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Spice tour in Chennai Short description

We are in Madras/Chennai, not at St. Thomas tomb, not in Ashtalakshmi temple, but in a cooking class. Yes, for the first time in my life I’m going to take a cooking lesson. Well, after all, it is a part of the culture.
Regarding the practical side of the question, I have some feeling allowing me to reproduce more or less authentic European, Mexican, even Chinese dishes, but not Indian ones. That’s because I’m here: I want to understand how they do it, especially this mysterious white sauce served with the dosas.

So, we’ll try to decompose the Indian kitchen into simple elements, to understand which ingredients should be mixed to obtain the authentic taste. Of course, there exist too many conflicting opinions what is the ideal, but we’ll try to obtain some acceptable approximation.


fresh curry leaves

First of all, we are not going to measure any products precisely. All the recipes are approximate. One should follow his feeling. Well, we do not have any feeling yet, but that’s the way to acquire it.
We’ll start from the imaginary shopping. Preventing any questions, the generic answer is very simple: if you do not find any of the mentioned ingredients in your local shops, just try internet shopping.

However two basic products of Indian kitchen are very simple:
• Rice. Our kitchen guru states that the word comes from Tamil language, so it’s an authentic Indian product. China was not always the first. Basmati rice is not good for South Indian kitchen. They prefer “round” seeds rice, often parboiled. Many ceremonies involve the rice: you need rice to bring your baby to the temple for the first time, to write with the baby’s hand the first letter in Tamil language, to sacrifice to Ganesha and so on.
• White Dhal (lentils), used cooked or simply pounded as a spice.



You know the rice. And this is white dhal.


Other ingredients we'll use today.

So, let’s start.


Moru : welcome curd drink

In India, it is served everywhere. You can often find a jug of this drink near the houses, proposed to every stranger, especially during the hot season. Curd or yogurt is cooling the body. Is this OK from the hygienic point of view that everybody drinks from the same glass? – Absolutely! Indians can drink without touching the vessel with their lips. (And forget your European manners.)

- 1 package of curd (like a regular yogurt), 400 g or so
- salt
- 1 fresh green chili pod (OK, take less and with no seeds, local people always use it with the seeds)
- Green curry leaves
- Mint
- The most important ingredient : carom seeds (a good digestive)
- Asafoetida or a bit of onion and garlic if you are not allergic to it and you are not a Brahmin or Jain.



Preparation: just mix all ingredients. If some ingredients are missing, mix what you have. The only really important ingredient are salt and carom (or cumin) seeds. Forget about the salt harmfulness: it’s close to the heart, the body needs salt to keep the balance. And if we remind Gandhi, salt is freedom. …OK, let’s better think about Shiva.


Mixing the curd with the other ingredients.


Ready to drink.

***

At first we prepare dosas with their sauces. Dosas are normally served for breakfast with coffee.
What is dosa? It is south-Indian rice pancake. We do not prepare the dough during the master class: it needs a few hours of fermenting. To prepare the dough, soak the round rice and the dhal in 2 distinct bowls overnight and grind them.


Dosas dough.


Starter (sauce) for dosa
- Tomatoes (fine cut)
- Green paprika (cut)
- Cucumbers (grated) if cucumbers are bitter, look below for a special trick to improve their taste
- Chili peppers (fine cut with the seeds!)
- Limes (squeezed)
- Coriander
- Paneer


Just cut it finely.


So, the trick to overcome the cucumbers bitterness is: cut off the tip and rub the cucumber’s cutoff with it. You’ll see the white foam, that’s the bitterness is escaping. Repeat from the other side.




Maaany fresh ingredients.

What is paneer? They call it “cottage cheese”, but that’s a different stuff. Anyway, if you cannot find it in the shop, you can do it at home.

Fresh paneer:
- 1 l of full-fat fresh milk
- A bit of lemon juice

Just boil the milk and pull the lemon juice to it. Press through the cheesecloth. When ready, add either salt + spices, or sugar. When you need it solid (to cut in pieces and to cook in a curry), put it under the weight for a few hours.






Ready paneer.

***

Simultaneously we start to prepare the lunch. To start with, we prepare the dough for rotis to let it rest for half an hour
- Wheat flour
- A pinch of salt
- A bit of water
Knead the dough, there is not any esoteric theory about it, just do it carefully.




A spice box. We see on the picture 2 different spices boxes: north-Indian (left) and south-Indian



North box:
- Chili (dry and ground)
- Black pepper
- Cloves
- Cardamom
- Fenugreek
- Cumin
South box:
- Turmeric (curcuma, should be in the center!)
- Coriander
- Chili
- Dhal (used like a spice)
- Chick-peas
- Black mustard seeds
- Carom seeds



The correct south spices box.


The right spice in the right hand.

The popular word “masala” means “spices mix”; there are some classical mixtures, but there are no canonic ones.

Between this and then we are preparing coffee. Happily, no paper filters are used for the south-Indian filter coffee. You need two pots, one of them punched.


A coffeemaker, the upper pot has holes on the bottom.

Coconut
The most important fruit in the Indian kitchen. 15 billions of coconuts are produced in India every year, to use them every day. For example, to offer to gods. But today we’ll break it and we’ll eat it.


The good coconuts sound resonantly and you can hear that it is full of milk.

Breaking the coconut
Just bang the coconut with some small heavy object (like pestle) round its “equator”. That’s the test for the Indian braids. If a potential braid breaks the coconut crookedly, splashing the coconut milk everywhere, the potential mother-in-law escapes quickly.




Done. Two parts and the milk.

Rubbing the coconut
No way, we have not devices like this.







One more great device. You can turn to dust your ingredients using it.





Coconut chutney for dosas. Yes! That’s the famous white sauce! And here you’ll find the secret ingredients.
- Curry leaves
- Green chili
- Ginger
- Coconut
- Salt
- Chutney dhal


A coconut based dessert (e.g. to give to the kids after the school)
- Coconut
- Dhal
- Giagry (like row sugar, but forget it, use usual sugar or honey)


Dhal and giagry.


Now we are cooking dosas starting on a dry pan and adding some sesame oil around and some ghee on the top.
What is ghee? Everybody knows it!


Spread the dosas dough starting from the center.


A dosa on a frying pan with some ghee on the top.

We use the same dough to prepare some uttapams as well adding some chopped vegetables on top.








Your first dosa shouldn't be perfectly round!


Our breakfast. We'll eat from the banana leafs but nobody's perfect. Use the dishes you have.


And our coffee. One should pour from one vessel into another to create the foam and to reduce the temperature.


(These ones are ready to fry. It you prepare them at home, they should be sun dried.)

Raita as the sauce for the lunch
- Cucumber
- Curd
- Salt
- You can add onions, tomatoes, coriander if you wish




Paneer masala making
- Tomatoes
- Ginger
- Garlic
- Green chili
- Onions
- Cashew nuts (ground)







Stir until the oil starts coming from the dish. Like this:


When cooked, add turmeric.
When the sauce is ready, add paprika (that’s a new vegetable in India, they call it capsicum) and stir well.



Add water, let boil.



When reduced, add cream.


Add milk, coriander, fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi).




Lemon rice
- Sesame oil
- Peanuts
- Curry leaves
- Red chilies
- Broken dhal (chick-peas)
- Mustard seeds
- Asafoetida
- Ginger



Heat all the ingredients in a wok, add cooked rice, salt, lemon juice and turmeric powder.


Making roti





Chapati
Do it on a dry frying pan, adding some oil and ghee and then put it in an open fire for a while. Flip! It’s blowing up!






Starting dressing the dishes for the lunch.

Stuffed roti
- Fresh paneer
- Onions
- Green chili
- Mint leaves
- Salt



Roll up the filling to rotii dough. Roll out.




Just fry. No flipping, no blowing!



We are making some puris as well. (These ones are ready to fry. It you prepare them at home, they should be sun dried.)




Deep-frying the puris

The dish composition:
- roti + uttapam
- raita
- uttapam, chili paste, paneer masala
- lemon rice



And finally, refresh your mouth with bethel leaves! To seal up the food.



Bon appetite!
(And don't forget Ganesha!)
Tags: Индия, Индия-2017, путешествия
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