Friday, April 30, 2010

Indian Cooking Class

On Tuesday, Nate and I took an Indian cooking class. It was taught by the owners, a husband and wife team, of the Indian grocery store on North Ave. and held at a Knights of Columbus facility around 92nd and Greenfield.

It seems as though they teach three sets of classes during the months they teach. You can get a deal if you sign up for all three classes, but we elected to just take the last class, which featured South Indian recipes. The teachers said South Indian recipes feature lots of coconut and rice and tend to be spicier than food from the north.

The class was very informal and casual. It wasn't hands-on, as I had hoped, but I'm not sure how that would have worked in this format in the space, anyway.

The teachers first showed us how to make homemade yogurt, which I think we're going to try this weekend. It's really a pretty easy process, involving just milk and regular yogurt (needed for its culture). We didn't get to taste it, though, since it needs to rest in a warm place for 8 hours and then cool.

They made an easy, sweet drink for us called thandai. It's made with milk, sugar, almonds and spices like cardamon and fennel.

Next they made sambhar, or lentil soup with vegetables. It was made with split pigeon peas, veggies like bell pepper and onion, and tons of spices, including coconut powder, turmeric and a coriander/cumin mix. Almost everything they made was made with ghee, or clarified butter. They said you can make the recipes with oil, but they don't taste quite as good (of course!). This recipe, as well as another one, also included a tadka, a cooking technique in which whole spices are cooked in ghee.

Next, they made a coconut chutney to put on the soup and another food they made. The chutney also featured a tadka, and was made with shredded coconut, cilantro, green chili and ginger.

I think one of the most interesting things they made were idlis, or steamed rice dumplings. I think I've seen them on Indian buffets, but not sure I've ever tried one. They were really tasty, especially with the coconut chutney on top. Idlis are made from the fermented batter of ground rice and urid dal. It's quite the process to make them--the dal has to soak for about six hours and when it's combined with the cream of rice, it all has to sit in a warm oven for at least eight hours. Then you have to steam the rice dumplings in a special dumpling maker.

Lastly, they made a dessert, vermicelli payasam, or sweet noodles with milk. It was similar to kheer, which I've had before, but a little more soupy. It was made with lots of milk, cashews, golden raisins, saffron and, of course, vermicelli.

(Dessert is on the left, in the bowl, the soup is on the right with some coconut chutney on top, and, unfortunately, the idli is hiding underneath the soup and is also covered with chutney.)

Like the last cooking class I took, the portions were a little small, but at least we got to go back for seconds! Everything was really, really good. I have the recipes for everything, but all of them feature a lot of ingredients, so it would take me a long time to type them out. But, if anyone really wants a recipe, I'd be happy to share!

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