Having already had a bash at some of the recipes from his latest brilliant cookery book, Rick Stein’s India, I had high hopes for the accompanying TV series (9pm, 17 June, BBC2). And though he stuck to the tried and tested, Stein didn’t disappoint with his latest sweaty, but beguiling travelogue.
He set out his stall at the outset: this was a quest to disabuse us of the notion that the pinnacle of perfection when it comes to the contentious ‘c word’ (whether it should be called curry was the source of lively debate throughout) is a searingly hot king prawn vindaloo and a couple of pints.
Kicking off his odyssey in Kolkata, he was soon sampling an array of scrumptious-looking dishes, from street foods and egg curry to a proper mulligatawny soup - a vibrant green concoction worlds apart from the dull brown stuff you get in a can. Then it was off to a kitchen straight out of Kipling to give us his own take (or his mum’s in the case of the British Raj curry with sultanas).
As usual he encountered a coterie of colourful characters, like Tartan hat-wearing street foodie Angus and the residents of a home for destitute women, who declared they were happy so often you started to question how happy they really were.
There was the odd duff note. When pondering the Coromandel Coast, he mused it was like Spain in the 1950s because everyone was “really poor but really happy” - not a sentiment shared by the women fighting over the fish catch before Diwali. But, as ever, Stein’s enthusiasm shone through, as did his recipes. Just don’t mention the c-word.