The class begins with an introduction to the spices used on a daily basis and kept in the Indian spice box – both whole and ground. We heard tips for how to make your own garam masala, as most home cooks still create their own, and uses for chaat masala (its great on slices papaya) and there was plenty of hearty discussion about ingredients.
I came across many unknown ingredients such as pomegranate seed powder used in a pomegranate raita, big cardamom pods and the beautiful pink whole mace flowers, which I have only seen ground. The spices look and smell very different to what you can get in the UK. The cinnamon is dark and earthy, and looks like the tree bark that it is!
Over the space of 3 hours, Jyoti demonstrates how quick and easy each dish is to make running through a catalogue of recipes including - Spinach soup, green chutney, vegetable pakoras, aloo gobi, dry chicken rogan josh, yellow dal, butter paneer, pulao, finishing with kheer for desert.
As is traditional in her native India our tutor learnt to cook as a newlywed living with her in-laws, solely through hands on experience. Consequently, recipes are quite loose, and when we ask how long to cook dal for, or how much ground coriander to use in a recipe she responds with “just as much as you like”. This is ingrained experience and intuitive cooking which often puts novice spice users on edge. But Jyoti encourages us to also be intuitive and instills the confidence to spice our cooking to our taste when we get home. This is why every meal in every Indian home tastes different.
Lunch spread across the table, each dish tasting lightly spiced and truly satisfying. The spinach leaf pakoras dipped in pungent coriander green chutney was delicate and more-ish, the nourishing pulao rice a meal in itself, whilst the easy to make butter paneer tastes so good I planned to make it for supper.
Whilst I have cooked from many Indian recipes home and even more since my arrival in Delhi, learning directly from a cook who makes such dishes with intuition, ease and passion has dispelled much of the mystery of north Indian meals. But, at the same time this delicate, intricate and immensely varied cuisine has truly got under my skin and I have sinking suspicion that my journey on this spice route is only just beginning. I have a Gourmet Desire for more.
...and there will be more about this class which included purchasing our spices and some of the adapted recipes I have been cooking since.
**Photo courtesy of The Perfect Click until I get round to photographing my own