The art of curry
Want to learn how to make an authentic curry in the style of Indian nobility. Step this way and say hi to Sameena from The Art of Curry.
If your idea of cooking an Indian curry involves frying off some onions, meat and veg, then adding a shop-bought jar of tikka masala – then we came from the same school of cooking.
It’s not so much laziness. Well, ok, it is a little bit laziness – but it’s also a time thing, and a bit of a clueless thing. I mean, how many spices do I need for a curry? (Answer: gazillions.) And in which order do I plonk them in the dish?
I have no idea. But luckily, Sameena Thompson, the grand lady behind The Art of Curry gourmet curries and curry sauces knows a thing or two about blending spices. And what’s more, she’s prepared to share her secrets – so I hotfooted it to Farncombe early one Sunday morning for a lesson in how to cook a curry.
Like most of the good cooks I’ve met, Sameena learnt to cook from her mother and grandmother. She grew up eating classic curry dishes – korma, bhuna, daals – that came with her mother when she travelled from India to Pakistan and then to England. Sameena’s family recipes are inspired by the classic slow cooking style of the Royal palaces of India – and these are the secrets she passes on in her classes.
Her full-day Saturday class teaches the slow-cook method. The half-day Sunday class is the one for cheats and teaches the basics of curry making, but with quicker methods. No prizes for guessing which class I chose!
Classes are held at the Farncombe Day Centre, and they’re informal and relaxed. Sameena starts by having a coffee and chat with her pupils, talking us through her background, the menu and the spices. There were three of us on the course – me, and a couple from Windlesham who where having a weekend away.
ON THE MENU
Sameena alternates between vegetarian and meat classes, and customises the menu to taken into account the likes and dislikes of her pupils. I was on the vegetarian class, and our menu included a classic Hyderabadi sweet potato curry, a green vegetable bhuna curry, a delicious baghari daal and a pea pilau rice.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Sameena’s energy and enthusiasm is infectious – and her passion for classic Indian cooking is obvious. After our coffee and chat, Sameena introduced us to the spices she uses in her curries. She’s an intuitive cook, rather than one who works with exact measurements – and I love this about her. She gave us the basic guidelines for spice ratios, but encourages her students to experiment with tastes.
We each cooked at our own work stations, which included everything we needed to cook up our curry banquet including a portable two-hob stove. Our first dish was the sweet potato curry, followed by the daal, the green bhuna curry then the pea pilau rice. It’s very hands on – we measured, mixed and chopped our own ingredients, inhaled deeply the amazing aromas we were producing, and taste tested throughout the day.
The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed – Sameena shared stories of a family Indian wedding she had recently attended, and the other couple and I exchanged stories about fussy children. And at the end of the day we packaged up mountains of food to take home and share with our families – including those fussy children.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
I thought my children were vegetable averse – but it turns out that when they’re cooked using Sameena’s secret recipes, they’re actually quite good. I served my curry banquet to my family for dinner the next evening and was amazed and really quite chuffed at how much they all enjoyed it.
Good for: Anyone who enjoys cooking and wants to learn the tricks to making authentic Indian curries. The classes would make a brilliant gift experience – a great thing for couples to do together, or groups of friends. You don’t need
Not for: It probably quite obvious really, but if you don’t like spicy food or curries, you probably won’t enjoy this day.
The damage: Sameena’s Quick and Easy Sunday class, which runs from 10am-2pm, is £70 per person. Her Slow-cook class is from 10am-4.30pm on a Saturday and costs £120. Sameena provides everything you need.