She's gorgeous, isn't she? Surya looks like an Indian Princess who went slightly off track and found her way to the Eco Living Centre in Wyndham Vale for a workshop presented by Shoestring Gardening. How lucky were we and how lucky was I that at last a workshop was being held on a weekend and not mid-week. I grabbed 3 of my buddies (including my sister) and we made our way to a morning of heavenly spices, yummy food and a good ole natter. Shoestring are hoping to make this a monthly workshop with local people demonstrating their cultural foods to others. What better way to bring a community together - sharing food. I don't dine out at restaurants and my circle of friends is decidedly "Anglo" (why is that?) so I'm hoping that there are some brave souls willing to share some Thai, African, Turkish, Italian, Asian, ........... cooking skills . I'm open to it all. Bring it on.....
Our morning started with Spinach Onion Pakoda. It is a spicy fritter batter dropped into hot oil until cooked. The mixture was made up already on arrival so i arrived just in time for the cooking and eating.
What started out as a flavoursome opening snack certainly had a bit of a kick in the tail. Not too much though. I didn't see anyone diving for drinks and there were plenty going for seconds and thirds.... Oh, was that me? I noted when we were finishing that the bowl had a rather large quantity of batter remaining so i nabbed it to bring home and make up for my hubby. Waste not, want not. I dry fried it in a non-stick pan making them flatter and they turned out equally as good as the deep fried. I think they would be lovely with a mango chutney.
I do have the recipe and ingredient lists for all these recipes but if i included them here, the post would be very long. Give me your email address in comment section and I'll send them to you.
The main course for the workshop was Sambar (Indian Lentil Vegetable Stew or Chowder)
This is one healthy meal with lots of vegetables and certainly different and more interesting than the usual steamed veggies i serve up my crew. I'm not sure, no I'm pretty sure, that Tom wouldn't eat it but Rob is open to anything. I tried Okra for the first time and found it a bit ho hum, squash kinda taste but it did pick up some of the spice flavours. This particular dish included Tamarind Water (made from paste), Coriander Powder, Sambal Powder, Curry Leaves, Fenugreek Seeds (the list of health benefits associated with these seeds is long - check it out), & garlic.
During the making of this meal there was an open general discussion between all the ladies about some of the products we were using. Simple ones like, what is Dal? What exactly is Ghee and when do you use it? Unless you are a vegetarian you, like I, may have an idea but you are not quite sure. Shoestring workshops are the perfect opportunity to ask seemingly stupid questions. They are always friendly and relaxed. Surya was happy to go through each of the questions and give us simple explanations that were informative and cost saving. If you don't cook Indian food everyday you run the risk of going out and buying an enormous collections of unusual spices that you may not ever use again (though you should). Surya gave us hints on buying dried powders rather than pastes. Checking for use by dates and storage and where to buy locally. We all loved her stackable spice cans with the smaller tins of spices displayed inside.
Our accompaniment for the main dish was Indian Spicy Potato Roast.
This dish should come with a warning for all vampires. Phewy, does it have a garlic hit. The recipe says 2 pods. We all naturally thought this meant cloves. Nope, that's 2-3 bulbs. Apart from the garlic there was fennel seeds, Sambar powder, coriander powder, Asafoetida and Turmeric. These were all folded into the diced potatoes before roasting.
You might have noticed that i keep mentioning some ingredients that are a bit different. What the hell is Asafoetida? Well if you are Indian you would use it in almost every dish. If you are an Australian then you probably should. There is a hole in our ozone guys! This is such an important topic that i did an entire post on it What is it with men and Farting?
Asafoetida is made from the dried gum of a middle eastern herb. Its main use in cooking is to reduce "gas" in dishes with lentils and pulses. Since these are a staple in most Indian dishes you will find that it will also include a few shakes of Asafoetida. It can be used in any dish as although it stinks close up, it cooks out and enhances the flavours of a dish. I'm thinking of buying it by the tonne and handing it our to all my friends to use so that their husband might be relieved of their gas issues. There are also many health benefits and you can check them out here.
So what is Sambar Powder. I guess its a bit of a curry mix. Instead of buying a stack of little sachets of spice you can buy one powder with it all mixed. It includes Lentil, Coriander, Chili Pepper, Cumin, Turmeric, Mustard, Fenugreek, Compounded Asafoetida, Ginger, Curry Leaves & Salt.
What's the difference between Dried Peas and Lentils. Check this out here but I'm still a little confused. I know Dal is the Yellow Lentil (flatter) used in Indian Cooking. Lentils come in a variety of colours and peas are either green or yellow. Lentils are the seeds from the pod of a legume. Isn't a pea pod a legume too! So confusing. Either way they are all, along with beans, pulses and they are very healthy for you. Just use the Asafoetida people.
SO until next time....
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