13 November 2012

GUEST BLOG: Right atta!

By guest blogger HELEN ROADHOUSE

Harjinder told us stories from her childhood and the 12 participants on Saturday - a full house! - were enraptured by the images of a young girl making atta dough for her mother, like the time panic set in when Harjinder had some 'dough jump out of the bowl' while mixing it! She explained how her mother used lots of spices in cooking and her tales about traditional family cooking were thoroughly entertaining.

Harjinder had an anecdote for most of the spices and techniques that she was demonstrating today. They were not all old wives' tales; some had a purpose long forgotten, but when Harjinder dug a bit deeper into why certain habits were passed down, she found out some interesting facts. For instance, she unquestioningly always scored coriander seeds before planting them as her mother had and her mother's mother, and recently she found out that by cracking the seed shell this way, it produced more than one plant from the seed, but that fact had been forgotten by her family until now!

Harjinder also discussed how she had to diversify her cooking to include recipes that would be safe for family members who had allergies and intolerances. She has a grandson who has a severe milk allergy so she clarifies her own ghee as shop-bought ghee is not as pure and still contains the milk proteins that cause his allergy.

We got on with making Harjinder's family recipe masala base for our chicken and lemon pickle curry and also our puréed spinach and alu gajjar curry. The masala base can be adapted to include any kinds of meat, vegetables or spices and each dish can end up tasting completely different even though the base of cumin, onions, tomato, garlic and coriander remains the same. I made sure we had a few extra tava pans as Harjinder's roti demo is always fun and I knew that given a little encouragement the participants would all enjoy a go at making their own chapatis to go with their curries - and they did all get stuck in under Harjinder's expert supervision. 

Everyone, including our brilliant volunteers Vicky and Eva, sat down to a wonderfully aromatic array of flavours with lots of positive comments at the taste of the lemon pickle, which almost none had ever used in cooking this way before. There was surprise at just how tasty the spinach and potato and carrot curries were and also just how inexpensive and easy it was to make this banquet. This was
another successful session and everyone left with a warm glow from Harjinder's heartwarming tales and delicious recipes. Lovely.

There is an album of photos from this session on the CGF Facebook page: click here to view.

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