Rebecca Green heads to Rayeesa’s Cookery School for a lesson in how to create authentic Indian dishes using game

We Brits love a good curry. The trouble is, thanks to the ‘one sauce fits all’ approach to a lot of Indian takeaways, most of us don’t really know what a ‘good’ curry is. From her farmhouse kitchen in Herefordshire, Indian chef Rayessa is setting people straight with cookery courses aimed at teaching people the skills and techniques of authentic Indian cooking.

I joined a group of six on one of Rayeesa’s game cookery classes (Rayeesa works with BASC to help promote game). On the menu were: duck pasande, venison (or mixed game) kebabs, basmati rice, chapattis, carrot curry and dhal.

Rayeesa creates a relaxed and welcoming feel to the day, which begins with a quick chat before we tuck in to the all-important prep work... Indian cookery requires A LOT of onions! And they need frying for a lot longer than you think (about 15 minutes in some cases). It makes all the difference to the end result, as we later discovered.

The course is very much hands-on, and while Rayeesa demonstrates everything to us, we all contribute to the dishes and get to use the various techniques she explains.

Surprisingly, one of the first tasks of the day 
is getting the rice on – a job that previously I would have left until last, but I won’t now [see top tips]. In fact, one of the main lessons I took away with me is the importance of timing and getting everything prepared, measured out and marinating in advance – particularly when cooking so many dishes simultaneously.

There is plenty of tasting to be done during the day… by 11am the mouth-watering aromas coming from the various pots bubbling away are making tummies rumble – so Rayeesa whips up a quick spiced omelette to keep the wolf from the door, which we wash down with a delicious aromatic brew known as Chai. And of course, we get to eat all the dishes we prepare that day – but I wasn’t expecting for us to all sit down at a beautifully laid table and eat a proper meal with a glass of wine. It’s a nice touch.

Throughout the day Rayeesa shares a multitude of tips and tricks, explains the use of spices and some of their health benefits, and talks through each dish – pointing out what to look for at different stages of cooking.

Whether you are an accomplished cook or total novice, you’d get a lot from the day – not least a delicious meal at the end of it. I can quite honestly say, hand on heart, that it was the nicest Indian food I’ve ever eaten – the depth and freshness of the flavours astounded me. Perhaps best of all is that, armed with the recipes and a few extra spices from Rayeesa, I managed to confidently recreate the dishes at home. Not quite to the same standard, but not far off – and it definitely beats getting a takeaway.