My good friend Tash organized a lovely get together with friends to learn and experience the delights of Indian cusine with talented chef and cook Ronica Sajnani . Our agenda for the day was chicken curry with spinach, daal, paluk paneer, okra served with naan and basmati rice.
We each got assigned some prep work - I was assigned to cut the raw chicken breast keeping their bone in so that while the curry was stewing the meat would stay tender and not fray and disintegrate away. My friends Ramona and Andrew on the cutting of the okra, Michael was on onions and tomatoes and Tash to wash and tear up the spinach.
Indian cuisine does take time so after the prep work, we had some time to catch up and mingle while the aromas of the spices diffused through the air and we could really smell the creations we were cooking. I learned about garam masala - which is a typical Indian spice with different combinations of pungent items like peppercorns, cloves cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, star anise and coriander seeds, The colours of each dish were so vibrant while they were on the stove - it was like an piece of art that we were creating. It was interesting to cook paneer (Indian cottage cheese) from scratch. You see this on the menu as a vegetarian dish often and I alway wondered what it looked like in the package. It's definitely something that doesn't have any flavour and will absorb any of the spices and curries that you put it in. We cut it up and deep fry it first before we mix it into our paluk (pea) curry mixture.
We started cooking around 2:30 and finally at 6pm we made the basmati rice with the garam masala and butter and warmed up the store bought naan bread. We also mixed a traditional boondi (which i fell in love with as a bar snack at TTS) with yogert and coriander to make raita which is a typical Indian side dish to help calm the palette from the heat. What an amazing Indian feast and was a first for me to cook everything from scratch. The saag (spinach) chicken curry was my favourite. We used no dairy to make this curry creamy - only tomato and tomato paste, chilis, onions and spices along with the chicken with bones in and spinach. It was delicious. The daal's texture was thick like a good lentil soup and was very mild in comparison to the other dishes. The paluk (peas) paneer was good where the flavours of the curry were really infused in the paneer. The okra which was looks like a pod with lots of seeds and we stir fried it with a bunch of spices. Okra has a slimy and bitter taste and isn't my favourite vegetable but it was nice to make a dish that would be atypical for me to cook! We also definitley lapped up the ratha because of the chillis in the dish which was a very amazing way to calm our heated taste buds down.
With a nice gewerstramener in hand and a full table full of tastes and colours, we were in Indian heaven. Ronica also made the most outstanding desert of rice pudding and mango puree - it was like a sweet and soothing way to end an incredible meal!
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