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Local Heroes – Home Kitchen Vegan, The Indian Thali Company

Local Heroes – Home Kitchen Vegan, The Indian Thali Company

Indian food is, I think, my favourite cuisine (so far).

It’s a bold statement, but I have a lifelong love of it. My parents, in their slightly unorthodox manner used to take us to The Grand Indian for our Sunday lunch when we were kids. At home, mum used to be a big fan of “Mr Patak’s” curry pastes, so we would often tuck into a “homemade” Rogan Josh, or sometimes a Madras. I even remember dad buying Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbook and all the spices and giving it a go (once), before leaving the kitchen in chaos and declaring it too much like hard work and how it should be left to the professionals….

Fast forward to my college days in Wolverhampton, where Balti was all the rage; it was cheap and cheerful and you could get a naan nearly the size of the table. Perfect for students. I was lucky as I had 2 housemates who were whizzes with a curry. After a night on the town, would curry anything they could lay their hands on; a tin of pilchards, a rogue egg, baked beans. (Though the wisdom of making chapattis over an open flame at 3am, now escapes me….oh, the folly of youth!).

These days, like everyone in Bedford, I have my favourite Indian restaurant (The Cochin, specialising in south Indian cuisine) and I dabble in cooking the odd curry. However, I’m nowhere near as confident or proficient as I’d like to be. So, when I recently came across Jas Dhillon of Home Kitchen Vegan and her cooking class she was about to hold at Bunyan Meeting Hall in Bedford, of course, I signed up!
I’m not going to regale you with every detail of the day and certainly wont reveal all of Jas’s cooking secrets (you’ll need to go along to find out for yourself!). However, suffice it to say, we were delighted to learn so much about techniques and spicing. Also, how to create fantastic dishes from the humblest of ingredients.

Jas was a great teacher (as well as a lovely person), who regaled us with tales of feeding celebs at her café by the Grand Theatre in my beloved Wolverhampton. We learnt how to make perfect chapattis (safely); how to make a sabji (dry curry); we made the lightest pakora and accompanying tomato chutney (which would work well with many dishes); to my favourite dish of Dhal Tarka.

Jas has been cooking since age 7 and taught us so much through her enthusiasm and knowledge for her subject. We learnt that there are really only 3 spices required to make most dishes, plus the trinity of garlic, ginger and chilli.
What I realised was that my own curries had been chronically under–seasoned, all these years. No wonder they seemed a bit lacklustre. It was obvious I needed to be much bolder with the spicing (not necessarily the heat) and I could see it’s out with the teaspoon measure and in with the tablespoon!
In addition, I had been cooking my Dhal all wrong; boiling it to b******, when instead I should have been slowly browning my onions, adding garlic, ginger and chilli. Then finally generous amounts of fresh coriander. This is the tarka that is added to the Dhal, at the end. Thus, the dish is transformed. For me, my investment in the day’s course was worth it just for this one tip!

So, I just want to say a massive thanks to Jas. I’m sure this will be the first of many successful classes for the Home Kitchen Vegan. I for one, would certainly sign up for another one. Highly recommended! Thanks for the Wolverhampton stories too!

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