Anja Madhvani goes behind the scenes of Yorkshire's best Indian restaurant
Have you ever wanted to step inside an award winning kitchen and uncover the secrets of making exceptional food? Well, you’re in luck (particularly if you're a fan of Indian food), as the Patel family welcome you behind the scenes for their Cookery Demonstration Day.
Prashad started out in 1992 when engineer Mohan and his wife Kaushy moved to Bradford and opened a deli in an old laundrette. Here Kaushy began to sell her home cooked food, which she learnt to prepare with her beloved grandmother. The locals of Bradford were treated to a host of traditional Gujarati foods, from samosas to pethis and pakoras. The deli became a hub, not only for visitors to buy sweet and savoury foods, but for community and friendships to flourish.
This is a premium experience which comes at a premium price (£130)
Eldest son Bobby noticed that customers wanted more, they wanted to sit in and enjoy a meal cooked by Kaushy, and so furniture and a full menu were introduced. In April 2010, Bobby announced to the family that Gordon Ramsay was coming, as customers had nominated this modest family restaurant for his Best Restaurant series. They made it all the way to the final.
Bobby’s wife Minal is now the head chef, and the business has gone from strength to strength, leaving Bradford in 2012 to open a larger restaurant in Drighlington. They are proud holders of a string of awards including a Michelin Bib Gourmand and are the only Indian restaurant in Yorkshire to be awarded two AA rosettes.
By the way, Bobby's brother, Mayur, is the co-founder of Leeds and Manchester's hugely popular Gujarati street food and craft beer restaurant, Bundobust.
What this family don't know about Gujarati food probably isn't worth eating.
Head chef Minal oozes ambition, and she should. She is a chef with unbridled passion and skill, combining her love of traditional food and seasonal produce with a flare for innovation to serve up some of the best food in the North, arguably the country.
She has trained under Ramsay at his restaurant Petrus, and has also been mentored by Michelin starred chef Atul Kocchar. I won’t give too much away, but let’s just say that Minal has some very exciting plans for the future.
What can you expect from this day in the kitchen? First up I must be clear; this is a demo day, not a cooking course. You won’t be getting overly hands on, perhaps a little puri rolling and bhaji frying. You will be eating a lot, so arrive hungry, I would recommend some sort of stomach-expanding training regimen prior to visiting.
The kitchen at Prashad is without doubt the cleanest commercial kitchen I have ever been in. Minal and her assistant Sukumar are surrounded by spices, fresh veg and herbs, and pass ingredients around for us to taste and smell as they prep. We start with Methi na bhaji na bajia (Fenugreek leaf and banana bhajis) and Ginger Tea.
Bobby talks us through each step of the cooking and regales us with amusing anecdotes. He also receives a lot of teasing from Minal, which is highly entertaining. Tea and bhajis are served as brunch, they’re light and fluffy, a delicate balance of sweet fruit and soft spices.
Back into the kitchen, where Minal shares tips and dispels myths about Indian cooking. She tells us that contrary to advice from many cooking shows and books, spices should not be thrown into spitting oil and burnt, this is where a lot of us are going wrong when we prepare curries. She doesn’t start any of today’s dishes by sweating onions and garlic, which many assume is the base of every curry. This is a welcome revelation, Minal encourages us to take a new approach to preparing Indian food. We also learn about making quick pickles, no more jars of Patak’s for us.
For lunch we enjoy stuffed aubergine, romesco and peas, mungh dhal, puri and khudi (a spiced yoghurt soup) which we pour over our rice. We also have a dessert made from purple carrots, Minal showing her love for seasonal veg once again.
As we sit around the table the group share stories of their own food culture, memories of dishes passed down through generations. This is the joy of food, the sharing of different cultures, new flavours and good conversation.
This is a premium experience which comes at a premium price (£130). But for a glimpse into a world of family, flavour and tradition it is well worth it. As well as breakfast and lunch, you will be sent home with a box of food for dinner and one of Kaushy’s cookbooks, featuring all the dishes we tried.
We all agree that having observed these dishes being prepared, we felt confident about going home and attempting them ourselves. If there is a food lover in your life, this would make an excellent gift. On a personal note, I’d like to thank the team at Prashad for a nostalgic day. My father was from Gujarat and sharing this meal reminded me of childhood meals with him at aunty’s house. I’m hoping to surprise her by cooking a meal next time I visit.
Prashad 137 Whitehall Road, Drighlington, BD11 1AT