Growing up around my grandmother and mother, who are both extremely talented cooks, I have never felt the urge to properly learn how to cook Indian food. I’m not bad with desserts and can make a great penne alfredo, but when it comes to the art of spicing and adding layers of flavour to make vegetables come to life, I am useless. My mother has tried so many times to change this, unfortunately she has not succeeded. I get asked so many times by people if I can cook given that I run a food blog. My answer is always ‘I photograph and then I eat, I do not cook.’
A couple of months ago I received a message from ‘The Cardamom Pods’ inviting me to come and review their newly launched cooking class and then enjoy the food after. A quick scroll through the page and their website and I was tempted. Could I betray my mother like this and go to someone else’s house to learn how to cook Indian food? I decided that she wouldn’t mind, and if anything, would be proud that I actually did something beyond just eating. Fast forward to a couple weeks ago and I was driving down the M25, ready to learn how to cook and more importantly, eat.
I want to tell you all about my experience in detail, but at the same time I want you to go for yourself and have an incredible evening without knowing everything that’s going to happen. What follows then is my attempt at being informative but evasive both at the same time. From the minute you enter, you immediately feel at ease as sisters Chhaya and Varsha welcome you with a glass of prosecco and give you a little explanation behind TCP and what you can expect during the session.
I had asked in advance to learn something based on paneer and so that afternoon we learnt how to make mattar paneer (cottage cheese and peas curry), daal, rotli (chapatis) and rice. Everything is made from scratch, no Blue Peter style ‘I made this earlier’ cooking going on here. Every step is explained in detail and you can ask questions, taste and touch as you go along. You pick up tips along the way and cooking secrets that have been learnt over the years and passed down through generations. You learn how to play with spices so that your end product is unbelievably flavoursome and tastes of more than just chilli.
As the cooking comes to an end, all your food is plated up and served to you piping hot straight from the stove. The same goes for the rotlis, which are cooked one by one so that you can eat them with the hot air still coming out. They are perfectly thin, perfectly round and taste amazing when coated with a layer of ghee (clarified butter).
The paneer dish was so simple to make, yet tasted amazing, the cheese remained soft whilst holding its shape, the peas al dente and the sauce rich in taste.
The daal was made from 5 different types of lentils and was somehow creamy without adding any cream. The whole lentils added a different textural dimension to a dish that is normally smooth like a soup and it paired amazingly well with the fluffy basmati rice. Everything here is cooked with a healthy mind-set, the oil is kept to a bare minimum, the ghee is optional and there is normally a focus on vegetables and lean meats and fish for the non-veggies. Of course, if you’re like me, you can (and probably should) have the paneer.
By the end of our class, I was not only full of knowledge but full of food. I was fed to the point that I cancelled my dinner plans that day and honestly had no regrets. It’s not often that I leave somewhere with no complaints whatsoever, but this was one of those occasions. I love that classes are limited to 4 people so that it’s intimate and not just a way to churn numbers. The passion that both these ladies have for cooking is evident from the get go and that translates into amazing food. I cannot recommend this experience enough and I promise you that you will walk away having learnt something new. Click on the link below for some further information and then go to the ‘book online’ page and book in with 3 friends for a fantastic evening.