Anyone who knows me will know that I’m married to a kitchen goddess, an amazing woman who can not only follow a recipe like a pro, but who can take whatever happens to be left in the fridge and concoct an amazing meal out of it. That, my friends, is seriously awesome!
Once upon a time we shared cooking duties, but changing circumstances (office moves, babies) as well as general excellence (Gem, not me!) have led to my share slowly declining, to a point where I’ll maybe cook once or twice a week. And when I do, I tend not to venture much outside of my comfort zone – carbonara, fajitas and the occasional steak.
Recently I’ve been saying I need to get in the kitchen more, and expand my repertoire, so I was thrilled when Gem and the girls got me an Ashoka Cook School voucher for my birthday. And so it was that on Saturday I joined 15 or so other students in a kitchen at Motherwell College, to learn the art of Indian cuisine.
Ashoka provide a range of classes from beginner to advanced, with a number of menus to choose from. Gem chose for me Chicken Jaipuri with pilau rice and paratha, which sounded exactly like something I might order from a takeaway or restaurant.
After introductions, our instructor (one of Ashoka’s chefs) gave us two demonstrations – first the preparation of the paratha dough, and then how to make the chicken dish. At the end we got to taste the chicken – delicious! – before going to our workstations to recreate what we’d just been shown.
While we worked, there were various “staff” going round the room giving assistance and intervening when things weren’t going quite right, something I was very thankful for when making my bread dough, as I was stopped from adding too much water.
When it came to the curry, everything went pretty much to plan. I followed the recipe on the card and tried to remember everything that had been shown to us earlier. Spices were provided in a Massala Dabba (an Indian spice box) and the other ingredients (onion, tomato, peppers) were already measured – all I had to do was chop and add at the appropriate time. For hygiene reasons, the chicken came pre-chopped.
Once the curry was made, put in a container, and everything washed up, it was time for our next demonstration – making the pilau rice and paratha. I’d never had paratha before, let alone made it, but again everything looked straightforward and before long we were back at our workstations.
It was in this second round of cooking that I learned what might be the most important lesson of the whole day – when stirring your boiling rice, don’t hold the short metal handle with bare fingers. We were warned about this early on, so it’s my own fault I burned my finger and thumb, but that didn’t make it any less painful.
My second lesson learned here is not to leave the rice on the heat too long, otherwise it sticks to the pan. Big style. Fortunately there was plenty that wasn’t stuck – enough to fill another container at any rate.
Once everything was cooked, and the pots washed, we were free to take our creations home. I had mine for lunch on Sunday, and the picture below should tell you how much I enjoyed it, although the paratha was a bit past its best next day.
I really enjoyed my morning at curry school. It’s given me another dish to add to my repertoire, but more than it’s boosted my confidence in the kitchen. Now I just need to find time to go through Gem’s collection of recipe books and see what I’m cooking up next!