On a chilly but sunny Saturday morning, 6 strangers gathered round the large wooden table in Mrs. G's conservatory while she potters away in the kitchen. Over the course of the next 4 hours we would learn the fundamentals of indian one-pot (home) cooking plus some tips and tricks such as how to skin and and portion out a whole chicken and how to open a coconut into two clean halves with a mallet!
The course is taught by Nikita, a man who toured with the great Madhur Jaffrey and whose light-hearted, cheeky manner brings everyone together immediately. To begin with he introduced us to a variety of spices used in indian cooking, in non-powdered form. The first thing I thought was just how unique and potent all of these flavours are. But I worried: how will I possibly know which ones will go well together? This is where the main theme of the day comes in...
The beginners course teaches you all about what Mrs. G calls "The Usual Suspects", the spice combinations that underpin most indian curries. Alongside these we're also taught how to make a typical garam masala, a curry paste to bring heat to your dish and also how to 'layer' the flavour into the dish as you go, step by step. Nothing here is overly complicated, but master these basics and suddenly a whole world of experimentation is opened up to you since you now know where and when to try new things out and develop your own personal style.
Taking it in turns to do the hands-on bits, we cooked a chicken dish, a potato dish and a cauliflower dish. We also made a sweet, yoghurt-like dish with passionfruit and spices. Halfway through the day we broke for a lovely creation of Mrs. G's, with some refreshing Chai (sweet, spiced tea) that I've since taken to brewing up at home. Finally, once all the dishes were made we sat down at Mrs. G's dining table, surrounded by various old photos and memorabilia that gave a great sense of occasion, and tucked into our creations. A lovely meal!
One word of advice: now, perhaps it was because I was always leaning in over the pots to take in the flavours, but I emerged from the day pretty 'well spiced' myself! It's worth leaving yourself enough time to change and freshen up if you're going out afterwards! :P
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