I hosted and lead Cooking Club in January. There are three of us in the club (plus our “guests”) and we each seek something a bit different from the experience. When I host, I am looking to find ingredients, use techniques or prepare dishes that I haven’t tackled before. OR I wouldn’t attempt if I didn’t have more time to make an occasion. I like to immerse myself in the vision for the entire meal. Each course stretching me in a new way, and especially selected to enhance my skills as a chef.
What makes this club just superb lies in the little family created by cooking together, scheduling committed hunks of our time together, and celebrating together. For christmas, my mom sewed up aprons for
each of us, and I emboidered our nicknames on each. This month, putting it on, I was struck how I felt so honored to have these people part of my sense of “home.”
Ok! Now onto our January theme….Indian Food. The BACKBONE of any AMAZING meal is flavor. And SPICES are the heroes of my culinary traditions. And I simply SALIVATE when thinking about TUMERIC, Ground Coriander, Cardamom (smoky, cinnamon like) GINGER….Each bite layers and layers rippling on the tongue…super delightful.
The three courses had some AMAZING little new victories in each, and thus I present a cooking club in PICTURE COURSES.
Roasted Sweet Tomato Chutney
(oh lord, it gets better day by day) secret ingredient: toasted mustard seeds, crushed tomato and cardamon
Homemade Date Chutney
All of this was scooped up with fluffy, amazingly light and airy HOMEMADE NAAN. Seriously EASIEST dough I’ve ever made. No yeast, just baking powder to leaven the sugars in the flour…and allowing it to rest a bit before flattening out:
Then placing the disks (about 6 inch diameter) out on a pizza stone and into the oven
Yep. Chutney and Naan won my tastebuds. But cooking stimulates my wonderlust as well, where I learn a new skill and watch chemical reactions produce something due to MY calculations, and the resulting new combination functionally nourishes me….which is to announce
I MADE MY FIRST CHEESE! : Homemade Paneer!
Step 1: Line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth. I set up it up over a bowl and saved the WHEY (or clear liquid).
Step 2: Bring a quart of milk to a boil. Keep an eye on it because it can boil over very quickly (I BURNED SOME OF IT).When it comes to a boil, turn off the heat and add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Stir until milk separates completely separates into curds and whey. I ended up adding almost another whole tablespoon
STEP 3 Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined colander (see above). When it’s cool enough to handle, gather the corners of the cheesecloth into a bundle and squeeze out as much of the excess liquid as you can. GUESS WHAT? YOU’VE MADE CHEESE!
This can be used it immediately as cottage cheese or ricotta cheese. We used the paneer the next day to make Palak Paneer. This dish AMAZED me. Palak Paneer is creamy spinach with paneer, and is served in every indian restaraunt. I LOVED the addition of crushed tomatoes with spices and a little bit of cream (we used light and half of what was called for and it was perfect)
We also made a VERY easy Chicken Korma, using half breasts and half thigh meat. The key to these flavors (EVEN BETTER AS LEFT OVERS!) lies in those spices mentioned above.
To complete the dinner, we drank mango lassis. Super easy two parts yogurt to one part milk, a few cubs of ice, small teaspoon fresh chopped ginger, two very ripe mangoes and a tablespoon of honey….SUPERB finish.
Remembering this meal, I remember LOTS of laughter. I remember feeling proud and connected and aware of each layer of flavor.
It felt not foreign at all, or even laborious. It felt FULL.
“Of course it was fun, WE MADE CHEESE!”