26 July 2014

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Tried & tested - Indian street food at Lucknam Park


The Cookery School at Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa

It isn’t every day you get invited to the wolds of Wiltshire to be taught how to cook Indian street food. Especially not in a Georgian country house – like, say, five-star Lucknam Park. So, as curiosity often prompts, we caught the 5.19 from Paddington to check it out.

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A little over an hour on the train and we’ve arrived, ready to be chauffeured to Lucknow, uh Lucknam, sorry. The dramatic drive up to the main house is the first thing that impresses. Like the scene from Tim Burton’s Batman, we race through autumnal leaves, under arched trees, to Wayne Manor.

We have a night to kill before the day-long course, so the team at Lucknam treat us to dinner at the Michelin-starred Park Restaurant. Best not to describe it too much, as we’ll start sobbing with joy again. The evening also gives the chance look around. Downton Abbey similes are rife. The £15m spa area – not so Downton – is a USP.

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The next day we’re golf-buggied out to one of the estate’s cottages, which has been gleamingly kitted out to house a spacious group kitchen (with capacity for up to 12 people). It’s easy to deduce that no expense has been spared. Induction heat, Italian fridges pretty enough to stroke and Robert Welch everything else. Sexy gear, Lucknam.

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Aprons on and it’s straight into a demonstration from the award-winning course chef Hrishikesh Desai. ‘Call me Kesh,’ he says, mercifully. From the off, chatty Kesh does a great job of putting us at ease, being patient (a must) and making it simple for us to take things on. He’s full of great anecdotes from his training days and clearly has a vast wealth of culinary knowledge.

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Today’s course, The Street Food of India, sees us preparing a range of dishes. After every demonstration, we get to work on what we’ve learnt and the day continues in that fashion.

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Sindhi-style samosas were a highlight – fun (if tricky) to make and damn tasty. Our favourite, though, was the marinated kebab in a naan wrap with mint chutney. Looks good, tastes good and is surprisingly straightforward to prepare.

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Once all our food is ready, the day concludes at the kitchen’s dinner table in a feast of everything we’ve made (there’s way too much to finish) along with a well-paired Riesling to wash it down.

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Indian street food, in a cottage, in Wiltshire – it works. And, of course, we’ll let you know when the ham curing lessons come through from Bangalore.

The package:

The course (£175pp) makes a great away day (it can easily be done in a day from London) for groups keen to do a little teambuilding. Or, if you’re on chummy terms, you could take your clients for a hospitality day. It's open Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm.

Or you could try:

For groups who have a good grasp of basic kitchen skills, there’s also a range of higher-level courses to choose from, such as Michelin-Star Cooking at Home.

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