MasterChef in Jaipur

My Guru (teacher) was giving me the Hindi lessons first and then giving me Indian Cooking classes. Once ready, we were having the food we had cooked for lunch, and that allowed us to spend some more time together.

If you love Indian food in European restaurants, well … the food in India is even better and probably healthier! For someone who does not cook at all at home like me, this immersion in an Indian kitchen was a complete discovery!

To start with, have a look at the cupboards, and you’ll be amazed at the collection of different and colorful spices!

 

 

This is the basic element to the chemistry Indian cuisine is all about.

Again Subhadra had edited a book with the recipes and even though she could cook all those dishes her eyes closes (I am sure!), we were following the steps described on the recipe and if there was something missing or I wanted to takes additional notes, I could.

As soon as the first ingredient was thrown on the fire, the good smell started to flow in the room ! Dear Rajasthan you smell so good !

Day 1: we cooked a dish called Dum Aloo (Aloo meaning “potatoe”) which is originally from the region of Kashmire, in the northern part of the country, and where tourists are not allowed to go because of political tensions. A pity as it seems to be a wonderful place!

Then she gave me the secret of making Chapattis. It is a kind of Indian bread they use in the way as we, in occident, use a fork and a knife. The Indian people eat most of the time with their hands (something I absolutely love when I am there!) and wrap the food in it before putting it in their mouth. That was so much fun: she made a demonstration of how to do it and when it was my turn to make one, I could not make it a round, it was always square! The best I could do was an oval… She said the round would come with practice. Some very good people can do it only on the hand, round and flat, a proper chapatti!

And we also made a sweet desert with milk and safran.

 

 

 

Day 2: we worked hard to make a good Channa Masala and this one is a dish from Punjab also in the north of the country. If you are not too sure where it is, you have probably seen in magazines a picture of that lovely place with a Golden Temple surrounded by water…and that is Amritsar, located in Punjab. Punjab is also the place where the Sikh religion was born (men wearing turbans). But what I like most about Punjab is the Bhangra music, and the sound of the main instrument in it: the Dhol, which drives me absolutely crazy 🙂

 

Another type of bread we made was paratha. It is the bread I used to have every morning at my host family (now my own family!) when I was living in Jaipur, and I love it. As the paratha does not need to be round, it was easier for me to do those!

Day 3: The great discovery of that day was learning how to make cheese (Paneer)! We had to make it by cooking milk and adding vinegar, before starting to make the gravy that goes with it and the coriander chutney.

 

 

 

Day 4: There, my teacher adapted the course to my request: she knows I am mad about Gol Gappas which are crispy shells which you can stuff with all kind of vegetables and lemon juice (or lemon juice only). She explained that it is quite difficult to make the shells and usually Indian people buy them all ready at the market but we would try to make them ourselves. So here we go, making small rounds and throwing them in the boiling oil, hoping it would make a ball! A few came out correctly and you could hear cries of joy when one was nice!

 

We also made Samosas which are triangles filled in with vegetables, and an apple pudding: Kheer, which is ready very quickly (in case of unexpected guests, as they say!).

Day 5: We made Spinach (palak) with baby corn. I have realized in this session how keeping colors is important in Indian cuisine. A few things in the preparation were only aiming at keeping the green color of the spinach until it is served.

We also prepared some daal which is mash of lentils as I have explained in the Jodhpur post. There as many sorts of daals as varieties of lentils (yellow, brown, black…)

While the daal was cooking, we made another type of Indian bread: the naans.

Day 6: We have prepared some vegetable byriani (rice) and raita (made of milk and cucumber)

 

 

 

Day 7: we have not cooked but only made some chai (masala tea). Indian people do not prepare a teapot with Masala chai they always make tea for a cup or two, to have fresh spices, water and milk for every cup they drink! That is some work, but the result is wonderful. It is not only a cup of tea, but the taste of India making you feel so good inside!

Subhadra, cooking

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“Khana”… Food, in Hindi

My host family had a shop set up in what would have probably been a garage originally. The shop had to be sorted early in the morning, for example the milk was delivered at dawn, so they had to wake up at about 5 am. So when I got up at 8am, my Indian mummy, Urvashi, had prepared my breakfast already: “Paratha”, which is some kind Indian bread, and “Indian Chai”, which is tea. Tea with masala spices, and cloves, milk and sugar. I was dying for the tea she was making! I guess it was one of the main reason I was getting up in the morning 🙂

In India, forks and knives are not as common as in Europe. People use a sort of break called “Chapati” with usually their right hand, to take whatever is in their place and eat the food together with the Chapati. The left one is said to be used for toilets so it would not ben hygienic to also use it for the food we eat.

One of the many dishes I can remember is the Daal, which is a mash of lentils. You could have a yellow Daal, a red one, or even a brown one. There are about 10 sorts of lentils to cook Daal. I had never tasted Daal in Europe before and now they got me addicted to it. It’s probably the way it reminds me of my time with them!

When there was rice, and some “Ghee” (clarified butter) had been prepared, I loved it!

One day, I found some sorts of “satellites” in my plate when I arrived at the table, and my Papaji explained that they were called “Gol gappa”. They were round fried crisp street snacks. Next to them, there was one a bowl of lemon water. I found it a lot of fun to fill in the gol gappa with the liquid and eat it in a mouthful, trying not to drop anything on the floor, or on me…how I managed?…I don’t know.

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Gol gappa

For a special occasion, I remember my “Maa” (“mother”in Hindi) had prepared a delicious “Biryani” which is rice with bits of chicken and pieces of vegetables. I had tried this in Europe, but this one was the best!

My Papaji was always fighting my habits of drinking water during the meal. It is no good for you, he used to say, you will drink afterwards when we are done. He was my Papaji, taking care of me, so I had to obey.

When he wanted to serve more food in my plate, I used to tell him “I am full, I just can’t anymore…” and he used to laugh saying <<do you know “full”(similar pronunciation) in Hindi means “Flower”>> ?

For all the food they were cooking for me, I have prepared for them a Tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette, my father being of Spanish culture) for dinner, but of course, with all the good spices they have in their Indian dishes, it was tasteless for them or almost. But they said they liked it anyway (probably to be polite). They were happy that Spain had come to their home that evening.

Another time, made a chocolate brownie for my little Indian brother, who was 5 at the time and loved chocolate. That was hard work for me to find chocolate in Jaipur: I went to the market near the house, and the guy attending the stand did not have any but told me he knew someone who could find some for me. So he took my Indian phone number, and called me later that afternoon when he got the chocolate from that person for me. Then I went again to the market to pick it up.

I looked at it as if it was GOLD! When at home, I live next to Switzerland where it is difficult not to find any!