Cookery School

I’ve been looking into ways to turn the Food From 4 idea into a business. Having toyed with branded items for sale and hosted dinner parties, I decided to have a go at a cookery school. I put the word out on various social media sites and soon had four willing volunteers to participate in a trial.

Having decided on a menu and the format, I then needed to sort out all the other logistical challenges. I opted for Indian inspired dishes – paneer skewers, vegetable samosas, aubergine and tomatoes cooked in whole spices, pilau rice and a cucumber raita. The plan was to spend 2½ hours preparing and cooking, then the final half hour we can eat lunch.

Do I have enough space for everyone to cook comfortably? Do I have enough equipment? What do I serve to drink with the food? How do I design the recipe cards? Does everyone need an apron?

I cleaned up my old two burner camping gaz, bought aprons online. Got dishes i use for photographing out of the loft. Hey presto, I had created a training kitchen.

I left the cooking to the students, lending a hand only when needed. There is nothing quite as frustrating as joining a cookery course only to spend hours watching the instructor cook. The only real way to learn is to do it yourself.

The morning was a success. Our dishes turned out well and we all enjoyed cooking, talking about ingredients, food, techniques. Keep an eye on this blog, my facebook page and instagram for details of the next one.

Here are a few photos of the day

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Roasted, Spiced Broccoli with Paneer

I’ve been reading lately about the deliciousness of roasted cauliflower – just a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, half an hour in a hot oven and out pops a delicious, charred side dish.

I wondered if I could do something similar with cauliflower’s green cousin, broccoli. To make it more interesting I added some warm spices and some cubes of paneer. Served with grilled nan and natural yogurt, this makes for a very easy supper.

Serves 2 to 3 depending on greed

1 large head of broccoli – cut into florets
150g – 200g paneer – cubed
1 onion – cut into 1/8ths
100ml light olive oil
juice of a lime
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon chili powder – more if you like it hotter
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

Put the oven on to 200C or 180C with the fan

Mix the olive oil, lime juice, salt and spices in a large bowl then add the onion, broccoli and paneer. Mix well to ensure everything is coated in the spiced oil.
When the oven is hot, tip everything into an oven proof dish and put in the oven for 25-30 minutes giving it a quite stir around every 5-10 minutes to prevent the broccoli from burning.

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Cucamelons

The wonderful farmers at Riverford sent me a sample of cucamelons. These odd little grape sized fruits grow on a vine and have lovely, if somewhat tough, watermelon-like skins.

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I tried one raw. Hmm. Not great A bit like a cucumber only blander. Most articles I googled suggest the cucamelon has a sour hint, a little like lime. I couldn’t taste that. They seemed to taste of very little and those tough skins are quite unappealing. So, what is the best thing to do with bland food….make a curry. Or to be more precise, make an accompaniment to a curry.

I opted for a spiced salad/chutney.

6-8 cucamelons – chopped into small chunks
1 tablespoon red onion – finely chopped
1 red chili – very finely chopped
3-4 cardamon pods – take out the seeds and crush
a pinch of cumin seeds – crushed
juice of half a lime
salt to taste
pinch sugar
2-3 tablespoons fresh coriander – choppped
small glug oil

Place everything in a bowl. Mix and leave for half an hour or more for the flavours to develop. If you leave it overnight the cucamelon skins do soften a little. Serve with popadums

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or with a spinach, chick pea and paneer curry with bread

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Verdict. I still love Riverford, but cucamelons I can happily live without. Have you tried them? What did you think?

Paneer with Rice and Peas

Another Madhur Jaffery classic dish. Her dishes really are foolproof provide you read them through beforehand. You can eat this on its own with chutneys and pickles or with a sag side dish.

150g-200g pack of paneer – cubed
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 bay leaves
5 cardamom pods
½ stick cinnamon
Basmati rice – the amount you use depends on how many people you are feeding
Frozen peas – again, adjust the amount depending on the numbers you are feeding
1 green chili – finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Heat the oil in a large saucepan – one with a lid – over a medium flame.

Fry the paneer until brown. This happens quickly and watch out as the paneer spits hot fat onto you and your clothes. Remove the browned paneer cubes with a slotted spoon and put to one side.

Keep the pan over the heat and add a little more oil if required. Throw in the cinnamon, cardamon pods and bay leaves. Fry for 2-3 seconds then add the rice. Stir well to ensure the rice gets coated with the oil. Now add the peas, chili, salt and cumin. Add enough water to cover the rice and peas by about a centimetre and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly for 5 minutes until most of the water is absorbed. Place the paneer on the rice, cover and switch off the heat. Leave with the lid on for about 20 minutes until all the water is absorbed.

Remove the bay leaves, cardamom pods and cinnamon. They usually float on top of the water so should be easy to find. Mix well and serve while hot.