Indian Street Food Class, The Spice Club

As you can probably tell from my blog, I have a massive love for Indian street food. Since moving to Moseley my tried and tested hangover cure has become chicken tikka and aloo tikki chaat from Zindiya, eaten cross-legged on the floor so we can watch TV without staining the sofa. Trust me, it works.

But despite my adoration for the cuisine of the sub-continent, I have managed to reach my 26th year with pretty much zero knowledge of how to cook it. My repertoire stretches as far as a single chickpea and potato curry; a damn good one, I’ll admit, but after the billionth time it can get a little dull. So when I heard from the lovely Han Eats that Monica was bringing her The Spice Club cookery classes to Birmingham, our names were the first on the list.

The class lasted 3 hours and the format went a little like this: cook delicious Indian street food dish, eat said street food dish, cook another delicious Indian street food dish, eat second street food dish, leave happy and very, very full. Perfect for people like me, who can’t go more than about an hour without stuffing something in my gob. And after a slightly heavy Friday night, I was thrilled to see that the first dish we would be cooking was my favourite hangover-busting aloo tikki chaat (spiced potato cakes on a bed of chickpea curry), followed by chicken Kathi rolls (paratha filled with sukha chicken and a pickled lime and onion salad).

Monica was a fantastic teacher, making everything seem simple and giving us plenty of time saving tips along the way; for example, did you know that microwaving garlic bulbs makes them super easy to peel? With a small class size of six everyone was able to get involved in each part of the dishes, whatever their cooking experience, and it felt more like cooking with a group of friends than a formal class.

And the results? Stunning. Even with our amateurish skills we managed to produce some incredible tasting food, and after trying the same dishes on a recent trip to India it’s clear that Monica has absolutely nailed her recipes. They were so good that I recreated both at home the very next day with the help of the recipes we were given. I’ve been practising ever since and my parathas are slowly getting rounder.

If you’re even slightly into Indian food (or want to discover it!), I’d definitely recommend giving one of The Spice Club classes a go. It was such a fun way to spend a morning, and I came away with amazing memories as well as recipes. Monica runs a variety of classes, including vegan options, so you can choose the vibe that suits you (Kashmiri cookery class, I’m coming for you next).

I’m not gonna lie, I’ll still be phoning in the Aloo Tikki Chaat from Zindiya when I’ve overindulged in gin, but from now on my hangover free days will be spent in the kitchen making my own.

The class cost £55 and was held at the Kitchen Food School in Digbeth and ran from 11-2. Details of upcoming Birmingham classes can be found here. If you fancy trying some of Monica’s recipes, check out her Spice Diary blog.

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The Crown Inn, Hallow

It creeps up on you, getting old. One minute you’re spending your weekends at warehouse parties and stumbling in at seven am, the next you’re taking a serious interest in kitchen utensils and investing in a pension. One thing I’ve realised as I’ve grown older (and hopefully a little wiser) is that my Mum and Dad were actually right about a lot of the things my past self was sure they were oh so wrong about. Dying my hair black? Terrible idea. Spending a week sobbing over my first break up? Not worth it. And all those long walks in the country? Really bloody nice, actually. Especially ones with a decent pub at the end of it; one where you can sit in front of a roaring fire, the feeling slowly returning to your toes, and sate your appetite with some properly good grub.

The Crown Inn is exactly the sort of pub you always hope to find at the end of those walks, but it’s also so much more. Yes, the portions are comfortingly massive and the corners are cosy, but there’s some seriously ambitious cheffery going down. The whole pub has been refurbished and the kitchen is newly headed up by Chris Monk, formerly of Cheltenham’s two-Michelin-starred Le Champignon Sauvage; a truly brilliant restaurant which produced one of my top meals of 2017.

From snacks and starters we take a scotch egg from the more traditional end of the offerings, and a more unusual breaded lamb shoulder which arrives studded with feta and drizzled with vibrant salsa verde and redcurrant vinaigrette. The generously proportioned scotch egg would improve with a little extra seasoning, but the ham hock is tender and the yolk perfectly runny. The lamb is another big plate, however the freshness and acidity the other elements bring means that it doesn’t stray towards trouser-bursting territory.

The menu entry for my pheasant main reads as if Chris Monk has plunged his hands into my brain and pulled out a list of ingredients that speak to my soul. Two accurately cooked breasts are joined by a wedge of the most delicious hash brown (yes, I promise you it’s better than that guaranteed hangover curer from McDonalds), creamed cabbage with bacon, blackberries and the thickest of black pudding purées. It’s a triumph of a dish – Autumn on a plate – and my soul weeps when I cannot finish.

Our other main, beef shin cottage pie, is a fantastic rendition of a classic pub dish. Gone is the mince, replaced by shredded beef shin and topped with prettily-piped mash. It’s served with beef fat carrots – because all vegetables are better with animal fat – and a jug of thick gravy. As a Northerner, I very much approve.

We can’t decide between the sides, so order all three. Obviously do not do this; it is far too much for two people and even this gluttonous pair barely make a dent. The chips are thick cut and well seasoned, although they could have done with a little more colour, but my recommendation? Get the gratin instead. Dig your spoon through that gloriously golden exterior and you will be rewarded by creamy, cheesy, nutmeggy layers of potato with the perfect level of bite. Root vegetables arrive in a pool of sticky maple glaze, the remnants of which we drizzle onto our chips. We regret nothing.

After the richness of our mains, we welcome the refreshing pre-dessert of lemon and mango with open arms. I love this stuff; the sweetness and acidity of the lemon has been perfectly balanced. If we were anywhere else, we probably would have stopped here. Felt our trousers strain and made the sensible decision not to order any dessert.

The soufflé though. Apple soufflé, served with salted caramel ice cream. Show me a person who can resist that on a menu, and I’ll show you someone I don’t want to go for lunch with. It was everything we wanted and more, structurally perfect and god. damn. delicious. We still regret nothing.

I’m seriously impressed by The Crown Inn. It takes all the best bits of pub grub and elevates them to something really special. Yes, you could happily tramp in after a long walk in a pair of muddy boots, but you could just as easily celebrate a special occasion here, or tuck yourself away in a corner on date night. Whatever the occasion, I only have one piece of advice; go hungry.

Make your way to The Crown Inn by car, foot or any way possible by navigating to Main Road, Hallow, Worcester, WR2 6LB.

Lunch was complimentary for review purposes.

Crown Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato