I hate cooking!
Well, I don’t hate cooking, but if I had the option I would prefer to watch paint dry than have to think about ‘what’s for dinner’. So, it was with no little trepidation that I voluntarily agreed to participate in an Indian cooking class.
The 19-day Webjet package we booked to India included a whole lot of add-ons and one of them was a date at a cooking school in the small town of Pushkar. Knowing my lifelong allergy to cooking I was not really looking forward to it, but I tried to convince myself to be open to new experiences, and off we went. Some of my trepidation dispersed when we stepped off the street and into a sparklingly clean room. Everything was neat and ordered, and the cooking benches and equipment were spotless.
Our class was held in a largish dining/lounge room of the Pushkar Cooking Art & Homestay. A long demonstration table was set up with a gas burner and various bowls of chopped food and numerous small bowls of brightly coloured spices.
As we waited for the three other apprentice chefs to arrive, Mrs Shivani showed us how to make Masala Chai tea. Personally, I don’t like the flavour/taste of chai, but the scent was heavenly.
Three Polish people finally arrived and we donned our aprons, rolled up our sleeves, and were ready to cook up a storm.
Mrs Shivani had handouts prepared which contained all the recipes we would be whipping up. They were:
- Masala chai
- Roti/Chapati (the same thing but with two different names)
- Daal Makhani (Butter lentils)
- Aalu Gobhi (Potato and cauliflower)
- Palak Paneer (Spinach and cheese)
- Paneer Korma (Cheese curry)
I made plenty of notes as we cooked our way through the menu as many of the ingredients would not be readily available in my small, country town and some adaption or translation was required. At one stage I did ask if there was any way we could cut corners with the recipe and Mrs Shivani just smiled at me pityingly and gave me a definite ‘NO’! I am such a bad chef!
As Mrs Shivani explained all the ingredients and processes, we were all encouraged to be hands-on, cooking, stirring and adding the spices. Indian food has a well-deserved reputation for being incredibly hot and spicy, but that is to their taste. In the cooking class, we could go easy on the chilli and this allowed all the other spices and layers of flavours to really shine through.
The best bit came when we completed each dish we were allowed to sample our handy work. A spoonful of each of the tasty recipes were served in small containers made out of dried leaves. The leaves were pressed into the shape of small bowls providing a very environmentally friendly way to dine. No washing up AND the cows love to eat the leaf dishes! WIN-WIN!
As we prepared each recipe I was genuinely surprised at how healthy each dish was. I did learn that Indian people like LOTS of butter (ghee) and sugar in their cooking, but if you cut that back a bit (what was I saying about cutting corners?) the emphasis falls on the wide selection of delicious fresh vegetables, herbs and spices. By going for a more balanced approach, the range of spices and flavours really danced across my tongue. No doubt that would make for a very bland meal for a local Indian person.
Of all the dishes we prepared it was hard to pick a favourite. I think the tantalising flavours of Aalu Gobhi is up there though:
Serves about 2 people. (These are Mrs Shivani’s measurements, so perhaps adjust to your taste)
1 large potato – chopped
2 small bowls of cauliflower – chopped
1 cup peas
5 teasp onions – chopped
5 teasp tomato – chopped
1 teasp garlic – chopped
1 teasp ginger – chopped
1 tabsp plain yoghurt
Coriander leaves – chopped
1 tabsp vegetable oil
- 3 cloves
- 5 black peppercorns
- 1 black cardamom pod
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teasp caraway seeds
- 2 sticks of cinnamon
- ½ teasp salt
- ½ teasp chilli powder
- ¼ teasp ground turmeric
- 2 teasp ground coriander
- In a deep frying pan, heat oil on a moderately high heat.
- When the oil is hot (not smoking), add the HOT spices.
- Straight away, stir in the onion.
- When the onion turns red, stir in the potatoes. Lower the heat and cover with a lid.
- When the potatoes are half cooked, stir in the cauliflower and peas.
- After about 30 secs, add garlic, ginger and masala spices.
- Stir for 30 secs and add yoghurt and tomatoes.
- Increase the heat and stir fry to evaporate all the liquid.
- You will see that the oil in the dish starts to separate. Spoon into a serving dish and sprinkle with coriander leaves.
- Serve with love!
We cooked and tasted to our heart’s content for around 2.5hours and when we were done with the main dishes, it was time to cook the roti.
What I didn’t realise was that we would all then sit down and eat ALL the dishes we had just prepared. As if we had space in our bellies after all that sampling??
It was a fabulous way to finish off the cooking class experience and we could see how the different dishes and flavours worked together rather than tasting them in isolation.
We rolled out of the cooking class with stuffed bellies, stimulated taste buds, and a new found confidence to tackle some Indian dishes at home in our more mundane kitchens.
I still don’t enjoy cooking, but I am partial to eating, so I just need to get on with it and cook up my very own Indian storm!
What has been your most memorable cooking class experience?
What: Cooking classes are pitched at three different levels: Basic, Special and Royal. Mrs Shivani also offers rooms and take away meals. Everything looked spotless.
Where: Panch Kund Road, Near Hotel Ratan Haveli, Pushkar (Rajasthan) INDIA.
When: February this year when the temperatures were beautiful and mild.
Why: It was included in our package tour and I am so glad it was.
How: Luckily for us Mrs Shivani’s home was located a short walk down the dirt road from our hotel. We probably needed a longer walk home after it was all over to walk off some of the delicious food.
Who: Two Aussies and three Poles, an Indian cooking whizz and a Nepalese assistant. Very multicultural.
Related Posts: Interested in shopping? Check out the delights of Indian bazaars and markets here.
Related Blogs: Got the hankering for some delicious Indian food? Then check out the amazing range of recipes on offer at the Taste website.
Read About it: And what about an interesting Indian read? Check out Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram for a whirlwind, boys-own Indian adventure or any novel by Rohinton Mistry for a realistic and often heart-breaking insight into Indian life. All are available from Book Depository.
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