Last night, I made my first ever foray into a bonafide Indian kitchen, for a masterclass with Abdul Yassen.
I was at the newly opened Darbaar Restaurant in East London, which is making a name for itself amongst foodies as a must-try (and re-try) because of Abdul’s uniquely modern take on traditional Indian food.
According to the slightly formidable chef (standard), it’s all in the spices. In fact, Indian food, it turns out, is traditionally heavy on spices not for taste reasons but for nutritional benefit. I learnt a lot about spices, actually – like how you my go-to ground spices don’t actually have much of an effect on flavour – they’re really more for colour and thickening. And how you should add whole dried spices at the beginning of the culinary process, and free spices (like chillies and coriander leaves) right at the end, with barely any cooking.
The first thing we made was a sort of naan-slash-pizza. Or Nanza, as Abdul has proudly called it. It’s sort of exactly how it sounds, and essentially a hand-held curry. The base is a garlic-y naan bread, and the topping can be whatever curry you fancy – I chose chicken tikka.
Second up was a lesson in tandoori chicken. Abdul was using marinaded thigh meat (more tasty than breast, apparently – chickens walk around on them so the muscles get used. Not a nice thing to think about when you’re spicing your meat, but worth bearing in mind in the poultry aisle). Abdul used salt and lemon first to open up the meat to the on-comnig spices, then went to town with things like chilli and turmeric. Then there was loads of greek yoghurt, and it was all mixed together until it began to look like what I recognise as tandoori chicken. And it tasted amazing. Super succulent and BIG on flavour.
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