|Last night’s class at Amano cooking school went very well. Here I am, calm before the culinary storm…
The night’s theme was grains and legumes. We started off highlighting red lentils, or pink lentils as they are also known, which, I explained, are very popular in India’s Muslim kitchens, where they are known as masoor (masur) dal. Their beauty is that they cook in minutes. Our hearty dal, laced with potatoes and spices, took only fifteen minutes to cook!
I told our very relaxed group how, when Indians first came to Mauritius, they brought with them their own traditional cuisine. Gateaux-Piments (literally “chili-cakes”) are a good example of the strong Indian influence still existing in Mauritian cooking today. Sold by vendors on street corners all over the island, our crunchy savouries were wholesome and tasty. We served them with a tomato chutney, cooked fresh. Here’s our ingredients for the night’s finger food – soaked and drained chana dal, coriander powder, asafetida, curry leaves, salt, fresh chilies and fresh coriander leaves.
Tender chickpeas and buttery spinach folded through aromatic tomato sauce appears on many a Middle Eastern dinner table. My adaption of this Saudi version was flavoured with a popular spice blend called baharat, which is really a generic blend of herbs and spices which varies according to the taste of the spice merchant. In fact baharat is the Arabic word for spice! So our humble chickpeas were redolent with pepper, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, paprika and nutmeg. The baharat was added towards the end of the cooking, much like garam masala in used in Indian cuisine. We served this sensational dish with thirsty Turkish bread to mop up the fragrant juices.
The last savoury item on the menu was the North Indian equivalent of Mexican chili, called Rajma. Laced with cubes of protein-rich homemade panir cheese that I made before our students arrived, it was robust, nutritious, filling and spicy. Here’s the spices that went into the curry – fresh ginger, cumin, fennel, ajowan, chili, garam masala, salt, turmeric and coriander. We served our bean curry with hot Basmati rice.
I explained that our quick and easy-to-prepare creamy sweet pudding for the evening is well-loved throughout North India and especially in Pakistan and the Punjab. Different names for and versions of the dish abound, and practically every household has its own favourite recipe. It is traditionally prepared using very fine vermicelli noodles available as seviya or sev at Indian grocers. I used very fine Italian vermicelli or capellini, which worked wonderfully. Somebody suggested the tiny rice-shaped pasta called ‘risoni’ would work. I had to agree – what a brilliant idea for next time! We served Kheer Sevian hot – what a treat!
Here’s the last stages of ‘Operation Dessert Storm” – everyone was feeling very warm and fuzzy after the creamy kheer, and we all waddled home comfortably numb.
Posted by Kurma on 23/3/06; 12:13:39 PM