This wonderful Indian cookery school is located in a residential street in North London. I hadn’t had a cookery lesson since leaving school so I wasn’t sure what to expect, cooking with a group of people I had never met before…
Spice Monkey, 191 Victoria Road, London N22 7XH – 15 minutes walk from Bounds Green underground station. There is also ample parking on Victoria Road.
The well established Indian cookery school, Spice Monkey, was headed up by Nikita Gulhane. He welcomed us on arrival and provided us with an apron. We were then seated together around a large table, in preparation for our Indian cookery class.
One by one, we introduced ourselves. We talked a little about our careers, whether we had cooked any Indian food before and our reasons for coming along. Nikita also talked a bit about his background. This included the work he did with Madhur Jaffrey, gathering recipes for the book which accompanied the TV series ‘Curry Nation’. Next, he went on to explain about some of the spices that are commonly used in the different regions of India.
This led to a range of commonly used fresh and dry spices being presented to us. One at a time, each student was encouraged to smell and taste each of the spices and herbs we were about to use. This was both an interesting and humorous exercise. We quickly realised some flavours were pleasant to start with and then left a bitter after taste. Some spices were hotter than expected, others reminded people of sweets from their childhood. There were even those that smelt like armpits and one which is used to help control wind!!!
Making Garam Masala
Nikita demonstrated how to make garam masala, a blend of spices which can be used as a base for many Indian dishes. He explained how it can vary massively and no two families would make it the same way. The beauty of Indian cookery is that so many herbs and spices are used. Once you know what these taste like, it is easier to adapt dishes to get the right level of flavour and spice for you. It was at this point that I realised the importance of the spice tasting exercise.
A delicious and light lunch was served next! We enjoyed a flavourful rice dish with peas, accompanied by a cup of sweet saffron tea.
After lunch, we were split into 3 groups, each having their own table top gas hob and wok. Under careful instruction and supervision, we heated our oil and tested the temperature by adding mustard seeds and waiting for them to ‘pop’. Then, we took it in turns to stir in spices and herbs and begin to make the delicious dishes we later eat. The aromas from the sizzling pans was incredible and it was amazing to watch our dishes come to life!
During this time we chatted, laughed and learnt such a lot about the basics of Indian cookery and how to experiment with it. An enjoyable time was had by all!
By 4pm the food was ready to eat. Nikita served all the dishes we had made. Additionally, he prepared a sweet and salty lime drink to complement our meal. The dishes we shared were:
Creamy chickpea curry
Mrs G’s chicken curry (a recipe from Nikita’s mother)
A potato dish with green beans
The £125 I paid for this course was well spent. I thoroughly enjoyed my day and would definitely be interested in going along to another one! The cost included a light lunch, the meal at the end of the day and all drinks. The only additional cost is if you choose to purchase any spices from the Spice Monkey shop. All recipes are sent to the students after the course.
Was it a good solo activity?
Taking part in an Indian cookery class is a superb solo activity. We were a group of 8 people, male and female of varying ages with different backgrounds. None of that mattered. We all got along and had a wonderful time. The only thing of importance was our shared love of Indian food. At the end of the day, all of us have taken away valuable information and wonderful memories from this Indian cookery school. It was so much fun!
Click on the Spice Monkey website for details of this beginners class as well as other courses available.
Suggested Further Reading:
If you are looking thinking about other things to do by yourself, check out the following pages with links to places I have been to solo, that I can recommend.