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Indian cooking class with IntaFood

Sarah Tierney gets to grips with the art of curry making

Published on June 14th 2010.


Indian cooking class with IntaFood

I've tried to make curries several times in the past, but each one has ended up looking more like a spicy, stodgy stew than a vindaloo. It doesn't help that the ingredient lists always seem longer than the walk to the Indian takeaway.

The curries we created were outstanding. If this was a food review, I'd award myself 10 out of 10.

So I headed to IntaFood's Saturday afternoon 'Introduction to Indian Cooking' class at Dilli restaurant in Altrincham to see if I could master this much coveted skill. If anyone knows how to make a decent curry, it's these people. The head chef here, Mohammed Nayeem, has been in the business since 1984 when he worked with his father at five-star hotels and restaurants in New Delhi. He's been at Michelin-recommended Dilli for a few years now, impressing the folks of South Manchester and Cheshire with his distinctive Ayurvedic cooking.

I was slightly daunted that he would be taking the class (it's a bit like Robert De Niro showing up to teach am-dram) but my worries were unnecessary. It was an 'introduction' so no previous knowledge or skills were necessary, and Nayeem was always on hand to avert any mishaps.

We started with welcome drinks in the restaurant, driven slightly insane by the smell of Dilli's lunchtime buffet which was being prepared in the kitchen. There were eight of us – some were experienced cooks, others (i.e. me) less so. It was mostly ladies in this class, but apparently it's predominantly males who sign up. Curry, like chilli and steak, is definitely one of those dishes that men like to have in their kitchen repertoire.

The class took place upstairs, where we each had our own cooking station set out. We made two dishes, Kozi Chettinad and Tikka Lababdar, with a break for lunch in between. Although the two recipes were very distinctive in taste, the cooking process was similar for both – the secret was in creating a good curry base.

Both recipes started with frying chopped onion on a high heat while we made a Mixed Masala paste. In the past, I'd always fried the spices with the onions (and more often than not, burnt them) so this method was a revelation to me.

You put red chilli powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder, and coriander powder in a bowl with 'GG paste' (equal quantities of fresh garlic and ginger blended with a bit of water – you can make it yourself or buy it in a jar). Then you add a few tablespoons of water and mix it all into a paste.

When your onions have browned, you add the Mixed Masala paste and cook until you can see the oil bubbling through on the top. You then add finely chopped tomato, tomato puree, plus water if you need it – and you've got yourself a standard curry base. From here your dish could go off in all kinds of directions as you add more ingredients – chicken, coconut, yoghurt, fresh coriander and so on.

Chef had all the subsequent ingredients on his table (too many to list here), and helpfully came round adding them to each of our frying pans while we stirred. IntaFood provide you with a recipe including detailed instructions and ingredients so that you can do all this yourself when you make it at home.

For people who are put off by what initially looks like a complicated cuisine, this class was ideal. It stripped down the process to the basics and made those immense lists of ingredients seem straightforward and simple. It was good to see an expert at work, pick up tips on cooking skills, and learn about the different properties of ingredients.

The curries we created were outstanding. If this was a food review, I'd award myself 10 out of 10. They had a complex mixture of tastes and sensations with key ingredients like ginger and coriander standing out rather than blending together into one. The Tikka Lababdar is Nayeem's own recipe – you won't find it in Rusholme. It's the type of meal you can wheel out when you want an easy dish that will impress friends.

I went away with enough curry to feed two or three people, and the confidence to create another batch at home. The class has inspired me to stock up on spices and start making my own curry pastes to keep in the refrigerator. There's a takeaway near me that will be wondering what happened to one of its regulars.

The class lasts for 2.5 hours and costs £49 including all ingredients. Many of the attendees had been bought a gift voucher for their place. It's a good option for Father's Day if you want to buy Dad something memorable and useful.

IntaFood also do local cookery classes in Thai, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Chinese, and pizza-making. All their classes are all held at top restaurants and taught by professional chefs.

Click here to find out more.

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tom82June 17th 2010.

I've been on a Thai class by IntaFood and thought it was awesome! Though my gf is sick of me experimenting with thai food on her haha!

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