Last weekend, I led a tour to look at some of the more unusual ingredients I use in my Punjabi cooking, which I teach as both paid-for public classes and also as some of the sessions Cracking Good Food runs for community groups.
Once the enthusiastic "Spice Walkers" had gathered outside Ahmed's Store in Clarendon Road, we set about perusing the array of vegetables on display, and we identified some more well-known varieties: aubergines, kerala (bitter gourd), kadu (various types of marrow) and mooli, which we used as a paratha filling in one of my classes only last week.
I also spied a couple of things that I've not cooked in a while, pointing out arbi or arvi. It’s also known as Chamadumpa, and the tubers resemble Jerusalem artichokes. Arbi can be used much like a potato; it’s very starchy and has high sugar content. It has an unusual taste - a little sterner than a potato - but for those looking for variety for a vegetarian palate, then give it a try - it can be curried or stir-fried.
Another great delight to see were radish seed pods, a delicacy from my childhood. The pods have a peppery taste, and have been used in various cuisines since the 1800s. I remember my mum would plant radishes then let them go to seed. The resulting pods would be curried as a vegetarian dish or added to a chicken curry, and they can also be eaten raw in salads - absolutely delicious and unusual.
We continued the spice talk as we walked between the burgeoning shelves of Ahmed’s Store. I was spoilt for choice with what to point out, but everyone was all ears as we wended our way round the aisles and took in spices, dhals and various flours: atta (chapatti flour), millet, cornflower and gram flour. Dried pomegranate seeds were one ingredient that was new to the group, so my Pakora recipe crept into the conversation as well, fitting in nicely, as one of the group wanted to know what dishes he could use adjwain (lovage seeds) in.
Some of our Spice Walkers took the opportunity to purchase some of the ingredients that we talked about - I have a fair idea of what was on the menu being cooked for supper on Sunday! Our leaflet about spices with the colourful chart of my own Spice Box was a great reminder of the day as well. Many thanks to Ahmed's Store, our very generous shopkeepers who kept our hunger at bay with Bombay mix and jalebis.
We've just added a new date to our spring programme, with Harjinder leading one of her popular stuffed paratha masterclasses on Saturday 27 April at Chorlton High School. Click here for full details and how to book.