If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands.
Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
Most people are familiar with the Duck Test. but how many people can tell the difference between a stew and a curry?
For instance, I cooked a spicy dish of beef and vegetables tonight, what was it? I ate it and I’m not sure.
It included carrot, sweet potato, parsnip, onions, mushrooms, ginger, chillies and lentils. With the exception of parsnip I’ve had them all in curries before – either from Indian or Chinese restaurants.
So was it a curry?
The ingredients don’t seem to be a reliable indicator. You can make curry without using curry powder. You can serve either dish with a variety of breads and rice, though the jury is out regarding potatoes.
After giving it an evening of thought, and discussing the nuances of potato cuisine, we’ve come up with the following guidelines (which probably don’t apply outside the UK).
If you serve it with dumplings it’s a stew.
If you use a recipe (no matter how vaguely remembered) it’s probably a curry.
If you use the random ingredients you happen to have to hand, it’s probably a stew.
As a result of this discussion I’ve also identified a possible gap in the market for a takeaway stew restaurant, but that’s a discussion for another day.