How to learn Indian cookery from the comfort of your own kitchen
Rachna Deer of Ladyfingers Cooking in Glasgow comes round your house to teach you
Want to learn to cook this year? Kirstin Innes discovers authentic Indian cuisine classes from the comfort of your own kitchen
Everyone’s got one. The book you’re going to write, the film you’re going to make, the restaurant you’re going to open. And round about the beginning of January, you might think about actually doing it – briefly, for a couple of weeks. Maybe you even draft a business plan or sign up for a couple of classes before life settles back into its beat for the year, taking you with it.
Not so Rachna Deer, who last year set up Ladyfingers Cooking in Glasgow. As a premise, it’s brilliantly simple – people want to learn how to cook, people love curry; native Bombayite Deer comes round to their houses and teaches them authentic Indian cookery.
‘I actually set up Ladyfingers more from need than anything,’ she explains. ‘My ceiling was coming down, there were plumbing issues, I had no money left, and my partner Gail said, look, everybody talks to you when they need help cooking, and you’ve always said you want to open a restaurant: why don’t you set up a business where you go into people’s houses and teach them how to cook? That’s your passion. And it’s turned into this fantastic, positive thing.’
Each Ladyfingers package is tailored to the student: following a period of conversation, Deer will establish the level of their cooking skill, the kind of restaurants they go to, the sort of food they enjoy, and either suggest something new or help them create dishes they particularly love. Her sample menus offer everything from a one-hour lesson in Goan fish curry to a full day’s class, resulting in a banquet. The idea of running the classes in the student’s own kitchen is important to the Ladyfingers ethos, too. ‘I turn up to the house with my case of spices and teach, but you’re doing it yourself, in your own kitchen, using your pots, your knives. It means when I’ve gone you’re still comfortable recreating it in your own house. People get hung up on the idea that it’s too hard, they can’t do it. My students are always surprised at how easy it can be, and keep calling me back to learn more and more dishes.’
As well as being a great teacher and an intelligent, inventive cook (her haggis pakora with rhubarb chutney was recently a big hit on ITV’s Britain’s Best Dish), Deer is on something of an educational mission.
‘People say they love Indian food, but it’s chasni or chicken tikka masala they like. I have to tell them, you know that’s not real, right? Chasni! That’s so made up for Glasgow! It’s this gloopy mess! And I want to teach people that they don’t have to eat that.’
The next step is her own restaurant. Look out for Babu Kitchen, opening in Finnieston in March. And maybe take a shot at that novel this year, eh?