Dispatches from England: An American Learns About Indian Food at Recipease

I mentioned in my previous post about my family’s favorite British foods that curry dishes are among my husband’s favorite here (and mine, too, actually). Takeaway restaurants (and nicer restaurants) serving Indian food are a fixture here, much like seeing a Starbucks or McDonald’s on many street corners in America.

I had only had Indian food a few times prior to moving here. So needless to say, I’ve had a lot to learn. One way I’ve done this is by forcing myself to try something new each time we order from our local takeaway. I’m not a big fan of spicy foods, so I’m slowly working my way through all of the milder dishes on the menu. It’s probably a boring choice, but I like Chicken Tikka Masala perhaps most of all. And onion bhajis as an appetizer (or starter, as it would more typically be called here) are another favorite.

But last weekend, my husband and I had the chance to not only try a few new dishes, but also get our hands a bit dirty and cook some Indian food ourselves. We took an Indian street food cooking class at Recipease, a café, restaurant, kitchen store, and cooking school all rolled into one, operated by the famous British chef Jamie Oliver. He has several locations around the UK. Our class was at the Notting Hill location in London. (Not too far of a walk from Hyde Park or Kensington Palace, if you’re touring those areas and need a bite to eat or want to take a class yourself.)

Recipease 1

Our two-hour class got started with a glass of wine as one of the chefs demonstrated the first few steps of each of the three dishes that we would be making. Then we all went to work at our own cook stations, where all of our ingredients had been set out for us. Through the course of the class, we learned to make a delicious curry soup, Murgh Kali Mirch (a fancy way of saying a chicken skewer), and a bread pakoda.

Periodically throughout the class, we would reconvene as a group for further instruction and demonstration. But I loved the way we were able to work independently, all while the chefs helped us as needed or answered questions. One of my biggest takeaways from the class was the use of spices common in Indian cuisine. All three recipes we made used essentially the same mix of spices: cardamom, garam masala, mustard seeds, curry leaves, turmeric, and chili powder. For freshness, we added garlic, green chili, coriander (for American readers, that’s cilantro) and ginger to each dish. I definitely plan to stock my spice rack and fridge with these ingredients to make use of my new knowledge!

Recipease 3

My favorite dish was the curry soup. I’ve had at least a dozen or so curry dishes since moving here, but I think this one was my favorite. It had a hard boiled egg in it, which was also new for me. And it was a great example of the benefit of this class, as I now know how to make a delicious, healthy version in my own kitchen using a handful of ingredients I can easily pick up at the store (or keep on hand for a quick meal).

My least favorite dish was the bread pakoda. It was a slice of bread, stuffed with mashed potatoes and peas that we had been heavily seasoned with the various Indian spices mentioned above, and then dunked in batter and deep fried. It was just too heavy for my tastes. Not to mention I would never bother deep frying something in my own kitchen! Regardless, it was a dish I had never tried before and I loved experimenting with it.

Recipease 2

After the course, all the recipes are emailed to you so you can try things out at home but don’t need to bother taking notes during the class. If you’re not into Indian food, Recipease offers classes in many different cuisines, and also techniques like knife skills. They even offer cooking classes for kids.

So I’d love to hear what your favorite Indian dishes are. Leave me a comment with ideas of dishes I should try. I’m so confident after this class that I might even try to cook them myself… or just order one up next Friday from the takeaway!

Disclosure: I was hosted by Recipease for purpose of a review. All opinions are my own.

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  1. avatarSandra says

    I’m a Brit now transplanted to Atlantic Canada so we have very limited access to Indian food. My (Canadian) hubby is like you, he started out with the mildest of mild, chicken Korma but his favorites are now Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken.
    You could try Rogan Josh or Chicken or Lamb Biryani (which is baked in a clay oven/roaster). I really enjoy a Madras.

  2. avatarRegina Silvia says

    Sounds like fun! Are you allowed to share the recipe for the curry soup and/or chicken skewers?

  3. avatarMinerva says

    I cook a fair bit of Indian (& other Asian…) food, but at the moment we are really into Keralan cuisine….lots of rice, coconut (in all its forms incl. milk), vegetables & fish/seafood,
    plus we make our own dosas, porottas, sambars & achars.

  4. avatarLorena says

    My parents are Mexican so I’m a huge lover of spicy food. Moving to England in 1995 was hard when spicy food, NEVER mind Mexican, was non-existent. My English husband turned to his ace-in-hole: Indian food. It was love! I live for a great Madras, vindaloo and a phall (not all at once–lol) and all with fluffy naan breads, poppadums, chutney and many beers. When my family moved back to Texas where Mexican food is plentiful, I discovered that I stopped loving it as much and my love of curry was stronger! Thankfully, I live in a community with a high foreign population and their various cuisines. An amazing curry house just opened up outside of the subdivision so it’s a little dangerous. My kids inherited the love of spice so we are all pretty happy. Now if I can get someone from the British expat community to open up a chippy (definitely not my husband), life would be grand!

  5. avatartitch says

    I’m not keen on spicy food either. When we go to eat in an Indian restaurant I stick to a korma or butter chicken. That’s my limit! Still, I prefer going to my local chippy.

  6. avatarCynthia says

    I guess I’m surprised you hadn’t had much Indian food in the US. I live in Ohio and it is everywhere here – restaurants, stores, plenty of Indian food even in Giant Eagle, Kroger, and of course, places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Were you not able to find it, or was it available, but you just weren’t into it? The area I live in has been full of Indian restaurants for 30-35 years now.

  7. avatarBeth says

    Could you please share the curry soup recipe? My 11 year old son is vegetarian and Indian food is fantastic for him.

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