Can't cook curry? Neither could Asiana's Momtaz Begum-Hossain, until she took a masterclass with tandoori teacher Dipna Anand...
When I was growing up it was thoroughly uncool to learn how to cook from your mum. Every day after school mine would try and show me a new dish, in preparation for impressing my future husband; folding shingaras being the most important art to master. I was more interested in watching Grange Hill.
Today you’re a failure to society if you can’t cook; how else will you be able to wow your friends when it’s your turn to host Come Dine With Me? These days even children know how to create award-winning curries; if you’ve ever tuned in to Junior Masterchef you’ll see what I mean; their dishes put most adult chefs to shame.
There are now more cook books than ever in existence, but busy career women like myself have no time to read through pages of methods to figure out what to do. We need quick, tasty recipes to whip up with ingredients we already have in our cupboards that will impress last minute guests who decide to turn up for tea.
Cue Dipna Anand. A dedicated foodie, born into a culinary dynasty, Dipna’s father Gulu runs the legendary Brilliant Restaurant in Southall (part of the Madhu’s family), so she grew up with food knowledge in her blood. As well as managing the menu at the restaurant and teaching and lecturing about food, Dipna also runs cookery classes specifically for men and women in my situation; and others who have a genuine interest in learning how to make proper Indian food.
Held at the Brilliant Restaurant on Sunday afternoons, each participant learns how to make a complete meal, from one of five delicious menus. Everything is provided; ingredients, utensils, expert chefs to oversee your every stir and even Tupperware to take your dishes home in so you can enjoy the feast with your family.
Options include Desi Treat where you learn how to cook onion bhajis, masala chicken and classic pilau rice, Tikka Fantasy where Dipna shows you how to prepare lamb kebabs, chicken tikka masala, chapattis and mango lassi and the menu I opted for; Curry Crazy comprising scrumptious Punjabi vegetarian delights like chilli paneer, mushroom pilau, bombay aloo and soya keema peas.
Two things stuck me when I arrived for the class; the set up looked exactly like Indian Masterchef; we all had our own stations set up with an electric cooker, aprons, chopping board and tray of spices; and the men. There were men of all ages eager to learn how to cook, out numbering the women; several of whom had previously attended Dipna’s other classes. Ladies. This could be just the place to find a well-trained husband!
The afternoon began with Dipna running through all the spices we’d be using. She then led us through each recipe one at a time, accompanied by her father Gulu Anand (a curry guru), the restaurant’s Head and Assistant Chefs and Manager – there was never a shortage of expertise and support was provided at every stage from chopping onions through to adjusting the taste.
No one was left behind, we worked at the same pace and there was plenty of opportunity to ask questions and also amend the recipes slightly to suit your own needs – for me that meant cutting back on the salt. Not that these were unhealthy dishes, they were all curry at it’s best; wholesome, flavoursome and not a drip of butter or ghee in sight.
Along the way we picked up tips and techniques like only ever add your garam masala at the end and placing foil inside the rice pan to allow the water to steam off quicker.
The result was four restaurant quality dishes that I took home and ate in the park. I also saved some samples for the office who tried it the next day (curry improves with age) and they agreed my creations were delicious (if the Asiana team agrees a curry tastes good then it clearly is!)
Of course it’s all well and good cooking when you’re surrounded by experts, but what happens when you’re all alone in your kitchen with the recipes and ingredients…will they still work? The following week I flew to Switzerland to visit my sister – it’s a land that has very little curry so I thought I’d treat her with some flavours from Southall. To my utter amazement they worked! Even the rice still cooked to perfection without Gulu’s expert eyes over them; every grain of rice was separate and nothing was stuck at the bottom on the pan.
It’s official. I can cook! Yay!
If you fancy mastering the art of Indian cuisine on a relaxing Sunday afternoon with Dipna and her lovely team at Brilliant Restaurant in Southall, call her on 07949 142428 or 0208 574 1928 or email email@example.com. www.dipna.com www.brilliantrestaurant.com
Prices start from £85 for three courses, private bookings for friends, parties and work colleagues also available.
Up and coming courses include:
Sunday June 2nd Tikka Fantasy
Sunday June 23rd King’s Feast
Sunday 14th July Desi Treat