A cooking adventure in India

Last year I was lucky enough to spend 5 weeks in Incredible India.  What a place – the sights, the noise, the sounds and the constant crush of people everywhere.  It is a country of extremes that is for sure, and in the time there we  barely scratched the surface of it.

The diversity of the food as we travelled was amazing! You could get the most quintessential dish – thali – everywhere but the dishes on it were always changing.

thali 2

Fa-thali-ty

Fa-thali-ty

Whilst we were in Udaipur, we were lucky enough to do a cooking class with a lovely indian lady named Rajni from Noble cooking class.  We visited Rajni in her house to ask about the classes, and she basically had a menu from which we could choose what we wanted to make (and eat at the end!).  We chose to make chai tea, channa masala (chickpea curry), shahi paneer, stuffed mirchi (stuffed chilli), samosas with coriander sauce and corn chapati- YUM.  I think all of that cost about 1000 rupee’s, which was about $20. She asked us to come back the next day at around 11 to begin, because she needed to go to the market in the morning to get all the ingredients. This suited us just fine, being the fans of sleeping in that we are.

The cooking classes were held in Rajni’s kitchen, with her kids running around under her legs and the rest of the family outside doing daily chores and coming in to try what she was cooking.  Somehow she remained calm and focused through the chaos and the class was so much more interesting for it.

We started off making the chai tea –  I have made chai tea since, and there is a great recipe to make it in the quick fix in the thermomix book (well, one of the two of them anyway), but there is just something different about chai in India! A lot sweeter than what we get in Australia, but not in a sickly way.  Anyway, we all squeezed into this lady’s tiny little kitchen, and the quality of the chai was a sign of good things to come

The tiny kitchen of wonders

The tiny kitchen of wonders

So after sipping on our chai and exclaiming our delight, we moved on to making the samosas. This is one I have made again at home, and was quite happy with the quality of.  I thought the dough would be harder to make on my own once I got home, but I had great success and I think a lot of people would be surprised at how easy it is to make your own. The dough was just 2 cups of flour, 1/2 tsp of salt, 2 tbsp of oil all mixed together, then 1/2 a cup of cold water added gradually.  It should feel like playdoh when you’re done 🙂

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The pastry base for making samosas

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Wetting the outside of the pastry to fold and stuff them

No photos in the meantime, but voila!

No photos in the meantime, but voila!

To make the filling we fried 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds, 6 chopped garlic cloves, and 1/2 green chilli and onion, then added about 4 cold boiled potatoes and a pinch of turmeric powder.  Next up was some salt, 1/2 tsp red chilli powder (or more if you’re game!), a pinch of garam masala and some coriander and mint if desired.  Mash it all up with your hands and fill up the samosas.  Yum!

We also made a coriander sauce to drizzle over them, which was made out of chilli, garlic, cumin, ginger, salt, lemon juice and a little bit of mint.

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Channa Masala was next.  We made a basic sauce that she called a gravy, which is a base for many Indian curries.  It started with the 3G paste, so named because it was made of  a thumb sized piece of ginger, 11 garlic cloves and 1/2 green chilli.  She blended it all up in the food processor which was reminiscent of a tiny tiny thermomix.  At this point in time I had yet to receive my thermomix and immediately lapsed into dreaming about all the things I would be able to make when I got home.  But time moved on and we persevered with the channa masala, adding the paste to some fried onion and a bay leaf.  Once this was releasing lovely aromas we added 1/2 tsp of each of salt, chilli power, tumeric power, coriander power, garam masala and curry power, along with a tbsp of water and brought it to the boil.  1 tin of tomato puree (or 2 blended tomatoes) later, you have your gravy.  Once we added the chickpeas we ended up with something that resembled this

Channa Masala

Channa Masala

When I made this one at home it didn’t turn out so well – I am not sure if it was the quality of the herbs and spices being different, or just the quantities being slightly off, or just missing the magic of that kitchen of wonders really, but I will need to keep working on that one.  Either way – it was more satisfying than opening up a jar of Patak’s.

Next up was shahi paneer, which is a creamy curry that is made with paneer, an Indian cheese that replaces the protein in a lot of their meals due to the large vegetarian population.  Indians are mental about paneer – even KFC has cripsy paneer burgers instead of crispy chicken.  And when you eat at KFC (come, we had to) there is a vegetarian side of the restaurant and a non vegetarian side.

KFC paneer burger

KFC paneer burger

But in all reality this is what paneer looks like

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It has a texture reminiscent of tofu

Shahi paneer was somewhat complicated to make, it consisted mostly of cashews, yoghurt, watermelon seeds along with some saffron. A lovely creamy texture when we were done though, and this is one I am yet to try making at home. If you fancy the recipe leave me a comment and I will dig it out for you 🙂

Stuffed mirchi up next- this was a green chilli (de-seeded, not too spicy) stuffed with a lentil flour mix.  To make this we roasted lentil flour, oil and cumin seeds  in a pan until it got dark and started to release aromas, then we added lemon juice, a pinch of salt, 1/2 tbsp of each red chilli powder, turmeric powder and coriander and 2 tbsp of lemon juice.  Then just cook the whole chilli in a pan and enjoy.

Stuffed Mirchi

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Now, corn chapati – what a challenge!  The dough for this is quite tough, so rolling it out into the right shape takes a lot of skill, which can only come through practice.  You have to make little balls of dough then slap it between your hands until you get a thin round disc. We had actually attempted to make corn chapati on a camel safari a few days earlier, and the camel guides declared that our chapati was not even fit for the camels. So it could only get better right? Maybe.

Lucky for us it did, probably mostly thanks to the help of Rajni. Word to the wise though – we made the chapati with 2 cups of cornflour, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1 cup of water in India, and I have tried this at home with your usual cornflour and it most definitely does not work.  I think i will need to mill some corn down in the thermomix and give this another go, because what I made was definitely just goop. That will happen so though, because with butter and sugar on top this was so good its become known in our house as crack chapati.

I didnt get a very good photo of all the food at the end, but here is most of the main dishes on a plate

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A bit of crack chapati, channa masala, shahi paneer and a stuffed mirchi

If you want any more detail on any of the recipes leave me a comment below and I will happily oblige 🙂

Thanks for stopping by!

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