Indian cookery masterclass and cocktail making at Moti Mahal

Last night I saw myself rubbing shoulders with London’s food bloggerati. @KaveyEats showed face, as did @EssexEating and @Sulineats, as well as other food lovers who were keen on making cocktails and whipping up Indian dishes. We were invited to Moti Mahal in Covent Garden to celebrate the launch of The India Cookbook, a 1000-recipe collection by food writer Pushpesh Pant. With a size and weight that surpasses the Bible, it’s safe to say there’s more than Chicken Korma to this bad boy.

Head chef at Moti Mohal, Anirudh Arora, gave us a tour of his kitchen, before we got stuck into the cooking bit. Paturee, that is; pan fried crab cakes with tiger prawns wrapped in a banana leaf, was on the menu and while Anirudh did most of the cooking, he asked for our expertise (!) occasionally. My services were never asked for, but I was happy to keep my oversized paper hat in place and snap photos.

Anirudh showing us the kitchen.

Fresh ingredients for the Paturee.

The crab and prawn paste wrapped in banana leaves.

After we’d finished our session, we moved to the bar for a cocktail making masterclass with Simon La’Moon. Here, the bartender clearly saw my talents in the field and asked me to tear some basil leaves for the very tasty Gin Shikanjvi. The drink was incredibly refreshing with strong hints of cumin and black pepper, that complemented the fresh basil and mint. The non-alcholic milk drink Thandaii was delicious too and had a slight festive touch, with cardamom being the prominent flavour. One could easily throw in some alcohol in this one too…

Simon is mixing it up.

The Gin Shikanjvi, inspired by the Grand Trunk Road.

The non-alcoholic Thandaii.

After sipping Simon’s cocktails, we sat down, ready to enjoy a true Indian feast. I don’t think anyone knew what Moti Mahal had in store for us, and I probably wasn’t the only one to wish for jeans with an elasticated waistband by the end of the night.

This little wonder was the first to reach our palates. The Bhalla Papadi Chaat – crisp friend pastry and chick peas drizzled with creamy yoghurt, tamarind and mint chutney, was one of my favourite dishes. The crunchiness of the pastry, teamed up with the smooth yoghurt and sweet sauce made a lovely sensation.

The Paturee we helped making. This was quite spicy with chilli powder and chilli flakes adding oomph to the tiger prawn and crab cakes. The western touch to this dish was grated potatoes, which we were told made the cakes less dry.

I got over-excited when the Tandoor grilled guinea fowl marinated in royal cumin, fresh garlic and smoked red chillies appeared. So excited that I forgot to take a photo. But I can assure that the guinea fowl was tender, flavoursome and spicy, yet not too hot for my sensitive Scandinavian tastebuds.

The photo above shows lotus stem tossed with peanuts and coriander (in Punjabi style), and this was the true winner in my humble opinion. The crunchiness of the fried stems together with the nutty flavour of the peanuts made it impossible to resist. I had way too many servings…

Which is why I might’ve had less of this Suvey Aur Palak Ka Gosht – stewed lamb with spinach and dill. The perfectly cooked melt-in-your-mouth-lamb, was very nice, but it didn’t rock my world as much as the lotus stems. A very creamy Dal Makhani (black lentils slow-cooked overnight on charcoal) was however to my great surprise, excellent. Normally, I would overlook the simple Dal, but this was extremely satisfying.

The last dish was Methu Murgh Biriyani – chicken tossed with fragrant basmati rice, fenugreek leaves, ginger and homemade garam masala. I’m not much of a rice fan, which is why I rarely order Biriyani. But with a big dollop of creamy raita (cucumber and yoghurt) this was very nice indeed. Feeling like I was about to burst, but never one to say no to dessert, I waited anxiously for the last thing on the menu.

Luckily, it was a fruity selection of mini kulfis. A frozen milk-based dessert, these were just about what I could handle. I grabbed a blackberry stick and enjoyed the creamy texture, but couldn’t actually discern much blackberry flavour. Next time I would probably go for the pistachio.

I literally rolled home after a very delicious meal. If the Indian Cookbook offers only a fraction of these delicious recipe, I say it’s a good investment. And it saves you from bad curries too.

Moti Mahal holds regular Indian cookery masterclasses as well as cocktail classes. Book well in advance as these sell out quickly.

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