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Former English teacher Carl Brown wasn’t particularly stressed about the Telegraph food writer tasting his dishes last week.
The curry lover has made a drastic change of career, going from lessons at Handsworth Grange to showing people how to recreate their favourite Indian dishes from scratch with his own business.
He invited the Sheffield Telegraph to choose and cook a dish – lamb achari, incidentally – with him at his new business unit off Abbeydale Road.
“I do think, it can’t be worse than having an Ofsted inspection”, laughed Carl, before he talked through the base gravy, stocks and layers of spices needed for the sweet-sour dish to come to fruition.
Carl’s fascination with curry dates back to when he was working in a Huddersfield mill as a young man, and spotted a colleague’s exotic tiffin lunchbox packed with spicy sensations.
“That’s when the love affair started really”, he said.
“I loved to cook Indian dishes but I would make a madras one weekend and friends would ask me to make it again, but it was never exactly the same.
“I decided that I was absolutely determined to master the classic Indian dishes.”
Months of research online, persuading Sheffield restaurant chefs and home Indian cooks to help and advise, followed and Network Chilli was born – at first in his Crookes home, before it moved to Farrar Road.
The business combines his love of teaching, and cooking.
So far Carl has have cooked with solicitors for social events, curry enthusiasts at home, women's social groups, scouts, hen and stag parties, showing all of them how to make their favourite curry from scratch.
For some customers, it’s all about mastering what makes the perfect korma, fragranced with delicate rose water, and he has a trio of insanely hot chilli powders for those who want to experiment with real heat in their dinner.
Carl shares tips he has picked up from a wide range of curry masters, from tasting as you go to the different layers of flavour that lead to the intricate layers of spices usually only found in restaurant dishes.
Some of the people he has cooked for have gone on to bulk order the dishes as well, and he was delivering a selection to offices in the city centre when he bumped into the Telegraph food critic in a chance encounter.
Carl said: “Food is such a communal thing. If I can teach people how to make it for others and make them happy, that’s what it is all about.”
Visit www.networkchilli.co.uk/ for workshop details.