We wanted to visit the Taj Mahal before leaving India so took an eighteen hour train from Jaisalmer to Delhi and decided to spend a couple of days recovering before the next leg towards Agra.
Never one to miss an opportunity to add to the travelling recipe book, G found a cookery course for us to do while we were there. There are loads to choose from and all of them are that little bit different with each family having their own mix of spices and secret ingredients.
I like to cook if I’ve got lots of time, say on a Sunday. But my boyfriend is a chef so it’s much better for everyone involved if I just take charge of cleaning up afterwards. I’ve certainly never cooked what I thought were complex Indian dishes from scratch so I was curious as to how they would or woudn’t turn out.
The course was across town so to save being held up and partially deafened by the traffic, we took the Delhi Metro which would take twenty two minutes according to Google Maps. The guy at the information desk has given us semi understandable directions, we are both well versed on the London Underground, how hard can it be?
Pretty difficult. Map your route carefully before you go and avoid asking for directions where possible. Oh and if you are a man, make sure you’re not in the female only carriage. Yep, we learned the hard way here.
Eventually after turning back on ourselves a couple of times, we made it. Forty five minutes late!
The rest of the day was far more enjoyable. We cooked five dishes in total and chapatti’s for mopping it all up.
First, curry paste.
A constant resident in all household fridges in case of any unexpected visitors. A huge part of the culture here is food and eating together so whether it’s visiting friends or asking the neighbours for a cup of sugar, there will be snacks of some sort involved.
The paste is basically tomato, onions and a variety of different flavours from the spice box cooked down for about fifteen minutes with a splash of water.
Any Indian woman worth her salt has one of these in her kitchen. You will also likely find a masala tray which is equally as vibrant, full of powdered ingredients like chilli powder, turmeric and tamarind. The contents of these boxes are used with just about every meal so it’s much easier to have them handy like this than to have to fish them out of the cupboard looking at labels and unscrewing jars.
Next we made pakora’s which are a snack/starter and traditionally filled with vegetables like potato, onion or eggplant before being dropped in to a piping hot pan of oil and deep fried. I’m going to make them at home and fill them with cheese. Or prawns with sweetcorn. Yum!
Using the curry paste we made Butter Chicken with a pressure cooker. Anchal is the lovely lady running TasteSutra and she learned from her Grandma not to time it with a clock but by the amount of times it whistled so when it had whistled ten times, we knew it was ready. Probably best if I stick to the good old fashioned stopclock system, or just keep away from pressure cooking devices alogether.
We also made a dhal which is my favourite, made mainly of lentils. Paneer masala for the veggies and kheer, a traditional indian desert which is essentially rice pudding but with lots more fragrance from saffron and cardamom with chopped nuts on top.
Chapatti dough is rolled out into coaster sized circles (mine were more puddle shaped) and then fried on both sides for about twenty seconds before holding them over the naked gas flame for a couple of seconds to get the nice crispy bubbles going.
Anchal talked to us about why most people eat with their fingers in India and asked that we all give it a go. They say that the interaction of the fingers with the food and your lips stimulates digestive juices in the stomach. It is also a Hindu belief that their Goddess’s are within their hands so they are also feeding the mind and spirit. Also that by using our hands we are unable to put too much food in our mouths at once and subsequently over-eat. Not sure how I feel about limiting the amount of carbonara or bolognese that I can fill my face with at once but I didn’t mind using my hands on this occasion.
We served up and dug in. It was very rewarding to have prepared it ourselves piece by piece and eat it the real Indian way.
After a solid three minutes washing our curry stained fingers we de-aproned and walked it off.
Anchal took us to the local market which is a hub in the neighbourhood for all things edible.
Smells of samosas mixed with the mountains of fresh herbs and spices, fruits, nuts and more pakoras.
We stopped for masala chai and it was impressive to watch the vendor swirl it around in that huge pan without spilling a drop. I later found out that it was made from buffalo milk… Undecided.
It was a really fun day and I learned a lot about how Indian cooking actually isn’t as complicated or time consuming as I once thought. We were given the recipes to take away with us so when we eventually return, I might just surprise everyone with curry night!
Or G can and I’ll just do the dishes.