Tonight, David and I get some culinary enlightenment at Bayleaf, a local Indian restaurant, where we enjoy a one hour cooking class with Gaurav the Masterchef. We’ve enjoyed many a meal here, so we’re hoping we can look, learn and later, recreate some incredible Indian at home.
While we wait for things to hot up in the kitchen and the other students to arrive, Gaurav wets our appetite with a delicious Sadabahar Tikki which is a beetroot and kumara patty lightly flavoured with mango and chaat masala. It really makes my mouth water!
Gaurav then takes us on a culinary tour showing us a vast array of spices and spilling the beans on his top ten ingredients in his Garam Masala (which translated literally means “mixture of hot spices.” It’s exciting to look, smell and sometimes, taste spices I didn’t even know existed. Gaurav has lots of top tips. I for one, didn’t know that spices lose their flavour quickly when they are ground, so for the biggest taste and fullest flavour, it’s best to buy whole spices, a little and often, and grind them as you need them. Food for thought!
There are only 6 apprentices in class tonight which means we can all get up close and personal. Gaurav kindly gives us all an apron so we can look and feel the part! First off, he makes Paneer which is basically a kind of cottage cheese. It’s just milk and white vinegar, could it be any easier? I am not a big fan of paneer on it’s own, but slather it in sauce, and I love it! First off, we taste some paneer that Gaurav prepared earlier, it’s very firm and a bit too tofu like in texture for my tastebuds, but we add a bit of cream to the batch we have cooking, so it will be softer and have a more creamy texture. It’s so super quick to make, and the longest job, is the setting of the cheese, which takes no effort at all, just a little patience!
Then Gaurav turns his attention to the Butter Chicken. I always run a mile from this on a menu because I always think it’s such a rich ole dairy-fest but when we check out the recipe it isn’t all that bad. It’s basically just tandori chicken, in a mild and creamy sauce. Gaurav tells us that he doesn’t add any sugar to his food and uses honey as a natural sweetner and he doesn’t use artificial colourings either; he uses Kashmiri Chilli Powder which is redder than Rudolph’s nose to give his curries a colour injection. Don’t be alarmed, the only bold thing about this spice is the colour, it’s super mild in flavour. The chicken is part baked in the oven and finished off in the sauce. We taste the sauce as we go, and tweak it until it tickles our tastebuds.
Gaurav also shows us how to make pastes with garlic, chilli and ginger, by simply grinding whole heaps of each, and then storing them in jars with about 200ml of oil to preserve. These fresh and fiery pastes will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. A little more effort, but much better than those store bought chopped varieties.
Finally, Gaurav makes Paratha which I can only describe as a naan bread but flatter. It’s super quick and easy to make and I think the calories one burns getting down and dirty kneading the dough can only be a bonus! He literally makes it in minutes, and all he uses is flour and yoghurt. Who needs frozen chappatis when you can make Paratha this easily?
After we look, listen and learn, we get to the highlight of the cooking class; the tasting. The six of us sit down to steaming plates of Palak Paneer, (home made paneer in a sauce of pureed spinach flavoured with Gaurav’s special garam masala), Butter Chicken and fresh Paratha. It’s a feast fit for a Raja!
And the best bit is, I was canny enough to buy two vouchers, so that’s twice as many tips and double the dinner. I can’t wait to do it all again next time! And of course, the restaurant is always open for dinner, so just like the Terminator, I’ll be back!