A taste of India: an authentic cookery lesson in Jaipur.

On my India trip exploring the Golden Triangle, I was surprised to discover that so many things that I’d thought were quintessentially British, were actually originally from the Asian country.

India has given us lots: Polo (the sport, not the mint), jodhpurs for horse riding, the board games chess and “Snakes and Ladders”, even the humble button, to name but a few. Though I’ve never watched a Polo match or donned a pair of jodhpurs, I am partial to the odd game of chess, which is believed to have originated in Eastern India in the 6th Century, where it was known as “chaturaṅga”. I guess one of the most well-known (and possibly my favourite) things to come from India, however, is the cuisine.

I love a good “Ruby Murray” as much as the 23 million Brits that regularly consume the dish. Though unlike those with more sensitive palates, for me the spicier, the better. My culinary heaven would be a chicken Vindaloo or Jalfrezzi served with chilli rice, accompanied with side orders of Bombay Aloo, Saag Aloo and a garlic Naan, plus poppadoms to dip in mint sauce and chunky lime pickle (extra hot). My mouth is watering as a type.

So imagine my joy on receiving the itinerary for my India trip in 2016, and seeing that included in the whirlwind 7-day tour was an authentic Indian cookery lesson in Jaipur.

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The whole trip was brilliant, and it was fantastic to tick the magnificent Taj Mahal off my bucket list. But the cookery lesson was definitely one of the highlights for me. Here’s a bit more about the experience…

A warm welcome at Nokha House.

On the sixth evening of our trip, after a busy day exploring the “pink city” and the Amer Fort, our little tour group was driven to the outskirts of Jaipur, to Nokha House.

As we clambered off the bus, we were suddenly surrounded by Indians. Nothing unusual about this – it was something we experienced whenever we stepped down from the air-conditioned vehicle or out of the sanctuary of our hotel gates. But unlike the begging, the offers of taxis and the claims of “I give you nice price” that we had – by now – become accustomed to, there was no hustle or bustle or shouting.

Instead, everyone’s wrists were calmly grabbed and tied with a bracelet:

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I examined the vibrant red and yellow threads; they were plaited together and knotted with wooden and gold plastic beads, as well as gold flowers and charms. In all the commotion of tying these to our wrists, I couldn’t hear what our tour guide Dilip was saying regarding the bracelet. But consulting my India pocket guide later that evening, I found out that the band is known as “mauli”, and is usually tied on a wrist by Hindus before the beginning of a religious ceremony to invoke the blessings of the Hindu deities. Men have it tied on their right hand, while it’s on the left hand for females – glad they got it on the correct wrist. It’s also believed that the sanctified red thread protects a person from diseases, enemies and other dangers. Perhaps they knew something about my cooking skills…

The women in our tour group were also all dabbed on the forehead with a dye-covered finger. We were adorned with a bindi, a symbolic mark that I previously thought was only given to married women.

Questioning the red dot in between my eyebrows, Dilip explained women from many different religious and cultural communities in India proudly wear bindis. It isn’t just Hindus, but Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and even Catholics sport the dot. While some believe it’s linked to the third eye (known as “ajna chakra”), a site of wisdom and power said to be situated between the eyebrows, others associate it with married women (though it is also commonly worn by children and single women). Parents may also mark their babies’ faces with bindis to ward off the evil eye.

Both gestures were a great way to get our party into the spirit of the evening, and everyone was excited for what was to come next.

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After we’d been marked and our wrists tied (sounds more Fifty Shades of Grey than Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook), Dilip introduced us to the owner of the house, who greeted us by shaking all of our hands warmly. He then ushered us in, giving us a tour of the house at the same time. It was large and spacious, with a large courtyard garden in the middle.

We all took a seat in the garden and chattered away unanimously for a few minutes, before a trolley was pushed out with a refreshing little drink and a hot wash cloth for everyone. One of the owner’s sons then came out, followed in hot pursuit by a very overweight Labrador, who we learnt was called Jaime. The charismatic son gave us a brief history of the house, and what we would be cooking with his parents once we went inside to the dining room. His English accent was remarkable, he could have doubled as Lord Ralph from The Fast Show.

And then, it was time to cook…

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Cooking a curry in India.

Firstly we were introduced to all the spices we’d be using. There were cardamom pods and paprika, cinnamon and mustard seeds. There were things I’d never even heard of before, too, such as garam masala – which we were told was blended from green cardamon pods. Then, we were told what was on the menu for the evening:

  • Vegetable pakora
  • Green lentil dahl
  • Home-made chapatis

Once we’d learnt about the ingredients and what we’d be making, it was time to begin the lesson. Does anyone have any allergies? Yes? Well tough, these Indians didn’t do gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan friendly dishes. This was traditional Indian cookery as it should be.

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The owner and his wife worked as a tag team, taking it in turns to show us the different techniques and stages for making each part of the meal. I actually managed to video the whole demonstration, so click here if you fancy making your own green lentil dahl.

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The pakora’s didn’t look that hard to make, though I’ve yet to try them at home.

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After about 45 minutes, the class was over, though it didn’t feel that long at all. As the owners of Nokha House began clearing up the cooking dishes, we were invited to come up to the front and try some pakora sprinkled with a tasty homemade spice dust. Then, to our dismay, the dahl and chapatis were taken away entirely. “Where are they going? Come back, we’re hungry,” murmured everyone on our tour group, looking around at one another.

A few minutes late, the articulate son, aka Lord Ralph, reappeared in the doorway, with a hungry Jamie at his side. “Ladies and gentlemen, if you could please follow me outside, your dinner is served”.

And so, with tummies rumbling loudly, we all filed back out to the courtyard garden, where little tables had been set-up with candles, glasses, plates and cutlery. The son and Jamie (who could tell he was about to get tidbits from the guests) wheeled out a trolley laden with curries and rice and potatoes and chapatis. All home cooked, all delicious.

*****

If you’re heading to Jaipur and are looking for somewhere comfortable, affordable and hospitable to stay, I cannot recommend Nokha House enough. You can book a room via booking.com. Once there, make sure you take one of their cookery lessons, it’s the only way to learn how to cook authentic Indian cuisine.

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90 thoughts on “A taste of India: an authentic cookery lesson in Jaipur.

  1. Oh amazing. I bet you are cooking lots of lovely things since you have been home! My friend went to a cooking class in Asia and made a curry for my last week – it was AMAZING

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a neat experience! You do such a great job of taking us on the journey with your through your colorful, descriptive writing and photos. Makes me want to learn more about Indian cooking myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. OMG – I totally want to do this. I think from now on, when we travel, I want to take a cooking class. I’m just now learning how to make Indian food as a response to not having a good Indian restaurants near us. I just LOVE it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I actually had no idea that polo actually originated in India, especially since many of us would assume that it is a quintessential British sport. That being said I have to agree with you that my favourite thing about Indian culture is their cuisine. especially as a vegetarian. My personal favourites include Chana Masala, Lassi, aloo chana and masala wedges as well as chai latte. And yes in my case, the spicier the better although my bowels are always crying after haha! But how cool that you were able to have an authentic Indian cookery restaurant that sounds incredible.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow! Becca I am already feeling hungry looking at those food pictures. I love the food in Jaipur. I am glad that you tried out a cooking lesson. Such an experience! Thanks for writing on such an interesting topic!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sure sounds like a unique experience – home cooking lesson in Jaipur with all the Indian spices. I always loved watching my mother cook when I was little, and till date, I cannot remember which spices go into which dish, there are so many! Haha. I’m glad you had a great experience 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My knowledge of Indian food consists of chicken korma and chicken tikka, so this class looks and sounds really authentic! Was the food really spicy? I love these kind of experiences as you know you’ll learn so much not just about the cooking, but the culture too!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I adore Indian food and would love to do an authentic cookery class. I’m not great with the spices and tend to go for the lamb rogan josh with a side of sag aloo and naan! It’s a great idea to learn how to cook traditional food when visiting a country. The pakoras look so good and seem pretty easy to make at home. We did a cookery class in Marrakech and had so much fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. How lovely to have such an authentic cookery lesson. I used to live with an Indian family, and had many a lesson in how to make delicious food. It is great to be able to make your own. Trust me pakora are so easy to make, and really tasty. The wrist band you had is similar to one my daughter’s put on their brother’s wrists for a thanksgiving type of festival, we call them Rakhri.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pakora are easy you will be fine. My maternal family are from India in fact my aunty teaches at her guest house in Udaipur but she grew up just off the crazy busy MD road in Jaipur until she married my uncle. Small world eh, do you think ypu will he more confident at home with preparing from scratch?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh my goodness, I would LOVE to do this! I absolutely love Indian cooking but I really struggle to make it myself, I would love to learn how to cook in an authentic way. How was the food compared to what we eat in the UK? I’m always curious as to whether what we call Indian food really is all that authentic.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What an incredible way to learn how to cook authentic Indian cuisine. It sounds like an amazing way to experience and practice all the different techniques and stages for making each part of a meal, and I love your photos!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m getting hungry just reading your post. Indian food is our family’s favorite cuisine, and we have all those spices at home. We didn’t experience a cooking class while in India, but this makes me think that I should schedule a private one with my mother-in-law.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Cooking with no measuring cups and spoons?? I love Indian food and yet it can be hard to find authentic dishes by me! I would love to learn to cook some dishes like you have, what a great opportunity! I would have to use a fork though, I hate to eat saucy foods with my fingers.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Oh wow, what an extraordinary experience! It kind of reminds me of the book The Temporary Bride (but that’s set in Iran and the lead character marries the son in the household!). What an adventure for you, thank you for sharing it with us. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Yummy! This looks so good – I really love India food – it must be so cool to doing a cooking class in India. I have been to India a few years ago and I haved missed this opportunity. Thanks for sharing this with us. Have a lovely day,
    Martina

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Wow such a fascinating cooking lesson. I learnt so much from this post. I had no idea all those things originated in India and it’s great to learn about what the bindi symbolises. I bet the food was incredible.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I have been to Jaipur and love the food there. I always wonder how to make an authentic Indian cuisine and now at least I have some idea. There are many spices used and first I need to get all the spice and ingredient but still I am not sure if I can manage. Good thing about this blog is there are so many pictures for me to reference.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. What an amazing experience, I would like to have seen this! I also would have assumed that most of the things you listed were English, especially polo! The fodo looks amazing, I bet it had incredible flavour and I love how bright and vibrant the dishes are.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Indian food is by far one of my favourite cuisines! I love the mixture of intense flavours and the plethora of spices that they use. I’d love to take a cooking class in India one day, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. This sounds like so much fun. My bf is west Indian and always says that their spices are much different from East India. I think that’s fascinating. What I like most about this post and their food in general is the fact it is not processed what’s so ever. So much better for you.

    Liked by 1 person

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