Before we left last July, there were a number of things we thought we would miss, and while we do miss many things, we are beyond content with what we have. Small things though, like reliable hot showers from a running shower head, real coffee, a couch to sit on when we’re relaxing in the evenings, a comfortable mattress, and reliable internet are things we definitely miss while we travel.
What we miss the most though is cooking and a kitchen of our own. In South America, most hostels have kitchens. Some are much more inviting than others, and we struggled finding ingredients often times, but at least we usually had access to a kitchen to cook. In Morocco and India however, kitchens in hostels aren’t a thing. Actually, hostels are barely a thing and accommodations with the option to use a kitchen are so rare we never found one. Some had a kitchen, but most said staff only and they meant it. By the time we got to southeast Asia we gave up on cooking for ourselves, which is fine because the food in Cambodia and Vietnam has been pretty good anyways. But, the longer we travel, the more we miss cooking and our beloved cookware.
Once we got to India though, having no kitchen wasn't as much of a big deal as it had been in South America because the food in India was so good. If you asked me a year ago, what my favorite type of food was, Indian food wouldn’t have even crossed my mind. Now though, it’s a true top contender.
In India, everyone claims that their food is the best; south India, north India, central, everyone wants the throne. After two months, Jesse and I can both confidently say that we strongly prefer south Indian food. And we like spicy food. It’s oh so spicy, and oh so delicious.
We took three Indian cooking classes; one in the north, one traditional class in the south, and one Ayurvedic class in the south.
If you’ve been friends with us in the past five years, you’ve probably heard me talk at some point or another about having internationally themed cooking dinners. We’ll invite a small group of friends over, choose a culture, and all cook a variety of courses together, listening to music, having some drinks, playing board games, and making a whole day of it.
We’ve only done this once with two good couple friends and started with good ole New Orleans cooking. However, we are so excited to have an Indian dinner night with friends when we get back, and will surely incorporate the foods we have ate in India into our weekly diets.
So without further ado, here are the recipes from the first of our three Indian cooking class experiences.
Class 1: The Seashore Guesthouse and Reastaurant – Alleppey, Kerala (south India)
Class 2: Ayurvedic Class, Café unknown – Kochi, Kerala (south India)
Class 3: Udaigarh – Our hotel’s restaurant in Udaipur, Rajasthan (north India)
Alleppey is an Indian beach town on the very south west border of India. Although it’s typically known for its backwater alleyways, Jesse and I spent the majority of our time there frolicking in what were the best ocean waves we’ve ever experienced. This beach town is also where we took our first cooking class in India. We were (and still are) all about that spice and looked for a class that was generous with its shakes.
Jesse found a few places on Google that offered classes, but most seemed way more expensive than we wanted, except for one class that we read about on a blog. The writer didn’t name the classes’ price, so we started there. We walked to the beach side guesthouse mentioned in the blog, made our way through the poorly lit sidewalk on the property and climbed up some metal stairs to the beach view restaurant.
We asked if we were in the right place for the cooking class and this older man gave us the classic Indian head wobble, which probably meant yes since it was accompanied by a smile.
We asked how much the class cost and he continued to give us vague responses, which we figured out meant exactly nothing. You paid for the meal you wanted to learn to cook, and then gave him and his wife a gift, or whatever money you thought you should give as a thank you for spending time teaching you the secrets of their kitchen.
The menu was pricier than most places we ate, but still cheaper by a long shot compared to the price tags on other cooking classes, even with a generous gift. We liked the man, his wife Safina was an angel, and this was exactly the mom and pop type cooking class experience we were seeking. We told them we would be by two days later and that we wanted to cook porotha, paneer butter masala, and banana leaf fish curry. Since we took the “class” in the same kitchen that Safina and her husband used to cook for in for restaurant guests, we also were fortunate enough to learn to cook allo gobi masala, lemon rice, and coconut rice.
Porotha (serving size: 30 pieces)
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of salt
“A lot” of flower
Vegetable or cooking oil
Splashes of water
Mix the first four ingredients in a large mixing bowl until everything is fully mixed
Remove the dough from bowl and knead by hand by 15 – 20 minutes (or use a mixer to knead for 6-8 minutes if you have one)
Generously lather the kneaded dough ball with oil, place on counter, cover with upside down bowl, and let side for 30 – 60 minutes to rise.
Remove bowl. Remove small sections of the larger dough ball to approximately 1 ½ diameter balls. Place small ball of dough in the palm of your hand, make a hole in the same hand with your thumb and fore finger, use the other hand (right) to push the dough through the hole until the ball of dough is perfectly smooth all the way around.
Oil the top of balls and place on counter uncovered to rise for 30 more minutes.
Take each ball and flatten on the counter with a well-oiled hand.
Perform a two handed dough slapping technique to enlarge the circle of dough to a very thin center. (This is by far the hardest cooking technique I have ever had to do before.)
Once the dough is at the desired thinness, grab one end of the dough and let it elongate itself while slapping the other end of the dough on the counter.
Once the dough is approximately 12-14 inches in length, continue holding one end of the dough and slowly coil it into the other hand in a coiled ball. Place on counter, oil the top, and let the dough rest another 30 minutes.
Take each coiled ball, and flat with hand or roller to a diameter of approximately 8 inches.
Heat griddle stove to high. It will be hot enough when you drizzle water on the griddle and it steams, but does not hiss and spit.
Cook each side for approximately 1-2 minutes, or until the bread has reached the desired flakiness.
Masala Base (serving size: approximately 6 cups)
1 kg. of red onion (chopped) (6 large onions)
100 g. of oil (0.5 cups)
3 g. of curry leaves (small handful)
2 inch of ginger (roughly chopped) (more the better)
Spoon of of salt
1 head of garlic (chopped)
1 kg. of tomato (roughly chopped) (9 large)
3 g. turmeric powder (1-1.5 tsp)
Heat quarter cup of oil in a large wok on medium/high, preferably on an open stove flame.
Add all red onion and curry leaves and sauté until onions are very soft.
Add ginger, most of salt, garlic, stir for 1 minute, then reduce heat for 5 – 10 minutes, mixing occasionally.
Add tomatoes, turmeric powder, and last bit of salt. Reduce temperature and mix. Let sit for 10 – 20 minutes, mixing occasionally.
Once sauce has reached a thick consistency, add quarter cup oil. Mix, and let mixture continue to thicken on low/simmer heat until you are ready to use.
Paneer Butter Masala (serving size: 2 people)
2 serving sizes of masala base
25 g. of butter (1.75 Tbs)
200 g. of paneer (1 cup)
2 g. of gara masala (1 tsp)
2 g. of green chili pepper (chopped) (to taste)
2 tbs. of tomato sauce
2 tbs. of chili sauce
5 coriander leaves
Heat butter in a high heat wok. Add paneer and cook together until slightly browned.
Add masala base and mix. Sir continuously for 1-2 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients. Reduce temperature and mix. Let sit for 10 – 20 minutes, mixing occasionally.
Serve with rice and porotha.
Banana Leaf Fish Masala Curry (serving size: 2 people)
Note: This recipe can be used to serve the fish on its own, or combined with the masala base to serve it as a curry.
1.5 kg. of fish of your choice (we cooked with tuna)
15 g. garlic (2 tbsp)
6 g. ginger (1 tbsp)
3 g. turmeric powder (0.5 tbsp)
4 g. fennel powder (0.5 tbsp)
2+ g. of green chili pepper (chopped)
2 lemons juiced
5 curry leaves
2 servings of masala base
Mango coconut sauce to taste
Add all ingredients except fish into a blender for 30 seconds.
Gently rub paste mix all over the fish and let fish marinate for a minimum for 20 minutes.
Cook by pan searing, grilling, or baking as desired, or use as part of fish curry.
For fish curry, add fish in small chunks to a fry pan and fry in oil with curry leaves.
Add mango coconut sauce to the fish fry (we did not drain the oil and this may be why it tasted so delicious) to 2 servings of masala base and let cook in fry pan on low for 2 more minutes.
Serve with rice and porotha.
Allo Gobi Masala (serving size: 4-6 people)
1 head of cauliflower
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 .5 cups of green beans
5 small golden potatoes
3 g. of turmeric (divided) (0.5 tbsp)
1 tsp. of salt
4-6 servings of masala base
1 green pepper (chopped)
1 spicy green pepper (chopped)
4 tbs. cilantro (chopped)
1 tbs. ground fennel
4 tbs. tomato sauce
4 tbs. chili sauce
Take stems off the cauliflower and chop to bite size, and place in pot on stove.
Add water to pot to almost cover the cauliflower. Add salt, 1 tbs. of turmeric, and bring to a boil. Boil for 2-3 minutes then drain water.
Boil potatoes in a separate pot with carrots and green beans until done, then drain water.
Add masala base with remaining ingredients, potatoes, carrots, and green beans to cauliflower pot on low heat.
Mix well and serve with rice and porotha.
Lemon Rice (serving size: 2 people)
Precooked rice (a generous amount for 2 people)
1 lemon (½ sliced, ½ juiced)
1 tbs. butter
3-5 shallots/pearl onions
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp. salt
2 tbs. cilantro
In a hot skillet combine rice, chopped pearl onions, half of the lemon sliced, salt, and butter. Sear mixture.
Squeeze the second half of the lemon juice onto mixture. Mix well and remove from heat.
Garnish with cilantro.
Cocunut Rice (serving size: 2 people)
Precooked rice (a generous amount for 2 people)
1 tbs. butter
2 tbs. shredded coconut
2 tsp. fennel powder
1 tsp. salt
In a hot skillet combine rice, coconut, fennel powder, salt and butter.
This was the start of many cooking classes we have taken and we would go back here in a heart beat if we could.
Our favorite dish? Paneer Butter Masala.
If you're in Alleppey and interested in this cooking class, contact Safina and her husband at Sea Shore Home Stay and Restaurant.
Mobile: +919387812427, +919400319748