Sunday, January 16, 2011

What I Did Last Month

Ever since I moved to Toronto, I've wanted to take a cooking class. There are so many great schools and classes available in the city it was actually kind of overwhelming trying to decide on one! Finally, in December Adam and I took an Indian cooking class at the Calphalon Culinary Centre. It was actually my birthday present from a few months ago but it took us awhile to actually get around to looking at the class options and signing up for something.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the class. This was my first cooking class ever so I really didn't know what to expect. I had read more than a few positive reviews about Calphalon and even heard some good things from friends and acquaintences, but still in the back of my mind I wondered if it might be more of a demonstration or not as hands-on as I would like. Fortunately this wasn't a problem! The classroom setup was incredibly professional and well set-up with an individual countertop and stove for each student. We did most of our own prep work though the spices were blended for us; this being an Indian class, I would have loved to learn more about the different spices used to make Garam Masala. I felt rather spoiled after experiencing all the Calphalon pots and pans in the kitchen as well as the gas-range stovetop.

Indian cuisine has always fallen into the category of "seems way too complicated to try at home" so it seemed like a good class to try in a controlled environment where all the right ingredients would be available. And the dishes were actually pretty straightforward; the key is really just having the right spices and from there it's easy going!

This Rice Pulao was my favourite recipe that we made in the class. I made it again the other night and although it was a bit difficult finding some of the spices in Sobey's (I'll be making a trip to the market this weekend where I know they have a larger assortment) it turned out pretty well. The recipe is actually pretty heavily modified as the emailed instructions didn't necessarily match the steps we followed in class. We made it in class along with some Aloo Gobi (a chickpea and potato curry dish), Chicken Tikka and homemade Naan. At home we just added some chicken (with some Tandoori paste I got in my stocking) and it made a great dinner/lunch leftovers.

Next up...going to do a class at Dish Cooking Studio. Haven't chosen one yet so please feel free to comment on any recommendations/suggestions!

Basmati Rice Pulao
Recipe adapted from Calphalon Culinary Centre - Indian Cuisine

2 cups basmati rice
2 tsp salt
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds (or ground cumin which is all I could find at home)
4 tbsp chopped almonds
4 tbsp raisins
1 large onion, finely sliced
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods (or ground cardamom...the conversion suggestions out there seem to vary widely, I used about 1/2 tsp at home)
2 Indian bay leaves (I used regular bay leaves...clearly I need to make a trip to an Indian grocery store)
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp. grated ginger
1 cup peas
1 tsp. saffron (optional)
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro (optional - I am on the "tastes like soap" side of the Great Cilantro Debate so I left this out both times)
4 cups chicken stock

1. Rinse rice well under cold running water. Place the rice into a bowl with 1 tsp salt and let soak. Set aside.

2. Heat a sauce pan over medium high heat with 1 tbsp of the oil. Add cumin seeds and toast if using seeds....otherwise skip this for now. Add the almonds and raisins and brown lightly. Remove from heat and keep to the side.

3. Add remaing oil and onions to the pan and cook until medium brown, about 4 minutes.

4. Add saffron, ginger, bay leaves, cardamom pods, and remaining spices (including cumin if using the ground version) to the pot and coat. Add coconut milk and stir until all ingredients are coated well.

5. Add rice to pan and stir. Add enough stock to cover the rice by about 2 inches (I realized that this is pretty arbitrary depending on what type of pot you're using...if you're unsure, add less not more and you can add more stock as the rice cooks)

6. Bring rice to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until all the liquid has been absorbed - about 7 to 10 minutes. If you're finding that this is happening before the rice is finished cooking add some more stock or water.

7. Once the rice is cooked through, add peas, almonds and raisins. Heat through and serve.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great class.

    I'd recommend one or more classes at George Brown (the "for fun" classes, not the credit courses). The Mediterranean and Spanish Regional Cuisine are run by chef Lola Csullog. She also runs a shop on Mt. Pleasant called Pimenton (actually, not sure if she still teaches the class).