Indian food has long been a favourite in British homes, regularly featuring near the top of polls of the nation’s favourite food. Indeed, in 2003, there were around 10,000 Indian restaurants in England and Wales alone.
Did you know? The Indian food industry in the United Kingdom is worth £3.2 billion, and accounts for two-thirds of all eating out. About 2.5 million customers visit these restaurants every week.
If you always buy your Indian from a restaurant or in a plastic container from the supermarket, and would like to learn a bit more about the history of Indian cuisine – and how to make some traditional Indian dishes from scratch in your own kitchen – an Indian cooking course will help.
A brief history of Indian food
India is one of the largest countries in the world. It has many different regions, which all vary in their cultural traditions and economic prosperity, which influences the food people eat. Geographic location also plays a large part in the cuisine of a region, since certain foods are more readily available in certain areas (fish is much more popular in regions that are close to the sea, for example.) As a consequence of this incredible diversity, Indian food has a very regional cultural history, with a lot of variation in the food eaten in different areas of the country.
Did you know? Indian cuisine was historically eaten whilst sitting on the floor, or a low stool – and with the right hand, rather than cutlery. Indian bread such as roti or naan is used to scoop curry without getting messy hands. Nowadays, cutlery is more common.
Historically, Indian cuisine contained a lot of vegetables, grain, eggs, dairy products, and sometimes meat – although parts of India have gone through periods of vegetarianism in line with Buddhist beliefs. Beef in particular, is rarely seen in Indian cuisine for religious reasons. Indeed, beef is banned in many Indian states.
Did you know? The World Record for the largest curry was set in 2005. The epic curry weighed in at 10.3 tonnes and was made at an Indian restaurant in Lichfield.
Popular Indian dishes
The food we are familiar with in Britain today tends to be different from authentic Indian cuisine, and is called Anglo-Indian food. In fact, many of our favourite Indian dishes – for example, balti and chicken tikka masala – have unknown origins, and some people believe that both dishes were invented in the UK.
Eating an Indian meal tends to involve lots of different dishes being served together, with big Indian feasts being a very social affair. An Indian cooking course is likely to cover a number of the following components, giving you a chance to practise your skills on the day before taking the recipes home to impress your friends...
Five popular Indian breads
· Bhatoora – a fluffy, deep-fried leavened bread.
· Chapati or roti – an unleavened, round, flatbread.
· Naan – oven-baked soft flatbread made with refined wheat flour.
· Parantha – an unleavened flatbread, often stuffed with other ingredients.
· Dosa – a fermented crepe or pancake made of rice batter and lentils.
Five popular Indian main courses
· Biryani – rice-based dish made with basmati rice, vegetables, spices, and sometimes meat.
· Tandoori chicken – chicken marinated in spices and cooked in a Tandoor oven.
· Daal – vegetarian dish made of lentils, peas or beans.
· Jalfrezi – curry dish, made using green chillies, bell peppers, onion and tomato.
· Vindaloo – the Anglo-Indian version is better known than the regional Indian dish. The Anglo-Indian version tends to be a ‘standard’ curry with added chilli to make it one of the hottest dishes on the menu.
Some Indian cooking courses focus on a specific area like curries, bread, or snack food (like bhajjis or samosas) whilst others offer instruction in a broader range of skills.
After an Indian cookery course
An Indian cooking course will introduce you to Indian cuisine and give you recipes that you can take home to your own kitchen. Other courses that may be of interest to you into include Thai cooking courses. Or, if you want to delve deeper into Indian cookery, you could take a course specialising in an area you’ve only touched upon so far.
If you find that your course whets your appetite and you enjoy studying cookery, you might be interested in turning your hobby into a career - read more information about chef careers.
By Fiona Hughes
Got something to say about indian cooking courses? Leave your comments below