I recently had the pleasure of attending one of Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express Supperclubs, a sort of practise run for her upcoming pop-lunch at The Cinnamon Club on April 27th. It was such a memorable evening in both flavour and experience that I wanted to share a few words about it.
Asma’s been doing supperclubs for a while now, cooking from the Nawabi/Mughal school of cuisine which is part of her heritage. Her experience shows in the way she’s totally nailed the whole supperclub experience. It begins in the dining room, which you could almost confuse for a restaurant; the place is spotless, devoid of clutter, but full of patterns and textures and great lighting for photographs.
The dinner, too, was incredibly well-organised. But of course, the real memory comes down to the food, which is just what you’d hope for: delicious, home-cooked Indian cuisine. But it was more than that. It was… surprising. While some courses were as you might expect… some samosas here, a paneer dish there… sometimes Asma emerged from the kitchen with a platter of something that just took everyone’s breath away.
Case in point was the mirchi ka salaan (above), which I can only equate to boiled egg curry. And then there was the khoobani ka meetha – Asma’s apricots in syrup with cream – which had us all very happy we’d (mostly) saved room for dessert.
The highlight for me was this Cashewnut Alo: chillis and cabbage in a sort of cashew like “sauce”. I’d never had anything like this before, and I’m a sucker for cabbage. I would take a cooking class with Asma just to learn this dish alone.
This to me is the key to a good supperclub, or really, any meal: surprise the guests. Give them the unexpected. Leave them with something to remember (Asma did this even further by sending us all home with a jar of her homemade tamarind chutney).
The other reason I loved this supperclub was Asma herself: you can tell with every dish she brings out that she is extremely proud of the food she’s created. And yet she’s humble, friendly and lots of fun, too. We laughed a lot that evening (at what I can’t totally remember, which may have something to do with the bottle of very good Sorelle Bronca Prosecco I brought from Life’s a Bottle and failed to share with anyone else at the table).
Yesterday I showed Asma my photos and she said: “I do not dress up and garnish my food excessively – you have captured the dishes in the way it is served traditionally.” Maybe that’s why we were all so enamoured by Asma and her supperclub: she really does cook from the heart, and she makes you feel at home.
Big thanks to Kavey for inviting me to Asma’s supperclub. If you’re in London on Saturday, I do recommend checking out her Darjeeling Express Calcutta pop-up lunch at The Cinnamon Club on 27 April 2013 (that is, if it isn’t sold out). Click here for more info.