Rich, meaty and spicy curry, fluffy rice and crisp poppadums…it’s well documented that Indian cuisine is the adopted dish of the UK, so it’s no surprise that we have our very own contemporary Indian restaurant at our Center Parcs Villages.
Rajinda Pradesh has been immensely popular since its inception in 2001; in the past year alone, 145,254 guests have dined at the eatery at either of our four locations.
I caught up with Yogendra Sharma – known as Yogi – who is Head Chef at Rajinda Pradesh, Sherwood Forest. Yogi has worked in this restaurant for nine-and-a-half years following an illustrious career that took him around the world, gaining invaluable experience along the way.
“Before I began working at Center Parcs I lived in Philadelphia, America and before that I worked in Japan. What I love about working here is that everything works smoothly and everything is in its place, which is quite rare for the chef industry.”
As Group Executive Chef, it’s my responsibility to ensure consistency across the board – whether you’re ordering a tikka masala from Rajinda Pradesh Elveden Forest, or a takeaway korma from Whinfell Forest’s Dining In. But I’m often asked what exactly this means for guests. “Consistency makes all the difference,” says Yogi.
“But the secret ingredient behind our success and quality of food is honesty. Honesty with food, with customers and with ingredients. Anything other than this will reflect in the end results.”
Of course, chef skills and the finest ingredients are paramount, but at Rajinda – or any Center Parcs restaurant – the added component is you, the guest. We take all feedback on board and it’s something that helps us shape the offering to you. At Center Parcs we have a huge choice of 17 different restaurants, as well as an on-Village takeaway and ParcMarket where you can shop to cook in your accommodation. “Our guests are not forced to eat here, they have masses of choice, but our popularity comes from how we produce the food. We take all feedback on board, no organisation can function without it. It’s a basic of hospitality – to listen, but also to act upon,” says Yogi.
In my years as a chef and now in a role where I oversee multiple restaurants, it’s easy to spot trends and I have definitely seen a change in our guests’ palette. Long gone are the days of hoards of people ordering chicken korma and chips; we’ve all got the hots for curry. In fact, a couple of years ago the jalfrezi was crowned as the nation’s favourite curry, stealing the title from the long-reigning – and milder – chicken tikka masala.
“Our top three sellers at Rajinda Pradesh reflect our family audience. Across all Villages are chicken tikka masala, followed by chicken korma and then chicken jalfrezi (right)” says Yogi.
“This might not represent the change, but palettes are changing for sure. More and more, people are asking for spicier dishes. I had a guest the other week who ordered a dish ten times hotter than a vindaloo – I was surprised because that is hot hot. In the correct terms, we’d call it awful hot!”
“But it’s nothing I haven’t experienced before. In southern parts of India, they make firing hot food using bullet chillies – trust me, one of these is more than enough, but they whack a handful in there, paste them in a mortar topped with black pepper and chopped red chili. That sort of intensity becomes too much to handle.
“But a curry has many health benefits. You get a burst of vitamin C that kicks in when you eat spice; it also causes you to sweat which gets rid of toxins.”
Make at home
The easiest way to enjoy quality Indian cuisine is to visit Rajinda Pradesh, of course! But Yogi has given his tips to create a great base for a curry – follow this recipe and boost up or reduce the spice according to your taste. No bullet chillies for me though, thanks!
Delhi’s famous gourmet chicken curry
For four people
• 150g chicken per person
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 1 tin chopped tomatoes
• 1 tbsp heaped chilli powder
• 1 tsp turmeric
• 2 tbsp coriander
• ½ tbsp cumin powder
• 1 tsp garam masala
• 5 cardamom pods
• 1 stick cinnamon
• 2 black peppercorns
• 2 bay leaves
• 100g yoghurt
1. Blend all the spices into a bowl.
2. Add the chicken, along with 100g yoghurt and marinade together, so that the chicken is coated in yoghurt and spices.
3. Add the cardamom pods, cinnamon, peppercorns and two bay leaves.
4. Heat 100ml vegetable oil in a pan and add 1 tsp cumin seeds, onion and tomatoes. Crackle and sauté until oil starts floating on top of the onion paste.
5. Put the marinated chicken in and set half a cup of hot water aside.
6. Add the water and cook, check chicken and serve once cooked through and tender.
7. Finish with fresh chopped coriander.