An evening with Maunika Gowardhan and my new North East cookery class obsession

An evening with Maunika Gowardhan and my new North East cookery class obsession

Confession: Why I’m now Newcastle cookery class mad

I like to pack as many things into my life as I can and a lot of these things (as my expanded waistline pays tribute to) are food based. I hate feeling like I’m not being productive in some way and though I love socialising – more often than not I’ll try and tie in testing out a new restaurant or a new bar if I’m meeting with friends and as I edge out of twenties (ouch) I find myself looking for options other than gannin oot on the lash at the weekend. Recently I’ve translated my geekery/food love and fear of hangovers into a hunt for food-based learning fun and first on the list was a cookery class with the exceptionally talented Maunika Gowhardan.

I headed along to one of Indian chef and food writer Maunika’s classes held in the workshops at Blackfriars on a cold evening at the end of last month and it was money exceedingly well spent. Not only did I get to eat some fantastic food, which was much appreciated during the month of bland dairy-carb overload, but I also picked up some tips and advice I know I will be able to use whenever I cook with Indian flavours from now on. The class itself was extremely good value at £40 for three hours tuition, a three course meal, wine, recipe car and a goody bag to take home and instead of picking up a nasty hangover I caught the cookery class bug (can anyone recommend any in the area?).

I won’t be revealing all of the secrets Maunika shared during the course of the evening – it would probably take me a week to write a post long enough. The class itself was very relaxed and interactive and Maunika covered everything from tackling people’s personal indian cookery issues right through to recommending her favourite Indian restaurants across the country and she did it all with infectious enthusiasm. I might be gushing a bit as I think I have a bit of a girl crush on Ms Maunika, but not only was she incredibly helpful and friendly but she was a cooking neat freak!

All prepared for the Maunika Gowardhan Class: ingredients

Maunika is a neat cook

As a bit of a newcastle newb I was slightly late to the class, but when I did get there I was greeted by some fabulous indian pancakes and chutneys including a mint pickle, which was almost like a pesto and so very different to the raita usually served in restaurants.

On the menu at the Maunika Gowardhan class

  • Bengali Murgir
  • Mattar Paneer
  • Spiced Cabbage Thoran
Maunika guided us through the preparation and cooking of each dish, answering questions along the way – even covering where to buy ingredients or possible alternatives to use. One of the best bits of advice I picked up was concerning the addition of heat to a curry. For too long I’ve been adding extra chilli powder or spice near the end of cooking, which is a big no-no that results in a powdery taste and I’m thankful to Maunika on shining some common sense on this by pointing out that powdered spices need to be cooked through.
Maunika Gowardhan during her curry class

Maunika at work

When the various curry dishes were cooked we were quickly served up a generous portion and I was sorry to be missing out on the delicious smelling Bengali Murgir with it’s tender looking chicken, until I tucked into my paneer along with some roti, cabbage thoran, rice and chutney.

A plateful of mattar paneer

Creamy mattar paneer

I did brave a lot of dairy in this particular dish but it was worth it – the full fat yoghurt gave the sauce a creamy taste without feeling too heavy and though I’d never had paneer not in a light batter (and it is soooo good in a light batter) I’m a complete convert and will be eating it in batter-free guises from now on.

Dessert came in the form of a kulfi and spiced barfi, which slipped down effortlessly despite the hefty amount of food that came before. I’d never had barfi before and found it delicious – somewhere between a sweet and a cookie and thoroughly moreish.

Pistachio ice cream and Indian cookie

Pistachio ice cream and barfi

And there were even some essentials from the class to take home to help us recreate the evening in our own kitchens.

Maunika's spice mix and damson chutney

Take home treats

If you fancy a fun, tasty and hangover free activity or are looking for an original gift – I’d strongly urge you to give the class a go. I’ve got a fair few Indian cook books but the insight Maunika gave into why you need to do a particular process at a particular time or why a specific ingredient is used was very helpful – as were her restaurant recommendations, which I’ll be signing friends up to try out as soon as possible. I’ve now well and truly caught the cookey class bug and went along to another class Lulu cooks Chinese this weekend  and i’ll be posting my review on that soon!



  1. April 28, 2013 / 10:53 pm

    Hi Fay, I can recommend the artisan bread making course, also at Blackfriars. Bit more pricey, but very hands on. The guy who does it supplies Mmm… with their bread, and really knows his stuff.

    • Fay
      April 28, 2013 / 11:07 pm

      Ooh thank you Lee, I’ll take a look. Had a little look at your site – lots of nice ideas on things to do with veg from my dad’s allotment!

  2. April 29, 2013 / 9:43 am

    I’ve started doing lots of cookery courses with my cousins, but now my waistline and bank account is protesting a bit! You’re right that they are great fun to do and a good hangover free activity to do with friends. Can’t wait to see what you cook at the Chinese course. x

    • Fay
      April 29, 2013 / 3:34 pm

      Ooh, what have you been to so far? I think Thai is next on my list! Prices do seem to vary a lot but compare well to the cost of a night out. The Chinese class was a lot of fun and I got some great photos of noodle making, which will be up in a few weeks time!x

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