We arrived at Moti Mahal in London’s Covent Garden on a Saturday morning with our fervent foodie hats on, ready to get stuck in and learn all about the staples and luxuries of the Indian kitchen and how to prepare a delicious six course vegetarian meal.
Nostalgic memories of traditional Indian home cooking have played a pivotal part in inspiring talented Head Chef Anirudh Arora to create a classic, authentic vegetarian menu that largely derives from the northern region of Punjab with a subtle, skilful Moti Mahal twist.
We kicked off our cookery class with an introduction to help us familiarise with key kitchen aides starting with the unparalleled taste you can get from a tandoor (a traditional clay oven – one fired by gas for breads such as naan and another fired by charcoal for achieving a barbecue-grilled flavour) and finishing with a nifty ice-cream maker that churns out impeccably smooth results.
Delhi-born chef Arora explained and demonstrated the art of preparing a sumptuous Indian feast where juggling dishes in a methodical, composed manner and using your eyes to make better judgements on ingredient measures, as well as ensuring to taste the flavours as you go, are all laid down as crucial to the end result.
A bubbling cauldron of hot whole milk transformed into a soft, creamy mound of paneer right before our very eyes, whilst listening to Arora’s step-by-step instructions. The delicate, soft Indian cottage cheese pieces were later thrown into a beautifully tomato-spiced masala with fresh garden peas to rustle up a comforting curry dish of mutter paneer.
We then moved on to the gucchi pulao – soaked morels in basmati rice, delicately cooked with fragrant saffron and cardamom to softly balance and support the flavours of the other spiced dishes for the day.
Arora next tucked freshly washed mustard green leaves, spinach leaves, green chillies and salt into a pressure cooker and let this other Indian kitchen staple work its speed-cooking magic. In the meantime, a combination of dry spices crackled, popped and roasted before turning into the base for the sarson ka saag – pounded mustard and spinach leaf curry that is commonly served with a corn meal bread called makai ki roti. Arora showed us how to mix out the flours, knead out the dough and roll it out to then bake the roti bread on a hot plate.
As the green leafy saag dish continued to cook away, we moved on to the shakarkandi ki tikki – a starter dish of pan-fried grated sweet potato cakes with charoli nuts (which taste similar to pine nuts) and a sharp-sweet-spiced gooseberry chutney.
For dessert, we were shown how to make bhapa doi – baked yoghurt with figs and cardamom. This easy, creamy complementary pudding simply involves combining Greek style yoghurt with condensed milk and chopped fresh figs with cardamom powder and spooning the mixture into muffin paper cups and producing a bain-marie to bake them. Once completely cooled, enjoy them with a refreshing scoop of strawberry and cumin sorbet.
No cookery class would be complete without getting to have a taste and Moti Mahal ensures you get to enjoy all of the prepared vegetarian dishes (and a few more) after the two-hour session in its main restaurant dining space.
Highly educational and extremely insightful without a lot of fuss but still full of culinary flair, we couldn’t wait to head back and try to re-create the authentic Indian dishes in our own kitchen. Ensure to book ahead to avoid missing out.
A ‘Discover India’ non-vegetarian menu is also available which includes meat, seafood and poultry dishes.
About Reena Patel