There are many places in India where you can do things outside the usual realm, activities to engage with something new, to spice up the trip, something different than the usual options of temple, palace, fort or shops.
I enjoy doing cookery lessons as an activity, rather than having an objective of aiming to gain from them professionally. They are a fun thing to do, although often aimed at novices, despite the fact they are often cookery demonstrations rather than hands on classes, I still enjoy them. They enable the participant to gain more insight into Indian cuisines by witnessing the creation of local dishes.
I opted to undertake a lesson focusing on Rajasthani dishes, having already sussed out the culinary processes in use here in India most of the time, I thought it would be interesting to learn a bit more about the ingredient specialisation of the Rajasthan area.
The class featured 2 curries, a vegetable dish, 2 breads and a sweet item
Laal Maas – a mutton curry with a rich brown colour drawn from the prolific quantity of red chillies used in the spice mix. The mutton used was in fact goat, mutton is often substituted with goat meat in India, rather than sheep being slaughtered, sheep are more valuable as a source of wool.
Chicken Soweta – a milder spiced curry flavoured with dried mint and fenugreek leaves, with turmeric as the main colouring used. This version utilised corn rather than the traditional millet as an amendment to suit the buying ability of most of the guests.
Pachkutta – An incredibly local dish made from locally available dried vegetables, many I had never seen or heard of before. They produce a spiced dish with a distinctive sour-ish tang, they slightly chewy mouth feel is a welcome change to the often soft meals experienced so far. Steeped in warm water these vegetables are fried with the same spices as the Laal Maas then simmered in their soaking liquor until the liquid has evaporated and a thin sauce is formed.
Missi Roti – This unleavened flat bread is made with a locally specific flour mix that creates a thicker, slightly drier roti. With coarsely ground spices added to the dough to create crunch and a substantial flavour boost.
Garlic Naan – The ubiquitous Indian bread was interesting to learn, simple enough, although lacking a tandoor this version was cooked in an oven and more resembled a pita than a naan, food for thought though.
Malpua – A sweet, shallow fried pancake that is made with heavily reduced milk as its base. Steeped in a sugar syrup and dusted with ground cardamom, saffron and pistachios. Before being served with kulfi, an incredibly sweet Indian ice cream made with the aforementioned reduced milk.
Sitting with Chef Lokash and his wife while we ate the fruits of the demonstration was a lovely experience, we talked food for a few hours, this chat adding as much insight into the food culture as the class itself.