New Dereham cookery school has a touch of spice

A new Indian cookery school launched in a converted Norfolk barn this weekend already has at least 50 people signed for classes.

Hidden down a country lane in the middle of Norfolk, the barns at Mowles Manor are not the obvious setting for an Indian cookery school.

But on Saturday a newly transformed building at Etling Green, near Dereham, was filled with the smell of authentic Eastern cuisine and hosts in stunning traditional dress.

And the launch of the Ethnic Fusion School of Indian Cookery proved food-lovers were willing to travel across the county for the lessons with at least 50 people already signed up for courses.

Madhu Choudhry has transformed one of the units at Mowles Manor Enterprise Park into a demonstration and teaching room.

The former barn now houses four cooking areas complete with hob, equipment and their own jars of spices lined up in front of the work spaces.

A further demonstration area with its own hob and sink is surrounded by chairs for pupils to watch as the trained chef shows how to make a lamb rogan josh or onion bhaji.

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Following Saturday's launch, which was attended by Dereham mayor Robert Hambidge, Mrs Choudhry has just two weeks until her first beginners' workshop on March 12.

But the businesswoman, who continues to run her catering company Ethnic Fusion from another one of the barns, said she was not too worried.

The 58-year-old former research scientist said: 'You are always nervous about new things but I'm not one who keeps practising and practising - it just needs to come on the day. If you know what you are saying, it should come out alright.'

Between now and the end of May, Mrs Choudhry has 17 workshops - a mixture of beginners, experienced, vegetarian and Indian snacks - two four-week demonstration courses, and eight demonstration-and-dine evenings scheduled.

Her husband Rup, who is actively involved in the business, said his wife had worked incredibly hard since first applying for planning permission last September.

And he believed it was already paying off with 50 signed up for courses before the school was even launched.

He added: 'A lot of existing customers have been saying 'when is it happening?' They have been pushing us.'

Mr Choudhry said he hoped the cookery school would introduce people from across Norfolk and Suffolk to Indian food.

He added: 'My wife is extremely passionate about cooking and from there she wanted to teach people. She's done very well.'

With the expansion of her business, Mrs Choudhry, who moved to England from Indian in 1973, has taken on additional staff and now employs three part-time workers. She also plans to take on another two people to help her prepare for the courses and share some of the workload of her catering company.