Last week I was invited to Cook with Hari a blogger event in Brighton – with Hari Ghotra, an expert Indian cook, teacher and also a Chef at the Tamarind collection of restaurants which include the Michelin stared Tamarind of Mayfair.
The event was geared around showing me and fellow bloggers, AmyRutter.com, Tea, Cake and Make and The Gluten-Free Dining Guide how to make three favourite Indian dishes: A Lamb Bhuna, Onion Bhajis (or Pakora) and Vegetable Samosas, just in time for National Curry Week, which is the whole of this week!
One of the bloggers in attendance was gluten intolerant so we used ground gluten-free flour to make the Samosas and the Bhuna and Bhajis didn’t contain any gluten so that didn’t require any adjustments.
It was an evening filled with many useful learnings and I could probably go on for days telling you about it, but I’ll try to just summarise the really useful nuggets I took away from the three hours! Here you go…
- A Bhuna is a dry dish, by dry what I mean is the sauce clings to the meat, unlike a creamy Korma for instance. It’s also pronounced boo-nan-na in India, not boo-na as we do here.
- When you cook onions for a curry it’s important to do so until they are a deep dark brown colour. If you’re cooking a dish like a Madras, Hari recommends cooking for a good half an hour before adding any other ingredients! This is what gives it the intensity and depth of flavour.
- When cooking a Bhuna, it’s important to chop up the ginger and garlic finely so the finished dish is smooth. If you are making a chunkier dish e.g. Jalfrazi, it’s fine chop the onions up into chunks. However, if you are making a very smooth dish like a Korma, you want your onions to be even more fine and in this instance use a food processor, but do not blitz the onions until they are mush, more so they are grated.
- If your onions start sticking to the pan, add a little bit of water to lift the off the pan and stop them burning.
- There are 5 key spices for a Bhuna, coriander, cumin, mustard, fenugreek seed, fennel seeds.
- Cumin has a warmth to it and brings out the natural sweetness of your dish and can be used whole or ground. A ground cumin adds a nuttiness, so it’s good for rice dishes. Cumin is also the most commonly used spice and the base of most Indian dishes.
- Fenugreek seed is bitter, so use sparingly. It also has an iconic curry aromatic smell which makes it easy to identify.
- Toast your spices in a dry pan to intensify the flavour, as soon as you apply heat to them you release natural oils which makes them much more fragrant.
- Never toast spices for a paste if you are going to store for more than 2 days as they will lose their flavour.
- Ground spices are good for 6 months so be aware of this when you buy them, whole spices last longer.
- With spices as soon as you can smell them and they release aromatics they are ready. Ideally you want them to go a shade darker. Then, right before they burn (when you can just smell them) take them out the pan straight away.
- If you do accidentally burn them, don’t be tempted to keep them. It’s better to throw them away as they will make your dish taste bitter!
If you’re looking at the pictures and thinking you’d like to have a go yourself, do it. It’s National Curry Week after all!
To make things easy for you, Hari has created a digital cookery school online showing people how to cook authentic Indian food and spices through her website and social media channels. There she sells spice mixes, so for a mere £3.50 and offers the recipes with everything you need (from a spice point of view) to make a delicious homemade Bhuna. It’s perfect if, like me, you don’t regularly cook Indian dishes and have all the spices in your cupboards, but still want to use fresh ground herbs and make something really authentic when you do.
The Bhuna recipe, Onion Bhaji recipe and Vegetable Samosa recipe can also either be read or watched on Hari’s recipe pages and Hari is also very responsive to any questions you want to put to her about cooking these recipes, so drop her a line via her Facebook page or on the specific recipe page before you start cooking.
I received my very own spice mix for Onion Bhaji’s (which we made at the event and were really amazing) and I’ll be having a go with the tutorials and sharing how I get on later in the week. I can’t wait to recreate the tasty dishes we made last week for my friends and will be definitely be buying more of these spice mixes and making curries from scratch as nothing compares when it comes to taste when you do it this way!
*Disclosure: I was invited to the ‘Cook With Hari’ event on a complimentary basis and I received my own spice kit to try out the products and review. However, this has not affected my views of the product or Hari’s course and this post is an honest and impartial account of the event.