Top TV chef James Martin on his curry crusade and the respect he has for tinned food

PUBLISHED: 16:56 05 December 2013 | UPDATED: 16:56 05 December 2013

TV celebrity chef James Martin giving public cookery demonstration at Chatsworth Country Fair

TV celebrity chef James Martin giving public cookery demonstration at Chatsworth Country Fair

© Matthew Taylor / Alamy

Saturday Kitchen host James Martin talks to our food expert Annie Stirk

It is perhaps not surprising to learn the average Yorkshireman’s favourite food is a takeaway with a curry dish high on the list. NB Bradford has won the title curry capital of Britain for a third year. But with a recent survey* showing the average Yorkshire resident wastes more than an hour choosing, ordering and tidying up after a takeaway – not to mention spending around £20 a week (a total of £1,040 a year) on fast food – this convenience food may not be, well, so convenient.

One chef who has made it his mission to slash our shopping bills and encourage us to cook curries at home is James Martin, who was, of course, born and bred in the county.

‘The perception is that curries are difficult and costly to cook but that’s simply not true,’ says James. ‘Using store cupboard essentials on a Saturday night instead of reaching for the takeaway menu can make a real difference to both your time and your finances.’ What’s more, James believes you can create a top-notch curry from just a couple of cans.

‘Canned food is often taken for granted but it actually tastes great and has huge potential to create interesting dishes on a budget. I remember my granny sautéing off canned new potatoes as a child and I thought they were wonderful, adds James, revealing that he continues to use his grandmother’s old wooden chopping board on his BBC television programme Saturday Kitchen.

‘I love a good curry but it’s easy to produce a quick and tasty one at home from a tinned tomato base, with spices and frozen prawns or chicken thighs, or a combination of chickpeas, cinnamon and cumin.’

But as ambassador for Canned Food UK (an association that represents canning companies such as Baxters and Heinz), and already experimenting with making pizza from canned food, has James gone one can too far, I ask? ‘Obviously if I wanted an authentic curry, I’d go to the experts, and Bradford would be my first port of call,’ he says. ‘But I believe we should all have a go at making our own first as it can be a much healthier and cheaper dish if you do it yourself.’

Indeed, despite recently taking over the kitchens at the Talbot Hotel in Malton, North Yorkshire and opening the fine dining James Martin Manchester in the Manchester235 casino, James is keen to point out that he feels it’s his duty as a chef to appeal to a wide range of people with different budgets.

‘I was very humbled on a recent TV programme when I met a pensioner who was living on £12.50 a week,’ says James. ‘I want to stop people feeling isolated on low budgets and show them it’s possible to make good, nutritious food.’

As part of his curry crusade, James has launched a new online cooking channel, via Canned Food UK, through which he demonstrates 18 different recipes including a Prawn and Chickpea Balti. Other curries on the website include a Chicken Dhansak with canned lentils and tomatoes and a Lentil and Spinach Curry with canned spinach.

‘The Prawn Balti is an impressive dish that uses canned sweetcorn, chickpeas and tomatoes and takes less than 20 minutes to prepare and cook,’ he says. But despite his taste for tins, James tells me that he’s not giving up on fresh Yorkshire produce either. ‘Yorkshire food is the best in the world and I believe there will continue to be a renaissance in British food going into the New Year,’ he says. So, with a couple of big projects in the pipeline, can we find out what he has planned? Sadly, he wasn’t prepared to spill the (canned) beans this time around.

The Canned Food UK ‘Takeaway Habits’ survey was conducted by Censuswide between October 1st 2013 and October 7th 2013 on a sample of 2,151 UK respondents.

Try this curry recipe at home

Prawn & Chickpea Balti

Serves 4


300g raw tiger prawns

400g can chopped tomatoes

195g can sweetcorn, drained

100g can chickpeas, drained

1 green pepper, deseeded and diced

1 large onion, diced

3tbsp Balti curry paste

1tbsp oil

1tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Naan bread to serve


1. Heat the oil in a wok or deep-sided frying pan. Add onion and pepper and stir-fry together for 2 minutes.

2. Stir in curry paste and stir-fry for a further 2 minutes.

3. Reduce heat, add tomatoes and chickpeas, stir-fry together for 2 minutes.

4. Add prawns and sweetcorn and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, or until all the prawns have turned pink.

5. Stir in coriander and serve with warm naan bread.

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