I LIKE to think of myself as quite the chef, but when it comes to Indian cuisine I am not so confident. But when Brilliant restaurant asked if I wanted to try one of their cookery courses, of course I did.
So I went to see them in Western Road, Southall, with fellow reporter Poppy Bradbury, not really knowing what to expect from the ‘Desi treat’.
We stood at our work stations along with our colourful spices, ingredients, pans and utensils, and tied on our aprons ready to be guided by course trainer and chef Dipna Anand.
On the menu were onion bhajis (Punjabi pakoras) which include carom and coriander, and are described as the favourite starter to have before a British Indian meal, while in India they are eaten as snacks with tea when guests are present.
For the main meal we made masala chicken, a classic dish cooked in a tomato and onion masala (a blend of specialist spices).
This is a popular recipe with the regulars, passed down from Miss Anand’s grandfather, which involves cooking the chicken directly in the sauce as opposed to marinating and cooking it first.
To accompany this we were taught how to make peas pilau rice, flavoured with cumin seeds and cinnamon and made with basmati rice.
I thought the description of ‘learning to cook Brilliant style within hours’ was correct, as, sure enough, three hours later all 12 of us in the room had a full, mouth-watering meal to take away for dinner along with a shiny certificate.
You do not have to be an experienced cook to participate, just interested and willing to learn.
We were talked through each step, educated on all the spices, and given a copy of the recipes and methods as back-up, although traditional Indian recipes are not usually written down.
The afternoon was amazing; extremely professional, fun and well structured, and it catered for all abilities.
Rather importantly, the food was absolutely delicious, with a perfect and unique combination of spice, flavour and texture.
Miss Anand, 29, said: “I’m passionate about food and about working with people. I think being born and brought up in a family of foodies allowed me to put my skills into practice. Food is in our blood.
“I love doing what I do. If it was not challenging then I would not be good at it.
“I enjoy how people respond to the courses, it’s so nice to see all the positive feedback. It goes to show that Indian food is not hard to make.”
She added: “I’m never going to get out of the food industry. You don’t see many female chefs and I think people are intrigued by that.”
From the age of nine Miss Anand helped in the restaurant by laying the tables, and officially started working when she was 18.
After graduating with first class honours with a four-year hospitality management and food studies degree from the University of West London, where she started in 2000, she was sponsored to complete a three-year Masters in hospitality.
As well as working in the restaurant, the 29-year-old holds demonstrations at the university, and is teaching hospitality and catering at Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College.
Miss Anand, who lives in Southall with her father and 27-year-old brother, is currently writing a Brilliant Restaurant cookbook and is in talks about a potential TV series.
Her courses, which started in October last year, take place twice a month with prices ranging from £85 to £120, with regular offers, discounts and vouchers available.
Brilliant was opened in 1975 by her father and uncle but has its roots in the 1950s when her grandad opened the first Brilliant restaurant in Kenya.
n Places for each course are limited. Call 07949 142 428 or 020 8574 1928, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.