A long day learning to cook, magic sauce, and a magic solution to a burnt finger

We have been told not to eat too much before the cookery class, so when we head down to breakfast we restrict ourselves to just one breakfast each, rather than the two or three Jack had the day before.  Steve is excited to see his first Sunbird outside of the bird sanctuary, on a tree viewable from the restaurant, as well as a monkey close enough to make me worry he might be able to reach us.

We have found the location for the cookery class the day before, so we’re reasonably confident we can find out way there… Nevertheless, Steve moves into sgt major mode, and tells us approx 20 times that ‘we’ll be late’. This is a routine we get into whenever we have somewhere to be at a particular time, eg an airport, a restaurant, or in this case a cookery class. We are 10 minutes early, so go to look for somewhere to buy a bottle of water. This takes approx. 10 minutes, so we arrive with 30 seconds to spare.

There is already one couple in the classroom – from Korea, we find out later. Shashi, the teacher, and her son, are preparing vegetables, and Shashi welcomes us with a red dot on our heads (hers are stick-on for the girls, and goopy lipstick for the boys), and a bracelet – Ella’s is ‘for friendship’ and the rest of us get one which signifies ‘luck’. Jack quietly questions whether this signifies that we need the luck or Ella looks like she has no friends.

We are given aprons to wear, and we’re all set. We are also joined by a German girl, who (we find out later) is studying for three months at Delhi University, as part of an exchange with her own university. She is travelling extensively by bus and she lets us know she is ‘skipping classes’ to do this.

We start by making Masala Chai tea, with fresh spices. I get the first job of pounding the spices with a pestle and mortar, accompanied by Shashi saying ‘hand, hand’, to indicate that I was supposed to have my left hand covering the top of the pestle to stop the spices jumping out. I might have lost a clove or two.  At various points we all have the spices shoved under our noses ‘smell’.  This continues throughout the day.

The chai is great, and we resolve to make our own in England.   (Shame, as we already have £30 worth of varying varieties of ready-made stuff from Jodphur). I realise though that I haven’t had a single coffee since reaching India (as it’s not very good – generally Nescafe), so maybe I can stick with tea for a while as we work our way through our supplies.

We learn to make Pakora, with two chutnies (mango, and coriander/mint). We then eat these, so we’re already regretting the breakfast. The pakoras are great, and the chutnies particularly good, and again we resolve to make these at home.

Then we’re into making ‘magic sauce’ which will be an ingredient of several other curries we’re set to make, whilst simultaneously knocking up a naan bread dough, and a chapatti/roti/paratha mix. We find out something we hadn’t realised, that a chapatti and a roti are the same thing (English word, Hindi word), and that a paratha is the same mixture, but either stuffed (eg with potato for aloo paratha, or coconut and sugar for a sweet paratha), or smeared with oil and folded and re-rolled for a ‘plain paratha’. Makes sense to me now – some of the parathas we’ve had are particularly oily.

Something else we learn is that toothpaste makes a really effective burn treatment.  During his turn at stirring something or other, Jack caught his finger on the side of the pan, and tells us he ‘heard it sizzle’, which is not something it had told us to look out for in our exhaustive notes.  Shashi’s son said we could either apply a potato or some toothpaste. Given the circumstances, we had immediate access to raw potato, however, he dashed into the back somewhere and returned with some sticky red toothpaste which reminded me vaguely of something I’d seen in my youth.  He applied it liberally, and Jack did say that it made a lot of difference, and ultimately by the end of the day seemed fully cured.

At first as Shashi and her son bark instructions to us I’m concentrating and trying to remember everything and then after a few hours I’m starting to feel a bit lost. We are encouraged to write down notes on the recipe sheets we are given… I had expected to learn to make maybe one or two dishes but it seems Shashi is determined to teach us everything she knows.  And she knows a lot.

The ‘magic sauce’ lasts for a week, so if I had my way we’d be making one every Sunday and using it every day til the following Sunday. (Obviously I’m using the ‘we’ very loosely here – with three better cooks in the house, I don’t mean me!)… It’s possible the kids won’t let us do this for a while (if ever) as I think with eating Indian breakfast, lunch and dinner every day they might fancy a change when we get home.

In the end we make:  Cheese and tomato naan, chapatti, plain paratha, aloo paratha, sweet paratha, Chana Masala, Bindi something or other (Steve’s favourite – no one else seemed to eat any at all), vegetable pilau, Butter Paneer Masala, as well as the pakora and chutnies. It seemed a huge spread, and we then ate it and there was some left to pack up and take home (we gave this to the others as we weren’t likely to have an occasion to use it)…

We emerged back into daylight at about 4pm, having started at 10.30. It was a great experience, and we were now a little exhausted and not sure what to do next… We had a mango juice in a rooftop café (from a bottle – not risking the watered down stuff anymore), which was a refreshing 126 rupees (£1.30 ish) for the four.

While were were on the roof we could hear drums down at ground level, which sounded a bit wedding-y, but on closer inspection was an odd wedding party, and could possibly have been something more funereal.  Hoping someone who knows these things will tell me?  Much keening from one female, who looked like she might fall over and was being guided by others but then when they arrived at the arches it seemed like a little flower market stall set up.

Down at the arches, Ella and I were offered a pink Vespa by a strange man in a striped ‘breton’ long sleeved T-shirt.  He said he didn’t want any money for it.  (I genuinely bet he says that to all the girls).  Steve was offered a miniature painting by a man with not quite enough teeth, or in the absence of that perhaps he’d want some hashish.  (I’ve noticed this multi-purpose outlet – I’m sure I saw someone selling juice, batteries or a massage. Covers a variety of markets that way I guess).

We also called in at ‘Pap’s Juices’ on the way back, to get a freshly blended fruit juice each for the kids. This is a great little enterprise – essentially he has one juicer, a very small outlet, and a load of fresh fruit.

Later, we head back to the hotel where we try to have a light meal and avoid Octopussy. Sadly, even though we eat outside it is incredibly loud, and I fear it must lose them potential restaurant custom.






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