Thursday, 9 February 2012

Dilli Restaurant Cookery Course - Altrincham

Cookery courses - something I've always wanted to do, yet something I've never attempted. Paying £90 plus for (sometimes as little as) a half day with ten other people always seems a little over priced, just to learn a skill I already have or will never use - why learn to temper chocolate when I'll go to a chocolatier if I want something exquisite; I have no want to go into the chocolate business myself, I'd be dead by the time I'm 35.

However when an invite to learn how to make a selection of Indian foods at award-winning Altrincham restaurant Dilli, for free, popped in to my inbox I found myself strangely excited and leapt at the chance. Maybe it's because I cook a lot of Indian food, but stick to the usual basics from my stained and well-thumbed Madhur Jaffrey book. Or maybe I just like free things.

The day was run by Living Social, a newish voucher company aimed at the growing army of bargain loving Brits; their aim was to give a selection of bloggers an insight into what one of these days looks like and I think we can all agree they did just that.

Dilli’s an upmarket Indian based in the middle of busy Altrincham, after a bit of a parking issue I arrived flustered and was whisked upstairs to meet my fellow foodies and our teachers for the day. Chefs Ravi and Nayeem ran through their credentials (impressive), a brief history of Indian cookery (comprehensive) and what we would be learning (extensive).

Introduction from Chef Ravi

First things first; a mango lassi demonstration from Chef Nayeem and some wise advice about never mixing beer with lassi from Chef Ravi. Out came the glasses and we all sipped on the velvety, icy delight; bit cold for a January afternoon, but it was so thick and luscious that I’d knocked it back in no time.

Nayeem making the lassi

Whilst we were drinking Chef Nayeem demonstrated onion bhajias and his wonderful knife skills (cue much green eyes from us guys watching); whilst Chef Ravi described the difference between Southern and Northern cookery. Time to taste again and the bhajias were a revelation; crisp, flavoursome and nothing like the soggy, burnt offerings you get in most places. In the fifeteen minutes it took to make them I’d learnt so many tips and tricks relating to Indian and everyday cookery that I wondered why I hadn’t done this before.

Bhajias and two wonderful sauces

Time for us to get cracking – we were shown to our individual stations; a camping stove, a board, a knife and a spoon. There’s no official teaching kitchen at Dilli, but their improvised set up was practical, giving everyone an uninteruppted view of what was going on and underlined the fact that Indian cookery is very accessible and doesn’t require running home and shelling out on oodles of fancy gadgets that get used for the first month and then collect dust at the backs of cupboards; the skills you learn here are instantly replicable at home.

Dilli cookery class set up

For the next two hours we studiously crafted a chicken Murgh Kali Mirch (veg option was available), Dal Tarka and a Aloo Palak; Chef Nayeem was on hand at every point to make sure our sauces were thick enough and that our onions were small enough (no way near as good as his I have to say – he can even chop them without looking!). All the while, Chef Ravi wove interesting tales about the ingredients around the heady, intoxicating smells emanating from our pans; explaining the history, uses and folklore of each. Did you know that turmeric is a preservative and that if you buy lots of fresh herbs you should chop them small and freeze them in ice cubes?

Aloo palak - yum yum yum

The day was exciting, interesting and I learnt a great deal. The most amazing thing was the Chefs’ obvious care and love for the food they were helping us to create. Their added facts and tales made the day totally engaging and I felt as though I was not only learning new dishes, but also what’s behind the dishes; something you can’t always get from cookery books or recipes you pick up a long the way.

Mix of spices - if you get a cheap curry, there's no way there's this many ingredients in it
There was only one down point to the day and was that we didn’t mix the spices ourselves, the chefs popped them in our pans for us. I would have liked to get a little more hands on than chopping and stirring – I’m a practical learner so for me to remember I have to do something (we have been given recipes though so I know how much of each goes where!).

The day at Dilli was definitely well worth it and has made me reconsider the merits of cookery courses. I may not be tempering chocolate, but maybe an Italian or a Japanese course could be my next adventure?

Eating the spoils - t'boy was very pleased and said it was the best curry I've ever made

Please note I was offered this day free of charge by Living Social, however the day would have been offered at about 50% off, which makes it very affordable and very worth it.

Dilli, 60 Stamford New Road, Altrincham WA14 1EE - 0161 929 7484 - - Twitter - Facebook

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