Hope you’re well and enjoying your bank holiday weekend?
I’m having a low-key, chilled out one. Between two little holidays, getting ill and having a full on month at work the R&R is so very welcome right now! And of course, I’m spending loads of time in the kitchen cooking, baking and eating, ha! I’ve got some killer new recipes coming your way in the weeks ahead. =]
A few weeks ago, my fellow food-obsessed chum Zohra, over at Halal Gems, invited myself and an array of other food bloggers to an Indian cooking masterclass at Darbaar. As I’m not usually the biggest fan of Indian food – probably a combination of it being quite heavy, having grown up eating it day in day out and also it being done so badly in so many places around London – I did wonder if it was worth attending, however, I’m so very glad I did!
^ Soz, I realise that pic isn’t quite focused right but I thought it was too cool to not include! I like elephants.
We were warmly welcomed into a the rather grandly decorated restaurant with drinks and delicious canapes – I seem to have been too distracted because I forgot to pull out my camera but here are some iPhone pics of my favourites:
^ Chilli chicken – perfectly cooked, succulent chicken tossed in an addictive spicy but slightly sweet sauce and served with colourful peppers. YUM!
^ Lamb seekh kebabs. I was really surprised at how good these were, I’ve tried this a handful of times, and been disappointed Every. Single. Time. However these were a whole new experience. Tender, melt in your mouth bites of minced lamb, with a medley of Indian spices. The pomegranate added a welcome additional pop of flavour too.
We were then given a quick tour of the restaurant which included the chef’s table:
I mean, how cool is that, who wouldn’t want to see the prep work and what goes on behind the scenes?!
And a private dining room – ideal for fancy business conferences / lunches etc.
Next up – the masterclass with Chef Abdul Yaseen himself.
After giving us a little background on himself, he moved on to spices and ingredients. He sources his spices whole and directly from various places in India, taking advantage of the best each region has to offer before grinding them down in house to help maintain their freshness.
One thing that really came across throughout his talk was how deep his passion for food ran.
^ Love the vibrant red from the Kashmiri chilli powder.
^ Something new I came across whilst there – rock moss. Apparently this will really help enhance other flavours. A little goes a long way.
He then moved on to marinading chicken thigh strips. Just lemon and salt initially to “open the pores.” Next, ginger and garlic pastes.
Followed by red chilli and garam masala, made in house, naturally.
Finally a generous scoop of Greek yoghurt.
He was so assured of the quality of his chicken and spices, he licked his finger to check the seasoning. Not sure I’d ever do that after having handled raw poultry but it definitely speaks volumes.
After letting the chicken sit and marinade for a while, it was skewered up and grilled. The metal skewers allow the chicken to be nice and charred on the inside whilst channeling heat through the centre ensuring the pieces are perfectly succulent.
We moved on to making nanzas – a cross between the Indian flatbread naan and pizzas.
^ yeasted seeded dough, flattened and shaped then baked till just done before brushing with ghee (clarified butter), a home made chilli and tomato sauce, generous topping of chicken then sprinkled with cheese, red onions and coriander.
Not too shabby, but not quite as good, ha. Might have to recreate and practice at home one of these days and share a proper, detailed recipe.
Next up, my absolute favourite, butter chicken! I’ve taken to making my own butter chicken as of late, because it just tends never to live up to my expectations in restaurants.
Adding the chicken he’d marinaded earlier to a tomato and cream based sauce, with some more garam masala, sugar and fenugreek leaves, he went on to add a very generous helping of salted butter.
And such a pleasure to sample, with layers upon layers of flavours fusing together, spicy with sweet undertones, in each spoonful I tasted a different spice that I’d missed in the previous. Genuinely probably the best butter chicken I’ve had outside of India, and slightly grudgingly, better than my own! Although, I’d probably opt for a tiny bit more sugar. I’m definitely going back for some more when I need my next curry fix.