Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Goa North Indian Cuisine (Day 1)

On The Menu
Day one of cooking school was North Indian cuisine and we cooked seven dishes:

Chicken Tikka (spicey, dry sauteed chicken)
Pudina Chutney (mint chutney)
Jeera Aloo (potatos cooked with cumin)
Cucumber Raita (fresh, minty yogurt dip)
Tarka Dal (tempered lentils)
Sofiani Biryani (chicken and rice feast)
Gayjar Halwar (sweet carrot dessert)

We got picked up at the hotel at 9:00am by Deva, our taxi driver for the week. We drove about 20 min. to a typical Portugese/Goan style home rented by On The Menu. Situated on the river, one enters the house through a courtyard. The home was airy with high ceilings, a simple kitchen and four double burner gas cooktops hooked up to individual tanks in the living area.

Judy Cardoza, our self taught cooking guru for the week told us about growing up in Uganda and then moving back to Goa. She talked about her love of cooking and how she cooks by instinct, not by recipes. Luckily she did provide us recipes for the days menu.

Gail and I learned many things about Indian cooking on day one, most importantly that Indian people (Goan in particular) always eat fresh food. They don't buy in bulk and store food in the fridge and freezer. They buy what is fresh in the store today and what is in season. Immediately it dawned on me that one of my biggest problems in India is finding everything in one store for whatever I have decided I want to make for dinner. A better way/the Indian way is to go to the store and see what is fresh and in stock and then decide what to make for dinner. Perhaps that is the key to "one stop shopping" in India!

Other important things were learned on day one:
  • Garam masala consists of cumin, pepper, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon.
  • Indian food cannot be rushed. It takes time for the spices to infuse.
  • Do not use olive oil as it has too much of its own flavor - use sunflower oil. Always heat the pan prior to adding oil.
  • Chilis: darker and smaller are hotter.
  • Use Greek style yoghurt or high fat milk/buffalo milk and always whisk it.
  • Tumeric is used for its color but has little taste. Also has an antiseptic quality.
  • Use meat with bone-in for more flavor.
  • Never add spices in dry form; always heat in a little oil first, then stir into whatever you are cooking.
  • Salt brings out the flavor in spices.
  • Tandor is common and often shared by families (social networking).
  • When using whole spices don't just stir but apply pressure with back of spoon to release the flavors.
  • The key to crispy onions (for the biryani) was to salt them and let them rest (as one would an eggplant/aubergine). After 20 min. squeeze out any water, heat oil, fry in batches and drain well.
We tasted everything as we went along, before and after adding spices and it was such a good learning experience. Every dish we made was excellent. I was especially happy with the chicken tikka and chutney, the biryani and especially the dal - I've never tasted a dal with so many flavors. At the end of the day we sat outside, overlooking the river and enjoyed our feast.  

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