Yes, Her Maj pulled on her pinny to play the haughty French chef Madame Mallory, who turns her nose up at the curry flavours coming from neighbouring Hassan’s kitchen.
To prepare for the film the cast were invited to Le Cordon Bleu, the elite French-founded cookery school and guardians of all things gastronomique. The result? Curry-infused eggy goodness.
Not that you can really follow a recipe based on a film clip alone. To find out what secrets Helen Mirren picked up during her cookery crash course, we signed up for a lesson with friendly French chef Loic Malfait, Academic Director at Le Cordon Bleu in London.
After putting our culinary heritage in our place – “What do you say before a meal in France?” “Bon appétit”. “What do you say before a meal in Britain?” “Good luck!” – we got down to work. Here’s everything we learned.
Salt and pepper
Herbs: coriander and lemon balm
Butter (clarified is best – see below)
Crack the eggs: OK, easy so far, but here’s Chef Malfait’s tip. Avoid losing bits of shell in the bowl by cracking the eggs on the table top instead of the edge of the bowl. One sharp tap on the work surface should be enough (the eggs won’t go everywhere – honest).
Three eggs is plenty for an omelette for one. If you can spare the time, leave the eggs out of the fridge to come up to room temperature.
Prep the herbs: pick the small leaves off the stalk, ready to garnish at the end.
Whisk: “Use the wrist,” Malfait tells us with a hint of a grin. Keep your elbow tucked in next to your body and just work the eggs at a speed you can maintain. No point whisking furiously for 10 seconds only to knacker yourself out.
Season: a pinch of salt and pepper is fine, but if you want to follow The Hundred-Foot Journey’s Indian fusion, by all means throw in some chilli or curry powder too.
Heat the pan: non-stick pans are banned for trainee chefs at Le Cordon Bleu. “Tefal is cheating,” apparently. If it’s hot enough, then even the cheapest metal pan won’t stick. That, at least, is the theory.
Put the pan on a moderate-high heat and add the butter. Chef Malfait recommends clarified butter – all the milk solids are removed, leaving you with a tasty buttery oil that can be heated to a much higher temperature than normal.
Of course, if that sounds like too much of a faff, just heat a knob of butter with a drizzle of olive oil to stop the butter burning. Wait until the pan is smoking hot, then turn down the heat a fraction.
Pour in the eggs: the trick to stop everything sticking is to gently swivel the pan to allow all the egg to cook without catching. Loosen the edges with a wooden spoon if it starts to stick.
Cooking time: how long would you normally cook an omelette for? 5 minutes? 15? Nope: 24 seconds is plenty apparently, not that you really need to time it exactly.
Honestly, this isn’t something James Martin does on Saturday Kitchen for effect – your eggs really will be almost set in that time. When it’s looking fairly solid, give the pan one last shake and tip forward to fold the omelette in half.
Service! Slip the folded omelette onto a plate and scatter the coriander and lemon balm over the top.
This is where Chef cheated a little bit: Malfait had already made a vegetable curry with finely diced aubergine, courgette and peppers fried in oil and curry powder and then simmered with tomatoes and coconut milk. Delicious. Show off…
Of course, for most of the time a handful of cheddar and some extra greens work just as well.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is available to buy on DVD from Monday 9 March, courtesy of Entertainment One. This evening was held with Le Cordon Bleu London.