GOLDER’S GREAT NIGHT OUT: THE ABINGER COOKERY SCHOOL
Fancy discovering your inner cook? That’s exactly what our man on the ground Adam Golder found when he visited the Surrey Hills based award-winning Abinger Cookery School recently. From Gym Bro to Curry Pro, find out how he got on with the task at hand below.
It’s unlikely I’ll be shipped off to war-torn frontlines in service of this column, however in terms of stepping out of my comfort zone I’d say a cookery course is a close second place.
Fortunately for me I was sent not to Hell’s Kitchen, but to the family run Abinger Cookery School.
I’m delighted to report that my first cookery class since secondary school food tech was a thoroughly enjoyable and fulfilling experience, which I have no hesitation in recommending.
What if I’m Rubbish at Cooking?
Kate Moss once said ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.’ I can only assume she’s never had a Peshwari naan after three cobras, or tucked into a Chow Mein on a hangover that would kill anyone asked to isolate during the pandemic.
When it comes to cooking for myself though, I’ve convinced myself that nothing tastes as good as lazy feels.
When I’m in the kitchen, I become a sort of culinary catalytic converter. I convert uncooked chicken, rice and veg into the most amount of protein, carbs and vitamins at the lowest cost possible.
All this is to say, I was justified in thinking I wasn’t an ideal candidate for the cooking course. However, it was soon apparent that I wasn’t going to be tarred and feathered for my lack of cooking knowledge, and my worst fears were soon laid to rest.
‘Food for me is about having fun and sharing lovely moments with those you care about’ my teacher for the day, Hari Ghotra, told me. ‘It’s so satisfying to see how a simple tip or a little explanation can provide insight and opens a whole new world for others in the kitchen.’
What to Expect on the Day
Even before setting foot in the kitchen, many of my fears had begun to melt away. For starters, the course takes place in the peaceful surroundings of Abinger Hammer, a village so charming it even sounds like it belongs in the Shire from The Lord of the Rings.
Either the business owner Lizzie or her dad always make a point to personally greet everyone who takes a course. Speaking with Lizzie, she said the goal was to make it feel like you’re in your own kitchen. They’ve certainly succeeded, the stainless-steel nightmare I had pictured was nowhere to be found, instead the kitchen had a distinctly homely and safe feel to it.
Don’t worry if you can’t rope anyone into coming with you, I was surprised to learn that most people attend the course alone, but it is also very popular with couples and corporate team building days.
Cooking Up a Storm
The day started with a briefing from Hari, and it was immediately clear that we were learning from the best. The class came sandwiched between Hari’s masterclass appointments in Tel-Aviv and Singapore, and in addition to her globetrotting cookery she has a range of books and even an app.
However, despite her more than well established credentials she was at great pains to stress her passion for teaching the uninitiated and making amazing Indian food available to everyone.
Off we went to our cooking stations to get cracking on a Murgh Makhani. There was plenty of information to take in, but Hari was great at making sure nobody (and by that, I mean me) went off the rails.
It was a bit of a revelation to see how a few roughly chopped vegetables and spices would soon transform into a delicious sauce.
Proper bhaji’s, cumin and pea rice, spicy lamb kebabs and aloo gobi were just some of the other dishes we covered throughout the day.
Finally came the big moment, sitting down to try our creations with a glass of wine together. The biggest revelation of all; that me, Adam the lazy, could make a dish even tastier than many I’ve had at an Indian restaurant.
For me, the biggest gift to come from the cooking course was a perspective shift. Being a great cook to me has felt like being an Olympic athlete or an amazing musician; some people just get it and can dedicate their life to it whilst I shrug and do something else with my life, content to be a bad cook in the same manner that I’m content to not be a great pole vaulter.
Ultimately, I’ve come away with a bit less ignorance and a bit more delicious food in my life, and what’s not to love about that.
For more information and their full range of courses, visit www.abingercookeryschool.com