The Evening Class;Mind and body;Indian cookery

9th April 1999 at 01:00
Anyone coming into Kirti Chouhan's class mentions the C-word at their peril. The merest whisper of "curry" draws a sharp intake of breath from students and an admonition from the tutor. "There is no such word as curry in our vocabulary. Students here are forbidden to say it," says Kirti with mock severity, as the students look down and continue chopping onions and chillis.

This is real Indian cooking, nothing to do with what passes for it at many restaurants. "We use fresh products and spices, and every dish has a different flavour," says Kirti. "It's not just meat in a red and yucky sauce. There are lentils, vegetables and many pulses and kinds of rice, and ways of cooking them."

It seems as much a social occasion as a class. Soon sizzling takes over from the chat and the room fills with delicious, spicy aromas. Students tackle a different recipe each week. Bringing their own ingredients, they cook a meal to take home.

Sally Crook is cooking kopra murghi, or coconut chicken. "This course has given me confidence," she says. "I've always liked cooking but never experimented. Now I'm willing to try new things. My husband booked me on the course. He didn't want Wednesday evenings without his Indian food."

Fellow student Cindy Bain chips in: "It relaxes you - there's no pressure, no exam at the end. And the homework's good because you get to eat it."

At one point everyone gathers round as Kirti shows how to cook patra - leaves that resemble rhubarb - which have been prepared with chick pea flour, then rolled and cut into slices.

Finally, we get to taste it. It's delicious, and followed by a sublime dessert, called shrikand. And for the first time in the evening, an appreciative silence descends on the class. Now, pass me an enrolment form please.

This class took place at Tewkesbury School, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire. Tel: Gloucester College of Arts and Technology, 01242 532198

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