Phaidon has recently published yet another massive cookery tome and this time it’s on the cuisine of India. I’m a big fan of the cookbooks they publish and when I received an invitation to take part in a masterclass and dinner at Moti Mahal for the launch of the India Cookbook, I said yes. I love Indian food and will take any opportunity to learn more about it. A copy was sent to us and though I’ve not cooked from the book yet, the sheer range of recipes and photos makes for very exciting reading. The only niggle I have with the book is that the recipes are often in need of a little proofreading as some steps aren’t clearly stated.
At the restaurant, our group was split into two, taking it in turns to participate in a cooking masterclass with head chef Anirudh Arora and a cocktail masterclass with mixologist Simon La’Moon. After a tour of the Indian kitchen, our group got the opportunity to learn how to make paturee, spicy crab and tiger prawn cakes wrapped in banana leaves and then grilled. Anirudh Arora was a guest chef in the cookbook and provided a few of his recipes for a special section in the back.
This was followed by the session at the bar, where we learned to make two drinks, one alcoholic (a Gin Shikanjvi) and the other nonalcoholic and milk based (a Thandai, and the recipe is in the book).
Afterwards, we sat down to a dinner, partially made up of dishes with recipes in the book, in the restaurant. As you’d expect at an Indian restaurant, the food was all served family style. The tables were first set with platters of raw vegetables with a kind of chaat masala on the side. I noticed that all tables received this lovely appetiser/snack but none tucked in with such voracity as ours!
First up from the menu proper were the starters. A Bhalla papdi chaat, a fried pastry and chick peas topped with yoghurt and tamarind and mint chutneys, was gorgeous with all its contrasts in textures and flavours.
Then along came the Paturee, the recipe of which we learned to make earlier that evening (the recipe is in the book). A squeeze of lemon goes well on these cakes, otherwise the combination seemed a little flat.
Another dish with a recipe in the book was Titari, a tandoor grilled guinea fowl marinated with cumin, garlic and smoked chillies, and it was what the other half of the group learned to make. I liked how the strong spices paired well with the slightly gamey bird.
After the starters were cleared, the table was again refilled with goodies.
The Suvey aur Palak ka Gosht (stewed lamb with spinach and dill) was another recipe from the book. A bowlful of a very thick curry with whole spinach leaves (real leaves, not just green mush) which clung to tender lamb pieces was mopped up rather enthusiastically by many of us.
The Kararee Bhyein was my favourite that night; this was stir fried lotus root slices tossed with peanut and coriander in the Punjabi style. These crispy morsels were extremely moreish and I couldn’t stop just snacking on them like crisps. I also like the textural contrast they give to the curry. Luckily for me, the recipe is also featured in the book.
A Murgh Methi Biriyani (chicken with basmati rice, spinach and fenugreek) made up for any rice deficiencies we may have had and was good as far as biryanis go.
A couple of side dishes came in the form of a creamy Dal makhani (slow cooked black lentils) and a Raita (cucumber and yoghurt).
Accompanying everything was a Tokra, the Chef’s choice of three tandoor baked breads – these included one tandoori roti and two types of naan, I believe. I was partial to the wholewheat roti myself with its nuttiness.
The meal finished with the Chef’s selection of Mini Kulfis. These looked like the baby version of the kulfis sold on a stick out on the streets of Southall but unfortunately, the flavours didn’t come though very well though they were particularly rich and creamy.
I do hope to replicate some of these dishes and others from the book at home. All of the dishes we had (including those from recipes in the book) are available in the restaurant (but wow, at some high prices!). Anirudh also offers Indian cookery classes in his kitchen and Simon runs cocktail masterclasses too and the details for both can be found on their website.
Thank you again to Louisa at Sauce Communications for the invitation. All my photos from the night can be found in this Flickr photoset.
45 Great Queen Street
London WC2B 5AA