Cider and spicy food

Bini encourages you to taste the spices and learn all about them before you add them to your cooking

Bini encourages you to taste the spices and learn all about them before you add them to your cooking - Credit: sub

Charlotte Skidmore visits a Somerset cookery school that is exploring the wonders of pairing cider with authentic Indian cuisine.

The chicken waiting to go into the oven

The chicken waiting to go into the oven - Credit: sub

Bini Ludlow does not just teach cookery – she teaches you about food.

She holds authentic Indian cuisine classes from her home in Radstock, having learnt her skills and knowledge about spices from her mother and her extended family, many of whom still live in the Gujarat region of Western India.

But what you get as part of these lessons is an ‘insight’.

The bhajya

The bhajya - Credit: sub

You don’t just learn how to cook a dish, you learn about each and every ingredient that goes into it, you taste and touch the spices you use and you learn why you are using them.

Bini invited me to her cookery school, Sweet Cumin, to see what she does and to learn about one of her most recent projects, pairing authentic Indian cuisine with Thatchers cider.

Sandford-based Thatchers introduced a programme earlier this year to enable people to the versatility of cider and in particular to present what a great drink cider is to enjoy alongside a meal.

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Whilst many people will think of wine being the ideal alcoholic drink to accompany spicy food, Thatchers however, has started to speak up for cider.

The lamb curry

The lamb curry - Credit: sub

With Bini’s expert advice it has devised its own series of menus that have been specially created to match its ciders and it has been putting them to the test with a series of special cider and food pairing events.

“Indian cooking is all about loving the ingredients and not rushing the process,” says Bini. “And that ethos matches Thatchers own cidermaking exactly.

“There are so many opportunities to consider how to match a dish with different styles of cider, and spicier foods work brilliantly.”

Martin Thatcher, managing director of Thatchers adds: “Within the Thatchers range we have fuller, rounder styles of cider such as Thatchers Vintage which works well with bolder, deeper flavours, while a lighter fresher style of cider such as Thatchers Rosé really cleanses the palate and works fantastically well with spicier dishes.”

So Thatchers started to work with Bini to explore menu ideas – which now appear on the Thatchers website as well as in a series of recipe cards.

Dishes that I prepared with Bini:

Spicy Chicken Wings with tomato and coriander chutney, which is paired with Thatchers Gold.

Serves 4

Heat rating medium/hot


800g chicken wings – skinned and jointed to leave two pieces per wing

35g garlic (peeled and chopped)

60g ginger (peeled and chopped)

5g green finger chillies (stalk removed and chopped)

10ml lemon juice

1 tsp salt

1/3 tsp red chilli powder

½ tsp turmeric

2 tsp coriander and cumin powder (heaped)

1 tsp garam masala and cumin seeds

35g finely finely chopped coriander

1 tsp tandoori powder

½ tsp ground black pepper

15g melted unsalted butter

2 tsp rapeseed oil

15g melted butter for basting


1. Make the masala marinade by blending the ginger, garlic and chilli together to form a paste.

2. Now add all the other spices, coriander, butter, oil and salt to the paste. Mix well. Taste the masala - it should have a lemon, salty and spiced flavour with some heat from the chillies.

3. Now cover the chicken pieces with the masala marinade, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Cover a deep tray with some tin foil and set the grill onto a medium setting or 200ºC.

Place the chicken wings on to the base of the tray ensuring they are evenly spread and brush with melted butter.

4. Place under the grill and cook for 3-5 minutes until the wings begin to colour.

Turn each wing over, brush with melted butter again and continue to cook for further 5 minutes.

5. Repeat until the meat is cooked and a golden colour.

6. Serve hot with a mint and yoghurt raitu, fresh tomato and coriander chutney, and rocket, carrot and cucumber salad.

West Country shoulder of lamb and aubergine curry, paired with Thatchers Vintage

Serves 12

Heat rating: medium


1 ½ kg shoulder of lamb cut into 5cm pieces

10 tbsp vegetable or rapeseed oil

900g onion, skinned and chopped

16 cloves of garlic – skins removed and made into a paste

4 finger chillies stalks removed and chopped and blended into a paste

185g fresh ginger peeled and made into a paste

Spices for tempering the oil

6 pieces cassia bark

6 cloves

7 green cardamom pods

2 black cardamom pods

2 star anise

3 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 ½ tsp fenugreek seeds

Dry spices for the masala

1 3/4 tsp turmeric

2 tsp red chilli powder

3 ¾ tsp coriander and cumin (heaped)

1 ¾ tsp garam masala

Salt to taste

1 tsp sugar

400g tinned chopped tomatoes blended

375g aubergine chopped and half peeled and kept in cold water

75-85g fresh coriander – washed and chopped

700 - 800ml stock

Pre cooking the lamb

3000ml hot water

¼ tsp whole black pepper corns


1. Pour the oil into a large saucepan, add the cassia bark, black cardamom, green cardamom, cloves, star anise until the whole spices begin to sizzle.

Add the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, onions and fenugreek seeds. Stir well and cover and cook for 40 minutes on a gentle heat until the onions are soft, golden and have released their sweetness.

2. Meanwhile, in another large saucepan, add 3000ml of hot water to the pan and ¼ tsp of whole pepper corns. Add the lamb and cook for 25 minutes on a medium setting removing the impurities from the surface of the water.

3. Now, add the ginger, garlic and chilli paste to the onion mix and cook for 2 minutes until an aroma is released and the paste turn golden brown.

4. Add the remainder of the masala spices, salt and sugar. Stir well until the onions have been coated evenly with the spices.

5. Add the tinned tomatoes and continue to cook on a medium heat until the oils comes to the surface.

6. Next, drain the water away from the aubergine and add to the saucepan. Stir well and cover and cook on a low to medium heat for 8 minutes.

Remove the lid and cook for a further 2 minutes on a high setting until the oils from the masala re-appear.

7. Now, add the lamb to the masala, mix well and add 700ml of stock to the pan. Stir and cover and cook for 2 hours on a low setting. Stir every 30 minutes to ensure the sauce doesn’t stick to the pan. If the sauce is looking thick, add more stock to loosen as desired.

8. Serve with buttery rice, onion and vinegar salad and fuleka cider puri.

Pan fried spiced chickpea bhajya paired with Thatchers Green Goblin


60g chickpea flour

30ml Thatchers Green Goblin cider

25ml egg (lightly whisked)

4 tbsp rapeseed oil

¼ tsp each of caraway seed, fennel seed, turmeric, chilli powder, coarsely ground black pepper and dried thyme

1 clove garlic crushed finely into a paste

1 small finger chilli stalk removed and crushed

1 tsp fresh ginger crushed

¼ tsp baking powder

1/3rd tsp Cornish sea salt

30g coarsely grated white or desiré potato, then squeeze out the starchy water

30g finely chopped white onion

20g green pepper finely chopped

30g red pepper finely chopped

½-1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander leaves and stalks


1. Sift the flour into a bowl, add the spices (turmeric, chilli powder, fennel, caraway seed, black pepper, thyme, garlic, and chilli and ginger paste, salt) and stir well.

2. Add the vegetables – red and green pepper, fresh coriander, grated potato and onion. Mix well.

3. Add the egg and the Green Goblin and stir quickly to avoid lumps from forming. Now add the baking powder.

4. Heat the oil in apan on a medium setting and drop a little batter into the oil, when ready it should sizzle around the edges. Add the batter using a teaspoon and allow the mixture to spread to 4-5cm diameter. Cover and cook on a low setting for 1-1.5 minutes and turn the flat bhajya to achieve the same golden colour on both sides. Cover and cook for a further 1-1.5 minutes.

5. Now place the cooked bhajya onto greaseproof paper and repeat until the batter has been used up.

6. Serve immediately topped with tomato and pepper chutney.

Top tip:

As a vegetarian alternative, try adding drained canned chickpeas and vegetable stock. And if you want to make this curry throughout the year, use butternut squash instead of pumpkin.

Sweet Cumin

Bini offers short classes, half day classes, full day classes and tailor made classes and she is now branching out into supper clubs.

She will be holding one at the Wellsway, West Harptree, Harptree Hill, on 21 November.

Call Bini on 07961320193 or email