I have long fancied myself as a bit of a dab hand in the kitchen, many a night i’ve poured over a Jamie Oliver recipe trying to decipher how one makes a pasta bake ‘proper rustic’. Imagine then my delight at being invited to the Mint and Mustard cookery experience to learn how to create some authentic Indian Dishes. Mint and Mustard are leading the way in innovative and exciting indian cuisine in Cardiff, the award winning restaurant is ‘inspired by the Keralan philosophy of fresh, light and healthy food.’ This was going to be an exciting day for a novice cooking enthusiast such as myself.
I have long been a fan of their sister venue Chai Street and was very excited to finally visit the Mint and Mustard Cardiff restaurant [they also have another restaurant in Penarth], especially given it’s very high praise from my fellow blogger friends. With husband and favourite human Luke in tow we arrived at the restaurant and were warmly greeted by staff. We were then invited to sit with the rest of our group, which was a nice mixed group of ten people, and handed a welcome drink, which is surely the best way to start a cookery experience, easing yourself in with a nice glass of chardonnay or ‘Chef’s petrol’ as I prefer to call it.
We were taken through to another room that had been arranged into cookery stations with a total Masterchef vibe, all laid out with everything an aspiring chef would need, including all the ingredients, pots, pans, chopping board, utensils, recipe cards, a complimentary Mint and Mustard apron and jaunty paper chef hat. This let to many a ‘selfie in chef hat’, one must properly document their journey to becoming a culinary professional.
During the 5 hour experience we were to be making Allepey Fish Curry, Savoy Cabbage and Carrot Thoran and accompanying roti and rice. It can feel a bit daunting to embark on Indian cooking when you have never attempted it before but the level of support and guidance is frankly stellar. You are shown how to make the dishes by one of their talented chefs, then tasting the dish so you know what to shoot for, before returning to your own station to create your very own version. Chefs and staff come round the stations providing assistance, encouragement and tips, which a gratefully received when you are a willing but chaotic cook like myself. Normally whatever I am cooking usually ends up in my hair/over every utensil/on the ceiling. So I would like to thank the wonderful staff at Mint and Mustard for their enduring patience with me, even when dealing with my ‘er, um excuse me, there appears to be a small fire in my pan’ type scenarios. Like many areas in life, my enthusiasm often far exceeds my talent.
One of the most enjoyable aspects for us was to learn about the foods, regions and spices as we went along, injecting context and understanding into the dishes we were creating. I am woefully ignorant of Indian regional cookery differences. My curry take away go-to tends to depressingly be the usual philistine British order of ‘chicken korma and a naan’, often eaten straight out the foil tray. I’m pure class me.
It was explained to us that the most of the western style curries, naans and sides we grew up on are from the North of India, whilst South Indian cooking features more coconut and more seafood and vegetarian dishes. We were also educated on the various spices and regional differences in Indian cooking, it has certainly inspired me to be a bit more adventurous in my future curry ordering.
It was time to prepare our Allepey fish curry, this is a Kerala style fish curry from Allepey region. We learnt how to craft this tangy dish by cooking sword fish in a sauce that combined ingredients such as raw mango, shallots, coconut milk, chilli, ginger and mustard seeds. Whilst preparing your dish the chefs and staff are on hand to help you hone your chopping and knife skills, which was very exciting for me, as due to chronic clumsiness i’m not allowed anywhere near knives at home, obviously anxious husband was obviously less thrilled by me wielding a knife excitedly around a shallot. After much fussing over our pan of bubbling curry it was finally taste test time, what would our take on fish curry be? I was pleasantly surprised with our efforts, I think we had managed to capture at least a little of the flavours of the dish we were shown. I loved the prominent taste of coconut milk with the spices cutting through giving it a huge flavour punch, it was delicious if I do say so myself.
Our next dish was Savoy Cabbage and Carrot Thoran, a spicy Keralan dish, combining cabbage, french beans, turmeric, green chilies and carrot, fresh coconut. This is where my new knife skills were going to come into play, as I attempted to make juliennes of the vegetables as shown by chef. My vegetables, whilst a bit on the wonky side at least did not include the addition of finger tip, small victories and all that. I loved the freshness of this dish with the kick of chilli hotness, it felt like a very heathy and tasty dish. We were on a roll with our cooking, watch out Nigella, i’ll be signing a book deal any day now, *strikes sexy kitchen pose*.
Onto the rice and roti, Luke tackled the rice whilst I tried to knead and roll out dough for the roti into a circle. This is far harder in practice than in theory and I ended up with was a circle of sorts which I then had to cook in a hot pan without burning it, which is a challenge for a fire hazard chef such as myself. After a few attempts however, I managed to get a semi decent roti, obviously I promptly rewarded myself with a glass of wine. Husband Luke was trying to cook the rice as we were shown, in a manner where the rice remains in separate, perfect grains. This was certainly a leap from our usual technique of microwaving a sachet of Uncle Bens but he came through, delivering a superb serving of rice, my clever little sausage, gold star for you.
We boxed up our dishes so that we could enjoy our efforts at home and were then taken through to enjoy a two course meal, prepared by the Mint and Mustard kitchen. Our dishes included chicken curry, beef curry, rice, Naan and a gorgeous dessert to boot, enjoyed whist discussing our cookery attempts with our fellow group members.
The Mint and Mustard cookery experience has to be one of my favourite cookery classes. I loved having such an immersive and interactive experience whilst being fully supported in my cooking endeavors. Throughout the class the team were keen to emphasise that they are trying to dispel the myth that it is hard to create Indian dishes, they wanted to show that even beginner chefs can create gorgeous and tasty dishes in their own home. I certainly feel alot more confident of giving Indian cuisine a bash in the Jones kitchen and will try to recreate the lovely dishes we were taught. Perhaps the best part of the class is wealth of knowledge combined with a passion for great food that makes it a very special day, especially for a wannabe foodie like me.