15 November 2011

Currying favour

By guest blogger JULIET LAWSON

Jackie Kearney - one of the finalists in BBC One’s MasterChef earlier this year - took our Asian vegetarian cooking class on Tuesday, getting the group to make some delicious yellow butter dhal, brinjl bhajee (aubergine curry) and stuffed parathas. You can read more from Jackie on her website The Hungry Gecko.

We had a fascinating session with Jackie last week, making a wonderful buttery dhal with three different pulses and plenty of spices and flavours. We learnt about tempering and how to get the right consistency to our dhal. Then it was on to a simple but really flavoursome aubergine curry where we all learnt a whole new way of cooking: lots of oil is the secret to bringing out the best in an aubergine and, as Jackie put it, "making it into the vegetable it deserves to be". There were a few raised eyebrows as everyone was told to pour half a cup of oil into their pans, but the secret is in the serving, where most of the oil is then drained off but none of the flavour is lost.

And then on to the seasonal stuffed paratha, where the bread dough was made with aromatic ajwain seeds and stuffed with a grated cauliflower mixture made with chilli, coriander and an unusual ingredient, dry mango powder, which has a fruity, almost sherberty sharp kind of flavour. Certainly an ingredient I hadn’t used before and I was straight out to get some for my next foray into Indian cuisine.

Watching Jackie make up the paratha was poetry in motion, the way she folded it into a kind of camera shutter shape, it looked amazingly skilful but it was surprisingly easy to replicate. You just have to remember to roll it very gently afterwards and all is well!

The whole lot made a wonderful balanced plateful of food, packed with a whole host of contrasting flavours - and what’s more, it was pretty healthy to boot.

See our Facebook page for more photographs from the session: click here.

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