Kashmir Curry School Is Great In Any Language
Although I didn't know it at the time, a summer spent on my sister's couch glued to The Food Network was the best possible preparation for veteran Indian chef and restaurateur Allen Diwan's first cooking class at Kashmir, his popular Northern Indian eatery in District V. All the dicing techniques and sautéing subtleties in the food media can turn the average couch potato into an expert chef these days. When I realized Diwan's class would be in Hungarian, all that TV knowledge came in extremely handy. With the comprehensive list of spices I had committed to memory in Hungarian, and hours of couch time behind me, my poor Magyar skills didn't hold me back.
The chopping, the frying, the layering of flavors - show and tell works well in any language. The restaurant was packed with an enthusiastic crowd of foodies eager to learn a thing or two about subcontinental cuisine. Allen put on a lively demonstration on basmati technique and curry ingredients, passing around ripe mangoes, cumin and curry leaves, all the while giving tips on where to find these exotic items in Budapest, or how to make reasonable substitutions. He even had a pretty good rap on the importance of Ayurveda in Indian cooking.
The rice was the real showstopper, both in taste and in preparation. The list of ingredients comprised bay leaves, a cinnamon stick, cumin, one green cardamom pod, one black one, nutmeg and allspice, all fried in hot oil. Then, in a technique previously unseen by this home cook, a ladleful of water was briskly added to the sizzling spicy mixture producing the exciting sound of hot, spitting oil. The lid was promptly replaced to ensure none of the flavor escaped onto the worktop and the rice and was cooked as usual. When the water was almost completely absorbed, Allen tied cheesecloth around the lid to form a seal between the lid and the pot and added a few almonds and raisins and steamed the rice for five minutes more. The crowd oohed and ahhed by the end of the show but the real payoff came with the taste - a sweet, savory, buttery concoction that was divine India indeed!
At the end of it all - just like on TV - everyone was given a spoon and invited to dig into the four dishes prepared, a citrusy chick pea salad with ginger and mango, a spicy chicken curry and even spicier fish in coconut milk (two whole chilis!), in addition to my personal favorite, the rice.
The lesson was a lot of fun, Allen is very personable and his enthusiasm for Indian cooking and food in generally shone through the lesson. Interestingly, the class consisted of more than 20 young Hungarians displaying a solid knowledge of culinary matters and Indian ingredients in particular. It was only the first lesson, so we only learned a few basic tips on the layering of ingredients and the order in which they should be added, but it was certainly a fun show. The end results were more than tasty enough to get me off the couch and give the dishes a try at home.
The next lesson, on June 12, will cover Kashmiri rogan josh lamb curry; spiced cauliflower, carrots and peas; tadka daal (home style lentils) and a run though of how to make chapatti. All this costs Ft 5,000 and includes a selection of spices to take home. To register, drop an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.