Comedy and Cookery. Could be a recipe for disaster but Hardeep Singh Kohli (witty boadcaster, writer and Celebrity Masterchef finalist) managed it to perfection at the Lemon Tree last night with his show Indian Takeaway. The premis is an interesting one. At the start of the show Hardeep orders a takeaway from a local restaurant for delivery to the venue. Audience members can make suggestion in advance via his website. My recommendation of my own local takeaway must have been outvoted by the city centre based Jewel in The Crown. The countdown is then on as Hardeep races against the clock to cook up his own Indian feast before the delivery arrives.
The venue was set up with a Ready, Steady, Cook stylee kitchen on stage and the audience were given menus for The Jewel. Lots of humour (with sweary words), banter, heckling (woe betide latecomers) and general chit chat ensued before the cooking even began. Outstanding facts included that 70% of the meals eaten out in the UK are Indian and that there are more Indian restaurants in London than in Bombay and Delhi combined. I guess we really are a nation of curry lovers.
Not quite sure why exactly we had the menus as a Chicken Vindaloo and 20 poppadoms were ordered without any audience say so. I'd guess its the same every night. We did however learn that its the poppadoms that are the real Indian money spinner. Less than 1p each to make and sold for anything up to £1.50 each. That's what buys the flashy BMW's. Takeaway ordered and the cooking began. Pork Vindaloo for the carnivores and Lentil Dahl for the veggies. This is where as a foodie it all started to go a bit wrong for me. Hardeep chatted away whist cooking up a storm but didn't tell us anything of what was going into the pans. Much brown humour but zilch in the way of recipe.
|The man from The Jewel arrives onstage with the Takeaway|
Whilst the curry pots bubbled away we had an interval to stock up on Cobra and Kingfisher. The smells circulating were much better than the usual Lemon Tree signature scent of stale beer. The delivery arrived from The Jewel and the poppadoms were duly smashed and passed around. Vocal audience members were then chosen to go onstage and blind taste test the two dishes. Overall Hardeep's dish won out but one taster preferred the takeaway vindaloo. Bowls of curry and rice were also passed round the seated audience and I had a try of the pork vindaloo. Vindaloo is not something I would ever even consider ordering. I'm a real cissy when it comes to heat. However Hardeep's creation was more spicy that hot. I wish I'd managed to taste the veggie dahl. Purely because of the sheer obscene quantity of butter that was in it.
|Hardeep and the Three Stooges|
My companion at Indian Takeaway was none other than my own Indian cookery teacher. Along with four friends I recently took an informal eight week cookery course covering everything from korma, balti and dahl to pakoras, chapatti, samosas and parathas. It was an amazing voyage of discovery and lots of fun. One of my favourite things to come out of it is a new addition to my kitchen worktop. A Massa Dabba. Yup - all the gear and no idea. In order to fill it I also discovered the delights of ethnic food shops in Aberdeen where you can buy a kilogram bag of any spice for less than half the price of one of those wee Schwartz jars.
|Spinach & Mushroom Pakoras with Ratia (made by me)|
Indian Takeaway continues on tour for the remainder of the year. A very different night out in great company. Hardeep is so at home onstage and behind the stove that you feel that you are sitting in his own kitchen at home. Despite the strong language and cutting put downs he is comes across as an affectionate, witty, engaging and clever gent who clearly knows his onions and how to cook them.
Oh and just incase Mr Singh Kohli is reading this - I apologise for the 33 stone comment, but the post show chipper really won't have helped.