We’ve already established I have a new Indian BFF – Meenu – and this is where I met her. She runs a little cooking school in the beautiful lake-side town of Udaipur, Rajasthan.
I arrived at Meenu’s for an 8:30 start – she had instructed me to arrive hungry, so my stomach was grumbling and I was gasping for some chai. First item on the agenda: chai making…
Now, as you avid readers will know, I am already a pro at making chai. Or so I thought. Seems you can teach an old dog new tricks, and we learned how to make an even more perfect brew. With some sugar and spices coursing through my veins, we were ready to move onto the day’s lesson.
What’s on the menu, Meenu?
First up, basic spices
We were presented with all the spices you will ever need to make a basic curry, and instructed as to the ratios of pinches of each.
These were cumin seeds, mustard seeds, ground coriander, red chilli powder, salt, turmeric and garam masala in a 2, 2, 5, 4, 3 , 2, 1 ratio – easy.
Different people have different pinches, and only trial and error is going to let you know yours.
Next up, pakoras to go with our tea… aaahhh. Yes please
Pakoras originate in the Northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, and literally mean “small cooked lumps” in Hindi. They are made my dipping pretty much anything in a batter made of gram flour and deep frying.
Meenu, who expressed a few times that she does not like waste (love her), gave us the tip that you can even – get this – make a pakora with leftover curry!
Simply gather it up in your fingers, dip into your pakora better and throw in your hot oil. I have lived in Scotland and am all over deep frying random stuff.
Presented with a choice of vegetables, we chose to make potato pakoras.
Next up: the classic – dhal
Dhal = lentils. If you don’t know that by now then my blog is not doing its job. You can’t do an Indian cookery class without learning how to make a good dhal.
The trick from Meenu for this one is to make your dhal relatively un-spicey and a separate “paste” (onions and spices) that you can add afterwards to the tastes of your eaters. Another top tip for a speedy dhal is to use a pressure cooker – I nearly came home with one in my rucksack…
Unlike the curries I am most accustomed to, this vegetable curry was quite watery, with no cream or tomato as a base. Again cooked using a pressure cooker, it was healthy and hearty.
A great basis for north Indian cookery, and something different to bring back to the UK.
Now this was probably the most fun part of the class.
I didn’t realise that the only ingredients you need to make a chapati are: whole wheat four, pinch salt, water and a teaspoon of oil. No yeast required (pretty obvious when you think that the chapati is not a leavened bread). You probably have the right ingredients in your house right now to give this a go, so next time you have a curry give it a go!
Chapatis are the most widely consumed bread in India. Cooked in a normal pan, chapatis can be prepared in the home – unlike a naan bread, which is cooked on a tandoor (not usually found in India homes) and so consumed only when eating out and about.
To make the chapati, you simply kneed the ingredients into a dough, roll out evenly and thinly, and place into a flat pan. Cook for only a short time on the first side till it starts to brown, a little longer on the second side, and then finally turn again so that the first side is directly in the flame – this allows the air to enter the chapatti and it “puffs up.”
Another top tip – if you have any leftover chapati, you can chop it into small pieces, deep fry in oil, sprinkle on some chilli powered and you have a quick Bombay-mix-type snack.
With a wicked sense of humour and a great repertoire of recipes, you can’t go wrong with Meenu. Do it.
How to find:
Meenu’s cookery school is located on Bhrampole Marg, a few hundred yards from her family cafe, Queen’s cafe, not far from the footbridge to the west of Lake Pichola. I don’t have her number – but she can usually be located by popping into Queen’s cafe and asking for her. She also does walking tours, hindi lessons and henna!
Just don’t steel her from me… remember she is MY BFF!