My eldest daughter Ella is very good at winning raffles. Last year she won me membership of a boot camp company: and for a month I slipped and slid around the muddy park (I even did press-ups in the snow!). This year I was delighted when she won an Indian Cookery Class with Curries From Home at the school fayre. Unfortunately for me she had no intention of sharing this prize, so we struck a deal; I would accompany her to the lesson to take photos and blog about it, she would learn about Indian cooking.

Malini Kakkar runs Curries From Home in Farnham, Surrey. She caters events (quiz nights, weddings, birthday parties etc.), takes a stall at fairs, fetes, carnival and festivals, and sells her curries through local shops and markets. She also runs cookery classes; both at the local secondary school and also from home for keen cooks and curry fans.

Pavni, Malinis’ 11 year daughter, joined us for the lesson. Malini despairs that her two daughters would rather eat pasta and pizzas than her authentic home cooked food, and Pavni was amazed that Ella enjoys Indian food. We struck a deal; Pavni would learn about her mothers’ food heritage alongside Ella, and I will teach Pavni how to cook a roast dinner with real gravy on another date!

indian cookery classes

The girls started off with a lesson about spices. Did you know that after peppercorns, cumin is the most popular (used) spice worldwide? Ella did me proud by being able to identify it, although I’m not sure whether it was just a lucky guess…

Malini was born in Delhi where the food is a melting pot of different regional cooking. On the menu this afternoon was chicken tikka, a chickpea curry, gold coins and coriander chutney. Malini explained the difference between chicken tikka and chicken tikka masala. Tikka describes meat that has been in a marinade, whereas masala is the mix of ingredients to create a sauce or gravy. The girls were preparing chicken tikka, first preparing a marinade to tenderise the meat and then barbecuing it on kebab sticks with peppers and onion.

I could see that Ella was soaking up the lesson, particularly the science of cooking: or as Malini explained the “art of cooking”. It was interesting listening to Malini describing what to look for when cooking the chickpea curry, how to tell that all the water had evaporated by the sheen left by the remaining oil in the pan. Things that I’d never really thought about before. Ella loves science and maths but had never realised how closely related cooking is to them.

Once the chicken was tenderising in its’ marinade, it was time to do some chopping. Onions and peppers were chopped to be put on skewers with the tikka. More onions, tomatoes and coriander (including the stalks which have lots of flavour) were prepared for the chickpea curry. Next up were the gold coins. Not dissimilar to a samosa, gold coins consist of pastry with a potato stuffing. The pasty contained ajwain, a spice with a close resemblance to the flavour of thyme. As with many of the other spices being used, ajwain has digestive properties, as do the fennel seeds in the potato stuffing.

indian cookery classes

It was fun making the gold coins, and messy! Ella got stuck in making the pastry and then mashing up the potatoes with her fingers. Once the pastry was rolled out, the potato stuffing squished over it, the whole lot is rolled up like a Swiss roll, sliced, flattened and deep fried. A great recipe for children, although the frying needs supervision!

As the chickpea curry simmered the girls prepared the chicken tikka; skewering the chicken pieces, peppers and onion. These went under the grill while the gold coins were fried. Malini whizzed up a simple coriander chutney, just garlic, yoghurt and coriander, and it was time for the taste test. Miraculously, Ella and Pavnis’ younger siblings appeared as the food was plated up! It wasn’t difficult to judge the success of the recipes as gold coins vanished in front of our eyes. The chicken tikka and chickpea curry were also a hit, I can’t wait for Ella to make the chickpeas again; I need a big bowl of them next time!

And that is exactly what Ella will be able to do. Before we left, Malini tested her on all the spices they had used, and then presented her with the recipes and a starter kit of spices needed to recreate the dishes at home. Ella’s verdict on the afternoon was a big thumbs up; I just hope I can emulate Malinis’ inspirational teaching style when I teach Pavni how to cook a roast!

indian cookery classes

Details of Malinis’ cookery classes, catering and frozen meals can be found online. If Farnham’s a little too far for you to travel, check out your local Adult Ed for Indian cooking classes in your area.