Making Moghul chicken in the Mendips
Having a dog-eared Madhur Jaffrey classic on the bookshelf and a cupboard full of Indian spices with use-by-dates that don’t start with 20 *hangs head in shame*, are the signs of someone who loves the idea of cooking Indian food but never actually does it. Cue the half-day North Indian Adventure cooking class, one of Sweet Cumin‘s Indian home cooking classes in the tiny village of Clapton near Radstock – recently listed as one of The Guardian‘s top foodie cookery courses in the UK.
Sweet Cumin is the brainchild of Bini Ludlow. Bini grew up in Bradford (Yorkshire not on Avon), and was taught traditional Gujarati home cooking by her mum and aunties who worked in Bradford’s textile factories, swapping recipes in their lunch hour with women from all over India. These days, she creates her own delicious curries, has developed a range of ready cooked Indian food and runs cookery classes in her own home.
There were three others taking the class, all of whom had been given the class as a present (what a great idea). The classes are suitable for novices or experienced cooks – one guy on the course had even brought his own knife roll (respect, man). We’d be cooking Moghul chicken curry, with spiced rice, salad, cucumber raita and chappattis, with Bini providing all the ingredients. She’d prepared some of them beforehand, with tomatoes, yogurt, ground almonds etc., all in little bowls at each place setting.
First, we were introduced to the main Indian spices…
Bini gave us little pinches of each one and asked us to describe the taste (turns out I can’t tell lemon from liquorice), with tips on where to buy locally, what to buy for authenticity (cassia rather than cinnamon) or what to use if you can’t find the real thing (brown sugar rather than jaggery – no, I’d never heard of that before, either). Most importantly, she explained when and how to use each spice when cooking at home, not just in the recipe we were making that day.
It’s clear that Bini not only loves cooking but she’s passionate about the ingredients themselves.
Her enthusiasm seems to rub off and it’s not long before we’re all taking pinches of this and that, sniffing, tasting and nodding sagely to each other like pros as we chop away at finger chillies, garlic and ginger and prepare tomatoes.
As Bini explains and demonstrates the methods and techniques for each dish, she throws in loads of tips and advice handed down by her mother and assorted aunties – like the easy-peasy way to peel a clove of garlic (hold curved side up, cut lengthwise down the middle, open flat like a spatch-cocked chicken and slip the skin off), the best way to prepare ginger (scrape not peel), and the right proportions for combining various spices (coriander to cumin 2:1). Putting everything together, we were ready to get cooking…
We gathered around Bini’s impressive range cooker, to heat our (whole) spices, toss in the cubed chicken thighs and at the appropriate moments, the other ingredients. As the spices sizzled, the room was filled with delicious aromas…
Then we added fresh coriander and left our Moghul chicken bubbling away.
We tossed spices into a pan to add to boiling rice (thrice rinsed – most important) chopped salad and a big handful of coriander for the yogurt cucumber raita. Then it was time to make our chappattis….
The trick (which I didn’t manage to master) to getting a good puff is to roll out evenly, without any tears – or tears. Suddenly everything was ready, we spooned the food into traditional thali trays and …. ta daaaah….
Bini showed us the correct technique for eating Indian style: with our fingers.
Needless to say it was the best curry ever.
We left with detailed recipes, equipment lists and a bag of Bini’s specially blended spices. There was plenty of food to take home as well, so the little Muddies had Indian that night too. The class was great fun, we learned masses and the food was soooooo delicious.
Look on Bini’s website www.sweetcumin.co.uk for information on her half-day, full-day and tailor-made classes, which start from £85/person, and her range of ready made meals.
You’ll never buy a takeaway again.