The amazing 12 course meal that we sat down to at the end of Shashi’s cooking class was one of the best I have eaten in India. The fresh ingredients and the skill of the cooks’ clearly shown through. Being one of the cooks I had to give myself a pat on the back, but the real credit goes to Shashi, her patience and prowess in the kitchen made both the meal and it’s preparation delicious!
The class started with an introduction to each of the recipes we would be making over the five hour course, then we quickly moved into the kitchen. We were outfitted in aprons and instructed to roll up our sleeves, this was going to be hands-on. The first recipe was for masala chai tea, which seemed appropriate as nothing can happen in India before a cup of chai.
As we ground the fresh spices for the fragrant tea Shashi began to tell us her life story. It was a remarkable tale of overcoming India’s many unspoken rules and social mores. Not only did she have to work through an arranged marriage where her and her husband didn’t share a common language, but then had to recover from his sudden death leaving her with two children and no income. Widows are traditionally expected not to remarry and are admonished to wear white and live pious, celibate lives. Instead, Shashi learned English, bought a home and opened her own cooking school in Udaipur.
While we enjoyed the aromatic tea and absorbed Shashi’s story, she was busy mixing up the batter for vegetable pakoras. The crispy fried snack was easy to make and so tasty. Making pakora doesn’t take much skill, but creating just the right dipping sauce to compliment them does. Shashi walked us through how to prepare a quick and fresh coriander sauce as well as a tangy mango chutney, both of which were scrumptious.
After our chai and pakora we focused on cooking and trying to leave room for the many dishes yet to taste. She taught us how to make a spicy and flavorful aloo ghobi (potato and cauliflower curry), a fluffy pulao rice and helped us perfect our chapatti and prantha making technique. We all arrived to Shashi’s home as strangers, but left as friends and great cooks! The below recipe will give you a taste of Indian cooking and will surely make you friends.
Shashi’s Masala Chai
The recipe here is for one cup. If you want two cups, double it. Three cups, triple it, etc. [Note: measurements are in “glasses,” literally she used something that looked like an 8/10 ounce juice glass. You should adjust based on the size of your mug.]
1 glass of milk (We used whole milk, but you can try substituting your favorite creamy beverage: soy, rice, low fat, etc. Experiment as your results will vary.)
1/4 glass of water
2 heaped teaspoons of sugar (adjust this to your tastes)
1 teaspoon of black tea (Loose tea, not bags. Indian Darjeeling is recommended)
2 pieces of Cardamon (pods)
4 black peppercorns
1 chunk of fresh ginger the size of your fingernail
*Bonus Ingredients: Although she did not include it, Shashi noted that you can also include basil and nutmeg to the mix for additional flavor.
1) Roughly grind cardamom, black pepper, and ginger with a mortar & pestle
2) Add with all other ingredients into a small saucepan
3) Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Chai should turn a coffee brown color and you should smell the Cardamon and other aromas.
4) Remove from the stove and pour through a strainer as to leave the tea and other solid pieces behind. [Note: solid pieces can be reused one time for a second cup]
5) Serve and enjoy!
WHEN YOU GO:
Reserve a spot ahead, to avoid disappointment make sure you reserve a spot in one of Shashi’s popular classes a few days ahead of time. You can send an inquiry online at her website: http://shashicookingclasses.blogspot.in/ or reserve in person once you arrive in Udaipur.
Come to class hungry, you will eat throughout the course and don’t want to miss out on trying any of the delicious dishes because you had too big of a breakfast.
Bring a camera, you will want to capture both the dishes you create and Shashi’s huge smile so don’t forget your camera.