The Cookaway, Ottolenghi and a British Classic


Yep, its been tough for everyone. I am just coming out of a three month long term of depression where most of my time was spent watching cookery programmes and videos on YouTube, the only problem was I didn’t want to cook anything! Thankfully, thanks to family, work, friends and Instagram buddies I am getting back into the swing of things and feeling back to normal again.


It’s been obvious, the vast number of ‘recipe’ box’s and ‘finish at home’ food parcels appearing online as restaurants and small business’s try to scrape a living until, well you know. My attention was attracted to one particular offering from ‘The Cookaway‘, it was actually one of the cuisines on offer, and the well known cook/author behind the menu, Sumayya Usmani. I have had the pleasure of attending two of Sumayya’s cookery courses, and hope to attend another in May if lockdown permits, she is fab.

So i decided to order some meals, three in fact! The process was extremely simple, selecting when you want the boxes delivered, with lots of communication to keep you informed of the impending arrival, all good so far.

You will notice the high quality packing and very visible labels ensuring your product arrives in good shape, in fact possible the best packed food I have ever had delivered. Anything requiring refrigeration is placed in an insulated cool pack, with ice packs inside.

This was the second menu I had chosen, the first being a very successful fish dish, Almond Crusted Sea Bream with Coconut Spinach and Mushroom which was very tasty and great fun to prepare. So my first Pakistani Cookaway was to be Railway Lamb Curry with Dhania Gajar Biryani, yum.

So, you get everything in the well packed box, and the ingredients and spices are of the highest quality and where needed, individually labelled. The menu comes with recipe cards and instructions explaining and showing what to do. My better half is always the sceptic, even she was mightily impressed with what had been provided!

So read, read and read again to make sure you understand each menu item, what’s involved, time to prepare, time to cook etc. It’s very important as even seasoned cooking fanatics can make the odd mistake, like me :-). Only a minor one, I used all the green chilli in the Curry rather than reserving a small amount for the Biryani, it was clear in the instructions but I missed it!

The recipe is very clever, making sure as much flavour is packed into the resulting dishes, like Lamb Stock, which is made with the supplied high quality meat and infused with some spices during the process.

There are lots of fragrant ingredients in the Railway Curry, and you get to infuse them in the Ghee that comes in a quaint little jar, like those containing jams at breakfast when you stay in hotels! While I was cooking away the whole house was starting to be filled with delicious amazing aromas, the different spices working together to do their magic.

Now onions are a major part of most dishes from Pakistan and India it seems, and the two dishes being cooked during this particular exercise were no exception. The instructions guide you through the technique to make sure you get the best results, I won’t spoil the fun by telling you, invest in a box or two like I did.

I am told men cannot multitask, but do things one after the other very fast! Whilst the Railway Curry is doing its thing in the top pan, the Biryani is starting its culinary journey with more spices in the bottom pan, which, by the way is the very popular ‘Prospector’ from Netherton Foundry in Shropshire, the Frying Pan above is from the same company and I do need to re-season it at some point!

Mingling amongst Tomatoes and Onions are lots of deliciousness including Mace (can you see it?), Coriander Seeds, Cumin Seeds, Kashmiri Chilli and when combined in the supplied proportions make a most amazing dish which we thought could actually be a meal in its own right.

I kept the Railway Curry on a low heat whilst finishing the Biryani, I could not manage to synchronise my cooking well enough but there was only about 10 minutes between finishing the Curry and the Biryani being ready, it did look good, even if I say so myself.

It was fab, the better half loved it too and there was plenty for the two of us portion wise. So, The Cookaway, is it any good, hell yes! I stumbled across the company on Instagram when my friend Sumayya announced that some of her recipes were going to be available and I am glad I did. Ordering was simple, they have an offer on at the moment, communications were clear and precise, packing was excellent, ingredients top notch, recipe cards, easy to follow, results, delish……

This Friday we have a Sufaid Chicken Koftay with Turmeric Rice arriving so there will be more fun in the kitchen.

Some Fun with Flavour, Ottolenghi Style

Having seen Yotam ‘play’ with Celeriac on Saturday Kitchen I ordered a copy of his latest book ‘Flavour’ as a particular recipe intrigued me a lot.

Imagine ‘Cabbage Tacos with Roasted Celeriac and Date Barbecue Sauce’!! Sounds a bit unusual but don’t knock it until you have tried it, is my motto, so I did.

Boy cooking genius Ixta Belfrage is awesome and helped shape his latest book with some unique combinations, it was stunning, tasty, vibrant and just delish!

Buy the book, its worth the investment for this one recipe, you won’t regret it.

A British Classic – Cooked for the First Time!

As a youngster living in Sussex we had lots of home cooked food, stews, pies, puds and one of my favourites was Steak, Kidney and Mushroom Pudding, made with a Suet Pastry.

So I decided to make my first one ever and the above results hopefully speak for themselves, it was quite straightforward and yumm. I used a technique as demonstrated by The hairy Bikers, cooking the meat first and very pleasing the results were too.

That’s it for now, hopefully I will get some more posts done over the coming weeks, this Saturday I am online with Carmela Sereno learning about Risotto’s and Arancini, May is Sumayya and more food from Pakistan and in November I am off to The Rick Stein Cookery School for two days of Fish and Shellfish which is quite exciting.

……………………………….Until Next Time……………..L8ers……………………..

I Love India – A Day With The Delightful and Very Talented Anjum Anand, At Bertinets’ Cookery School

Cookery Books can be a fantastic source of inspiration and simultaneously just as frustrating, when the dish you have spent ages preparing turns out really disappointing, and in some cases inedible! I LOVE cookery books, especially where the content takes you on a journey with the author through a period of life, or travels through an unfamiliar land of exotic and tingling flavours.

When a I received a call the other week, “Hey hun, there is a nice looking Indian Cookery Book called ‘I Love India‘, by someone called Anjum Anand, do you want me to get it for you?”, my immediate response was “Yes Please”. I knew of Anjum, I had one of her earlier cookery books, and had seen some of her television series so I felt sure it was going to be good, this was to be her eighth book and as they say, practise makes perfect ;-).

I don’t know why I ended up looking at my regular Cookery School’s web page later that day, Richard Bertinet In Bath but there it was before me, “A Day with Anjum Anand, I Love India”.

Minutes later the course was booked and would be taking place a couple of weeks after my annual cookery trip to France, talk about overloaded with cooking!!!I’m very familiar with the setup at Richard’s School, this would be my six course, having spent days with the likes of Mark Hix, Dhruv Baker, José Pizzaro and Omar Allibhoy as well as the master Bread Maker himself Richard, you are always guaranteed high quality chefs, a relaxed atmosphere, great support from the team of lovely ladies that organise and clean (esp. newby Charlotte), and teaming up with like minded enthusiasts all ages, and from all walks of life who want to learn new skills. After the usual Tea, Coffee and Toast (Richards Bread is just fab) with home made conserves we were introduced to the menu we were going to prepare, in 2 groups of 4 people. Anjum explained that we were going to be all hands-on, no demonstrations as she would be working with us, explaining the necessary techniques on the way which sounded just perfect, and just ask questions if you are not sure.

The starter was to be ‘Goan’ Prawn & Coconut Cakes with Tangy Coriander Chutney, for main course we would prepare ‘Kutch’ Chicken Biryani with a Spinach and Dill Raita and Four Seed Tomato Spiced Okra, dessert being Chilled Mango, Coconut and Pearl Pudding.

Goa /ˈɡ.ə/ is a state in India within the coastal region known as the Konkan in Western India. It is bounded by Maharashtra to the north and Karnataka to the east and south, with the Arabian Sea forming its Western coast. It is India’s smallest state by area and the fourth smallest by population. Goa has highest GDP per capita among all Indian states………………….

Kutch, is a region in the extreme west of the western Indian state of Gujarat, can be traced back to prehistorical times. There are several sites related to Indus valley civilisation in the region and it is mentioned in Hindu mythology. In historical times, Kutch is mentioned in Greek writings during the time of Alexander The Great.

Biryani is an Urdu word derived from the Persian language, which was used as an official language in different parts of medieval India, by various Islamic dynasties. One theory is that it originates from “birinj”, the Persian word for rice. Another theory is that it derives from “biryan” or “beriyan” (to fry or roast).

So take what looks like a simple description of food and start to interpret the description, next minute you are in a time warp back to 5th Century India and ancient dynasties that evolved over time, as did their cuisine, taking influence from food 4000 years ago, food is not boring if you take a little time to get under the skin of its origins! Click on the various links in the text above to explore for yourself.So we started to prepare the Goan Prawns and accompanying Chutney, this is where being with the author of the book really helps, as it’s very difficult to explain texture, smell and flavour in a book, preparing it with the cook in the room and you start to pick up all the important hints and tips to get the best out of the recipe. This was a case in point with the texture required for the Prawn Cakes which needed blending, but not to extinction!!!! The correct balance of ‘glue’ to texture would provide the desired effect and so we took a step by step approach so we could see what was required.There is only one book (that I am aware of), that takes this issue full on and that’s Marcus Wareings’ “How to Cook The Perfect”, which goes a good way towards addressing the challenge of subtle technique, and is highly recommended.

So how big do you need to make these savoury Goan delights, well that would depend on whether making for an hors d’oeuvre, starter or main course, if you cannot get Panko breadcrumbs are white breadcrumbs ok, the questions kept coming, all relevant and important to the person asking them, and useful for the rest of the budding cooks.As we carried on with our preparation more questions followed, the subjective issue of herb quantities for the Chutney, to join the Goan Prawn Cakes we were making a Tangy Coriander Chutney, the ‘Tang’ provided by Lemon, with some texture from Pistachios, with Mint and Garlic to add to the flavoursome accompaniment. The consensus was that at the end of the day, everyones palate is different and adjust to what YOU like but we all agreed testing the Chutney without having some Goan Cake at the same time was the only way to ensure the flavour profile was appropriate. Shock, Horror, OMG, its delicious, we made that!!

There was happiness and surprises as we progressed to the more complicated dishes. Food from this continent is more familiar to me having had the pleasure of spending a day with Dhruv Baker, but also a couple of days with a cook from Pakistan, Sumayya Usmani where I had learned to cook a Biryani amongst other dishes of the region. But there is more than one Biryani!I love Biryani but here in the U.K. we have a little problem, I am yet to have eaten a Biryani in a restaurant or takeaway, nope, definitely not a proper Biryani, not one that even comes close. Today we MADE A BIRYANI, a proper one, from the Kutch region of India, a result.Kutch district (also spelled as Kachchh) is a district of Gujarat state in western India. Covering an area of 45,674 km², it is the largest district of India. The population of Kutch is 2,092,371. And THEY know how to make a proper Biryani.

It’s a complex dish with several stages like making a marinade, frying some dry spices, making crispy onions (not burn’t) from scratch (you can cheat, but won’t have the fragrant oil left over!), preparing the rice etc. It was great fun as we all did our bit to contribute towards the final dish.Anjum is an absolutely lovely lady, patient calm, full of enthusiasm and abound with knowledge about the food and region, her life story is really interesting and forms the start of her book I love India where the recipes for the cookery session came from. She was really happy to answer all the questions we threw at her, at times it must have seemed like a ‘barrage’ during a 17th century attack on a ‘Fortified Castle’, relentless!!

We had prepped the Goan Prawn cakes and were leaving the breadcrumbs to the last minute, the Coriander Chutney was done, Crispy Onions done,  I was on Rice duty and that was good to go too, the morning was rushing by and we needed a break.Those that have been to Richard’s School will know about the late morning break, those of you that don’t, pick a course, book it and find out for yourself as it’s part of the experience, ’nuff said.

After refreshments we carried on finishing the various dishes, the Biryani needed layering, Rice, then the Chicken that we had pre-cooked in the marinade, then more Rice. During the morning each of us had learned so many techniques, like how to tell when Garlic is properly cooked, how to make the perfect Rice, seasoning, these are the things that are so difficult to explain in a book as they involve smell, taste and texture.So what about dessert. Charlotte, one of the lovely ‘BackStage Girls’ as they are know who clean, make tea, prepare as necessary mentioned ‘Frogspawn’ a couple of times!!!

Pearl Pudding was the description in the recipe notes we were given, ah, Tapioca ‘Pearls’, aka Frogspawn for those that remember from their school days. We were given another idea which I am not going to mention, book some time with Anjum to find out more. We prepped Mango cubes, made a Mango and Coconut Cream heavy ‘soup’, with the consistency of Double Cream, boiled the ‘Frogspawn’ and soon everything was done and we were sitting down to a very enjoyable lunch.The Goan Prawn Cakes and Tangy Coriander Chutney were outstanding, really tasty and the Tang of the Chutney went very well indeed. I reckon (only a personal opinion), this could be served with the addition of a Kachumber, a salad of Onion, Tomato and Cucumber (with a Tamarind Dressing), which would be a perfect match and make a lovely lunch or light supper.It was so nice to be eating a proper Biryani again, light, fragrant with textures and pings of flavour from the addition of Currants and Almonds fried in Ghee, and the Fried Onions I had prepared earlier. It was bl@@dy tasty as they would say in Australia!

As I was travelling to the venue in Bath, I was searching YouTube for any Videos of Anjum and came across a hilarious live recording from an Australian breakfast show a few months back, 3 women who seemed to be clueless about Semolina and the difference between YoGhuurt (not a typo, they make it sound like that), and Milk, it was really funny. Anjum was getting it from every direction and still managed to do a great job. We discussed the experience in the morning which was really enlightening, thanks Anjum.

Time for Dessert,  And an apology!We were all so busy commenting on the starter and main, asking Anjum so many questions and having a great foodie conversation I forgot to take a picture of the dessert. We could not get ‘proper’ Mango’s and those we had didn’t have the best flavour, although the result actually tasted Ok.

There was no consensus on the Tapioca pearls, I was a bit contentious and suggested using Maftoul or Moghrabieh  from the Middle East, larger sphericals and used for savoury dishes I reckon they would work really well, so something I am going to try in the future as an experiment.

So another days cooking at Bertinet’s with the lovely Anjum Anand, a brilliant day as usual, learnt loads, cooked lots, ate a bit too it was great fun and I cannot wait until next time. If you see one of Anjum’s course I would highly recommend them. Usual rules apply, I paid full price for this course and all views are my own. I have not been coerced in any way.


……………………………….Until Next Time…………..L8ers…………………………….