Reviewed by Amanda Hayes
I must admit to being slightly apprehensive when I enrolled into the all-day North Indian cookery class with Manna from Devon. Would I be up to the same standard as everybody else, could I keep up with the instructions, and most of all would I make a fool of myself. I needn’t have worried from the moment I was met by the warm and friendly hosts Holly and David Jones my fears were put at ease.
The cookery school is held in a beautiful location overlooking the River Dart in Kingswear, Devon and my particular course attracted attendees from all over the country, a great recommendation. My coat was taken and I was soon drinking a cup of tea in a very busy family style kitchen while the sun flooded in. I soon found out that David, Holly’s husband and master bread maker was teaching an artesian bread making course in the ground floor kitchen, soon after the bread makers dispersed and six of us were left to enjoy North Indian cooking, the perfect number. Each course has a maximum of eight so you always get personal attention.
Armed with fresh tea and coffee we sat around the large kitchen table where we were to spend the majority of our day we spent some time individually talking about our love of cooking and in particular Indian cooking. Although not all of us had been to India it was clear that everyone was passionate about food, no one more so than Holly. That shone through every time she spoke. We then spent around an hour discussing spices, a major part of Indian cooking, we looked and smelt all the major ones plus plenty I hadn’t seen or heard of. It was all very informal and questions were answered as part of the conversation so you never felt embarrassed to ask anything.
We moved on to our first recipes, lentil dahl, chappati, pakoras and samosa with dipping sauces, some made individually and some in pairs. After the lesson in spices I was hoping my Chilli dipping sauce would be perfectly balanced but it seems that we had the hottest chilli on the table! Luckily we knew how to resolve it with a lump of sugar after listening to the tips from Holly. To make the other items some of us chopped potatoes, some garlic, some onions etc… and through team work made the basis of the dishes before we were shown how to put it all together and cook it. Throughout Holly was on hand with hints and tips, such as how to peel ginger or sharpen knives. When everything was cooked, which we all had a turn at it was time for a lovely Indian snack around the table, trying out everything we had made. It was all gorgeous and kept us going whilst we made the next batch of recipes, butter chicken, Rajasthani lamb kofte and Bengali spiced fish. We weren’t given recipes, there was no panic to write things down, it was just watch and listen and try it for yourself, a fantastic way to learn to cook.
The chicken had been marinating since we arrived, so we gathered round the hob to see the dish being finished off after making each making a kofte and setting it to grill. Near the end of the day we sat back round the table with a glass of white wine and tried out the fish, lamb and chicken finished off with a carrot halva that had been simmering on the stove all day long. A perfect end to the day, a glass of wine, good food and excellent company. It really was like cooking with friends. Holly doesn’t give out recipes at the course but e mails them the next day to all attendees so you can print off as many copies as you need and not have to keep hold of a dog eared one smeared in curry as I am sure mine will end up!
For some reason I was expecting a formal lesson with everyone doing exactly the same thing at the same time while the teacher looked on, maybe I was thinking back to school cookery lessons, but it was miles apart from that, in fact we laughed our way through most of the day. Don’t go expecting a huge shiny stainless steel kitchen with ten hobs and no time to talk to each other it’s much more of a homely experience as Manna from Devon have got their courses just right, informal friendly, but informative. The most important thing is you leave feeling that you could re-create the dishes at home, there are not hundreds of ingredients or fancy procedures to follow just simple straight forward recipes that anyone could try. Manna from Devon has plenty of courses to choose from such as their popular wood fired oven courses, to fabulous fish and pasta making. There is sure to be something for everyone so I urge you to take a look at the website and get booked in, you won’t be disappointed.
Cost: £149 per person (1 day class)
For more information on this and other cooking classes or to book a course visit www.mannafromdevon.com.
Manna from Devon, Fir Mount House, Higher Contour Road, Kingswear, Devon TQ6 0DE