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Top Cookery Tips from a Top Indian Chef

June 22, 2012

Cyrus Todiwala and Nina Wadia cooking

Attending a cookery masterclass is always an inspiration and seeing a top chef at work not only makes the mouth water but offers new perceptions and insights into preparing and presenting food.

Last week Ananya attended a demonstration by Indian chef Cyrus Todiwala (whom you can frequently see on Saturday Kitchen and Daybreak)  at his restaurant in the City of London called Café Spice Namaste.  Acting as his sous chef was actress Nina Wadia.

Only The Freshest Local And Seasonal Ingredients

Cyrus has a very engaging style and right from the start the audience was caught up in his enthusiasm, wit and indepth knowledge of food.  Café Spice Namaste offers a twist on traditional dishes from Goa, North India, Hyderabad and Kashmir and uses the freshest seasonal ingredients and the best of British produce wherever possible.

I learned that Lucknow in India was one of the finest seats of Indian cuisine, with much of the influences being brought over from Persia. The Rajah’s chefs might have had respect but cruelly, their thumbs were amputated to prevent them sharing their secrets with others.

Whilst chopping, cooking, slicing and chatting, Cyrus dropped in many gems of culinary wisdom.

For example, it was King Henry VIII of England who brought ginger to England. At the time it was considered to be an aphrodisiac and with his desire for male heirs, he was keen on eating as much ginger as he could!

Other tips from Cyrus

  • After you have cooked your onions until they reach transparency, add a little water to your pan before the mince – this prevents the meat from clumping into lumps.  (I’ve since tried this and it really works…)
  • Olive oil is not good for Indian cooking – use extra virgin rapeseed oil which fries at a higher temperature
  • Never buy large onions – you’re just buying water. You also won’t be able to chop them finely as the layers are too large
  • Tuck your knife under the edge of your chopping board so you don’t cut your fingers.
  • Good quality cinnamon is tightly curled
  • Taking seeds out of a chilli is very ‘British’
  • Curry is really a food from the coastal areas of India – without coconut milk as an ingredient what you’re eating isn’t really curry. (And of course, coconuts only grow near the sea.)
  • Curry powder was invented by a Colonel Bolt in Madras, who wanted to take the taste of India back to the UK with him
  • A classic British curry would have contained oriental food; bananas, pineapple etc.
  • Roll a lemon and lime with the hands on a chopping board before squeezing as this makes the juice flow more freely
  • Dhansak only means lamb in India. So strictly Chicken Dhansak cannot exist
Indian food in bowlIndian food

Our tastebuds were delighted by paneer in a rich gravy, complete with fried green raisins and cashews. Goat meat shami kebabs enlived by a herby chutney. My favourite was a fluffy pilau rice, initially cooked on the hob and transferred to the oven – mouthwatering perfection.

Find Your Feet food charity

The event was part of the Curry For Change initiative which is aiming to raise awareness of Find Your Feet, a charity which works with poor rural families in India, Malawi, Nepal and Zimbabwe to help them grow enough food to avoid hunger.

Ananya Cards supports Find Your Feet. Ethical responsibility is very important to the company and a firm part of our ethos.

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