Monday, 28 November 2011

A taste of India...

Madhu chargrilling some aubergines
One of my other life passions is food. Good, fresh food. Nothing beats a lovely meal, prepared, and then enjoyed with friends.

On 19th November I spent the day with some good friends learning a little more about indian food, under the expert tuition of Madhu Choudhry.

Madhu trained as a chef in 1994, and did her work experience at the world famous Taj Hotel in Mumbai, India. She moved to Norfolk in 1999 and started offering cookery tuition at her home, before starting her own catering company “Ethnic Fusion”.

She has introduced her food to the masses with regular stints at the award winning Creake Abbey Farmers Market, regularly selling all her stock within the first hour. And earlier this year she opened her brand new cookery school – based at Etling Green. This was our location on Saturday, tucked away in the Norfolk countryside just outside Dereham.

The cookery school is set in an old barn complex, part of which has been transformed into a fantastic spacious kitchen which is both welcoming and comfortable to work in. There were 5 of us learning from Madhu on the Beginners workshop, which is a full one day course introducing you to all the major ingredients used in Indian cooking, along with a chance to taste and then recreate some classic Indian dishes. We arrived just before 10am, and with cups of tea a plenty, settled around the demonstration hob to begin our day of learning.

Entrance to Ethnic Fusion

A welcoming environment with a few home touches!

Madhu first told us about all the key herbs and spices used in her cooking, which we passed around the class to look at, and importantly, smell. Madhu uses the freshest ingredients possible in her cooking, and this includes freshly ground spices. Being able to smell all the ingredients really showed us the difference freshly ground spices make. Then we watched as she created 4 dishes which we would then get to eat for lunch, and recreate ourselves in the afternoon.

Spices - you have to imagine the wonderful aroma
Cooking whole spices

Madhu gives all students on her courses copies of the recipes learnt on the day, so you get more time to concentrate on looking and listening, and don't have to worry about scribbling notes about ingredients. This was really handy, although its worth taking a notepad to write down some of the many tips shared throughout the day.

On the menu for our workshop was chicken masala, vegetable pilau, baingan ka bharta (an aubergine dish), and carrot raita. The morning was spent watching Madhu create these four flavoursome dishes, before we sat down at the dining table at the end of the workshop to enjoy them for lunch. This was another great point of the day, as we got to experience exactly how the dishes we were to prepare in the afternoon should taste – all the different flavours and textures.

Madhu at work
Delicious carrot raita
Madhu's four delicious creations, a taste sensation!

And then after a leisurely lunch, it was time for us to do the hard work, under the watchful eye of Madhu and the ever helpful Jenny, who made sure we had enough drinks (cooking is thirsty work!) and also cooking pans. We spent 4 hours creating the 4 dishes. It sounds like a long time, but actually flew past and was most fun.

Each dish was taste tested by Madhu, and at the end, our creations were packaged up ready to come home with us. My creations fed 6 people very well, so you get plenty to take away!

My workspace at the end of the day.
Take out for 6? OK then!

All in all a really good day, and thoroughly worth doing. And, tonight I put my new skills to use and made a lovely chicken masala for dinner.

To find out more about Madhu Choudhry's cookery courses visit 
Vouchers are available for Christmas this year - a great gift for anyone who loves Indian food!

North Norfolk Farmers Market details are at (another blog waiting to happen!)