Top chef reveals his secrets

Mohammed Aslam MBE, Managing Director and Executive Chef of the Aagrah Group of Restaurants, conducts his Kashmiri cookery masterclass at the Aagrah in Leopold Square, Sheffield.
Mohammed Aslam MBE, Managing Director and Executive Chef of the Aagrah Group of Restaurants, conducts his Kashmiri cookery masterclass at the Aagrah in Leopold Square, Sheffield.

One of the city’s most popular restaurants was transformed into a theatre on Tuesday as chef Mohammed Aslam prepared to share some of his secrets with members of the public.

Aagrah – voted favourite Indian restaurant in the recent Eat Sheffield awards – was hosting its first-ever masterclass. And the man in the spotlight was Mohammed Aslam, managing director and executive chef of the family business which owns a 14-strong Yorkshire chain.

The Leopold Square branch, which opened four years ago, managed to pack in more than 120 enthusiasts for the Kashmiri cookery evening. Masterclasses are a regular feature at other Aagrah restaurants.

Mohammed Aslam (who has a string of awards to his name, including an MBE for services to the hospitality industry) began the evening with a demonstration of his art.

It looked so easy as he tossed together lentils, tomato, oil and various spices to conjure up dall achar.

Then he cooked chicken, onion, yoghurt and added more of his unique blend of spices to create a zafrani korma. Next up was Mumbai machli, made with firm-fleshed monkfish, and Sri Lankan baked tilapia, wrapped and steamed in a banana leaf.

The tips came thick and fast: whole spices last longer than ground – and roasting diminishes their flavour; lentils taste better with garlic than onion; fish can be quickly deep fried before cooking to hold its shape.

And finally came the highlight of the evening as the audience tucked into a three-course meal featuring all the dishes Mohammed had cooked.

Lesley Draper