs and prick all over with a fork.
9. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick pan. Add turmeric powder and a little salt and sauté the eggs until golden.
10. Add the eggs to the curry and heat through for five minutes.
11. Garnish with coriander and thinly sliced ginger. Serve the curry with plain rice or paratha.
Why look for the Lion
The British Lion mark means the eggs have been produced to the highest standards of food safety, in accordance with the world-leading independently audited British Lion Code of Practice, which covers all systems and stages of production. The British Lion scheme has effectively eradicated Salmonella from UK eggs since its launch in 1998. This has led to the Food Standards Agency updating its advice on egg safety, confirming that British Lion eggs can safely be served and eaten runny, or even raw, by vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women, elderly people and infants. All customers can now enjoy a traditional ‘dippy egg’ as well as many other dishes that were previously off the menu - providing they are made with British Lion eggs.
“The British Lion mark gives businesses and Enforcement Officers confidence that eggs are safe, even if lightly cooked or used raw,” says independent food safety advisor Dr Lisa Ackerley. “However, it is important to stress that this advice does not apply to eggs without the Lion mark, and not to imported eggs. EHOs can help make sure that businesses understand the difference between Lion and non-Lion eggs.”
The British Lion mark also guarantees that hens and eggs are British; that hens vaccinated against Salmonella; and full traceability of hens, eggs and feed. The best before date will also be stamped on the shell.