Cooking Up A Storm

Viv Ellis learns how to cook 'Brilliant' style

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Back in the day, it was called “Domestic Science”. The last time I had a cookery lesson I was about 14 and we made cheese straws. No lessons really since then (though I do enjoy cooking) so I was intrigued by what it would be like to have one now and signed up for a class with chef Dipna Anand at her family’s restaurant – The Brilliant in Southall.

The restaurant – a favourite with Gordon Ramsey, offers six different courses – all based around their Punjabi cuisine. They all last around three hours (which goes in a flash). It starts with a presentation by Dipna, explaining the general principals of the food and some of the ingredients. It’s very well organised, we all had a workstation with a mini burner and all the ingredients laid out.

I was booked onto “King’s Feast” which was going to teach me Chicken Biryani, Karahi Prawns and a pudding called “Gajar Ka Halwa” made from carrots.

After the introductory talk, we were off. We were all given a printed copy of the recipes and, with Dipna seated at the front guiding us through step by step, we cut, diced, marinated and ….. well cooked. I tend to avoid having to buy millions of ingredients (which then sit, unused and lonely) at the back of the cupboard for years so it was a joy to have them all, neatly labeled, ready at my side.

Some of the other courses have dishes that you need to take into the main kitchen to be cooked there, but on my day everything was ‘doable’ on the small burner we all had.

Other chefs from the restaurant are on hand and pop around to make sure you’re doing it right and to help if you are stuck. Dipna came around and demonstrated the finer points of dicing onions in different thicknesses. The fresh ingredients, like chicken and prawns are brought to you ready prepared.

In no time at all, the prawn dish was complete and was dead easy. Next though was the Biryani and a glance into the box showed me an alarming number of spices that we would be using. But the pace is carefully measured and I even had time to work ahead and have the next two or three spices ready at my side. The final stages of this involved adding green and red food colourings which made it look amazing plus rose water and an essence called kewda water (which is made from flowers) and they gave the finished dish a gorgeous aromo.

Of course we could taste as we went along, but all the food you cook is put into plastic containers for you to take home so I wouldn't know for sure till later.

And now was the mysterious carrot pud which, we were told, is traditional fare at festivals, weddings and the like. The hardest part was grating the carrots. I think my dish had slivers of my fingers too! The carrots are coked in milk with sugar, almonds and pistachios added at the end. It was lovely!

My neighbours at the next workstation were Debbie Young and her husband Chris from Northfields. (Chris had had to be drafted in that morning after their son, who was booked in went A.W.O.L. after a lads’ night out!). They eat at the Brilliant a lot and say they wanted to learn how to be able to rustle up similar meals at home.

And before you knew it …. three hours had gone by. It was really enjoyable, the food was delicious and I could bask in a culinary glow.

At around £100 (different courses vary) it’s not exactly cheap, but enjoyable, instructive and fun. Best of all - no washing up!

You can book here

Viv Ellis

29th April 2015