15 July 2011

GUEST BLOG: Spice world

By guest blogger ELIZABETH WELLS

On a stiflingly July day (Saturday 2nd), we Cracking Good Fooders plus an array of willing participants undertook the challenge to learn (and hopefully reproduce!) the secrets of Punjabi home-cooking from Harjinder (pictured centre).

The day was veggie in theme and half the fun was getting to grips with the specialised equipment that enabled us to transform roasted aubergines into tasty bhartha or smoked aubergine puree. On flat iron chappati pans, called tavas, we turned the aubergines until they sizzled and the skins went soft- a technique that required asbestos fingers, as one participant remarked! Later the same pans were used to make the famous chappatis, a process we admired with awe, as Harjinder gently coaxed the air into them as they cooked and browned. The dough required another specialist instrument - the chackla - which looks like a rolling pin but moves a lot more fluidly, and made light work of the task.

The other tasty main dish was the methi pakora - a toothsome, lightly spiced fritter with fenugreek (or methi) which is shaped into balls and dropped into hot fat. Harjinder’s knowledge of spices was second to none, and we learned how easy it is to make simple spice blends using whole spices such as black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cardamoms and cinnamon. All you need is a coffee/spice grinder - much fresher and more flavoursome than shop-bought mixes.

Visit our Facebook page for pictures from both Punjabi cooking sessions, vegetarian and meat and fish.

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