If you follow me on Instagram you might have noticed that we recently spent a weekend in France cooking curry. I even wrote about the house we stayed in for Window Wednesday recently, but I didn’t really talk much about the weekend itself in that post.
You might think that if you wanted to go away on a foodie weekend to learn about cooking curry you would go to north Manchester, or Birmingham or maybe Southall. Areas of the UK where there are hundreds of Indian restaurants or communities of Indians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis. That would make sense, right? The last scenario you would envisage would be a weekend in France cooking curry, being taught by a Californian who now lives in the UK. And that would be a shame because let me tell you, it is THE best combination.
Dan Tombs IS the Curry Guy. He has written three best selling cookery books that explain how to make the most incredible curries, naans, vegetable side dishes and desserts and is happy to answer questions and share tips on his social media accounts (or by the pool, or over a beer or croissant depending on the time of day). Dan has teamed up with Big in France who host cooking weekends at one of their beautiful French farmhouses a few times every year.
We saw Dan tweet about one of these weekends back in March and booked it pretty much immediately because it sounded like our kind of weekend. Em and Matt who own Big in France suggest flights to people coming in for the weekends and then offer a collection service from the airport meaning you don’t need to hire a car and you can get to know your fellow chefs in the mini bus en route before you even arrive at the property.
Whilst there is obviously a strong emphasis on learning how to cook curry if you actually just want to spend some time by the pool reading a book whilst your other half cooks then that is fine, after all this is not boot camp.
Dinner on the first evening is overseen by Matt, though you are welcome to join in and help, and served up on the dining table big enough for 22. There is enough food for a small army and enough beer and wine to ensure that nobody goes thirsty. Vegetarian? No problem. In fact nothing is too much of a problem. There are even people hired to clear up and load the dishwasher so you don’t have to take it in turns to wash up. Matt and Em truly do think of everything.
The first curry cooking sessions begin around 10am each morning, giving you time for a lazy breakfast (fresh pastries from a local boulangerie obviously) and everything that you make then becomes lunch. Having all got to know each other the night before there is a certain camaraderie that comes with these sessions, a level of chatter and banter that continues long into the night. Our first morning’s session was actually a bit too windy to be held outside so we decamped to the kitchen for Dan to share his skills with us, and to drink copious amounts of coffee, the kitchen of this nine bedroom house still being more than large enough to accommodate us all.
After lunch there is time for a nap, a drive into the local village if you did hire a car at the airport, or time to laze by the pool with its sweeping views of the French countryside.
Late afternoon and the next session begins, in time to be consumed for dinner. You would think that having had four different curries for lunch you wouldn’t be able to eat anything else for dinner but somehow we managed it. Probably because having spent a few hours preparing it all we were desperate to sample it all. Longing to learn more. To pick Dan’s brains and get as much info from him on how to make naan and Indian snacks.
I can honestly say this was one of the best weekends we have ever enjoyed. We were a diverse bunch of people who would never have met if it hadn’t been for this weekend and we came away vowing to stay in touch and to share pictures with each other of the curries we went on to re-create at home.
Thanks for putting on such a great weekend Matt, Em and Dan (and Dan’s two fabulous sous chefs wife Caroline and son Joe). It was a blast.
So much so that we begged the three of them to do it all again next summer and booked up as soon as they confirmed the dates.
If you are interested in a similar weekend then check out the Big in France website here: