Monday, April 11, 2011

An Indian Cooking Class at Folklore Village

I was invited to attend an Indian Cooking Class (okay, it was open to the public, anyone could go, but still I was invited) last Saturday at Folklore Village.  The cost was only $15.00!  Compared to the other cooking classes in our area, this is about $50.00 cheaper!  I was on a big  kick of learning how to do new things I don't know how to do for cheap when Melissa Leef invited me via facebook.  This was right as I was thinking about things like cooking classes and learning to do it was destiny. 

Folklore Village

(Image borrowed from Folklore Village's facebook page, thanks!)

All in all it was a great morning!  Kamlesh Varma was our instructor.  She grew up in India and now lives in the Appleton area.  She taught us how to make an entire meal and shared a lot about her culture.  What's more is she sent us home with some recipes and a spice cheat sheet and taught us a lot about Indian culture!  For example her husband of 46 years came along with her.  Their first date was their wedding day.  Gulp.   

Kamlesh and her family telling us how its done.

We first learned to make Onion Pakoras, which is an Indian snack or appetizer.  Kamlesh said that during monsoon season these are enjoyed with a warm cup of masala tea.  Her daughter Anu (who also came along to help teach) will sometimes call her up and request her to make these on a rainy afternoon.  These reminded me of onion rings.  They weren't rings but they were battered onions that were deep fried.  Instead of wheat flour using she used Besan and Rice flour (can be found at your local Indian grocer), so it gave it a new texture unlike an onion ring kind of cakier ( I know that cakier is not a word, but that's how I want to say that).

As a dipping sauce for Pakora we learned to make a Coriander Chatni, which is basically Cilantro sauce and was amazing.  It was like salsa, but with more cilantro than tomato.  

Pakora - I apologize for the bad pic.  It was before I got into my picture taking mojo.

After the Pakora and Chatni, we learned to make Chapati.  This was a fried (you can bake it if you want, but why would you?) flat bread.  Kind of similar to a pita, only way yummier.  Kamlesh is from northern India where they eat their meals with bread.  She said that Southern Indians eat more rice in place of bread.  She had us roll out the dough and then fried them up, she also put some on the burner (gas stove) and kind of char cooked them, these were good too, but small potatoes compared to the fried ones. 

Rolling Chapati

Frying Chapati

Fried Chapati

Speaking of potatoes!  She made the most amazing potatoes that I've ever eaten.  They were like an Indian version of American fries...clearly we did not think up the idea of frying potatoes, because these were way better!  She peeled the potatoes and cut them in chunks, threw them in a pan with some oil and then added her Indian spice magic.  They were spicy, but not too spicy.  The kind of spicy, where you think it might be too spicy for a second, but can't stop yourself from eating another bite. 

Indian Fried Potatoes
(I'm sure they have a name, but I don't remember.)

Finally we got to the meat of the matter (I crack myself up), obviously not beef, but chicken.  Her husband and daughter are vegetarians, but she is not.  She  sliced chicken thighs into chunks to create her chicken curry.  This allows them to cook evenly.  She threw the chicken in a pan and added her special seasonings and let them cook until they reached a beautiful glazed consistency.  Some of the seasonings she added were cinnamon, turmeric, bay leaves, coriander powder, cumin powder and some garlic and ginger paste.  She also added a tomato, an onion and some yogurt (I would not have thought of that) and some garam masala and cilantro.  Even though only a small amount of turmeric was used, I was surprised as to how yellow it made the chicken.  Not noticeably in the pan, but left kind of a yellow tinge of deliciousness on your fingers.  I liked it.  To read more about garam masala go here.

Yummy pot of chicken curry notice potatoes and pakora in background.

Plated up (didn't last long)
Kamlesh said that they do not use silverware.  They eat with their hands, rather one of their hands.  They use the bread (chapati) to pick up what they want to eat.  Kamlesh's daughter Anu said that she didn't feel this was a very good method because it causes you to just keep eating...too much bread, get more chicken...too much chicken, get more bread....and so on and so forth.  I thought it was a great method, but I can see where she's coming from...

She made us a delicious dessert too, but I don't have any notes on it and can't remember what it was called.  I am more of a savory lover and was too busy feeding my face with chapati, potatoes and chicken curry. 

Look at all those spices!
I don't know if I will be comfortable cooking an Indian meal for awhile, but I feel more at home with many of the spices.  I also feel like I could walk into an Indian restaurant and make somewhat of an intelligent order and know what I was going to get on my plate.  
I have some of the recipes she prepared.  If you'd like to give one a go, let me know and I will send you the recipe or we can try it together. 


  1. Awesome write up of an awesome class! :-)

  2. I agree with Melissa's comment. So awesome that you went to a Indian cooking class!!