At some point, either shortly before or shortly after I retired from The Frost School, I made a list of some things I would like to do with my freed up time.
I was only one degree of separation away from one of Washington’s best French chefs, and I thought how much fun it would be to spend an entire day in the kitchen with him from the time he walked in in the morning until he left at night.
Alas, it was not to be as I was told he would not look kindly on such an intrusion. I promised to sit in a corner and not say a word, but that didn’t seem to make any difference.
Now, however, several years later, and thanks to the invitation of a long time friend, I am about to finish a six-week course in Indian cooking. My retirement may not have given me an insight into French cooking, but I can make perfect basmati or jasmine rice three different ways; I have made an almond chicken korma with cauliflower (the cauliflower was my addition, a substitution because I didn’t have enough chicken), a dish good enough to be the pride of any restaurant; and I’m primed to make other meat and vegetarian dishes that will far surpass any Indian food ever made in our kitchen (except, perhaps, when our Madras/Chennai family are here).
We’ve always loved the many layers of taste that Indian cuisine offers. Cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, chili, ginger, cilantro leaves, mustard seeds, gram masala. You name it. We love it. But for some reason our dishes never resembled anything we had eaten in India or had been served in the best US/UK Indian restaurants.
Now, thanks to Edward Hamann and an Arlington Public Schools Adult Education course, the Millers will never be without good Indian food again.
Five of us have gathered with Ed the last five Fridays from 10 AM-1 PM (he also teaches the same course Wed. evenings from 7-10 PM, well past my awake time). Plus, we will take a Saturday excursion to one of the local Indian groceries stores, with our teacher leading us up and down the aisles, after we complete the sixth cooking session.
Mostly, the courses have involved Ed explaining the myriad ways that cooking and combining spices can transform almost anything into a delicious dish and then proceeding to do just that. In our first session, we learned to make a Garam Masala, a spice blend that we’ve used throughout the course. We made a Raita, a yogurt salad with toasted cumin, a Murgh Masala, a wonderful chicken dish, and Dilliwale Moong Dal.
Then we sat down and ate it all.
For the next four weeks, we continued to mix, stir, chop, slice, dice, strain, sauté, ‘fry,’ bake, boil, toast, always ending with eating our/Ed’s creations. Usually Ed would arrive an hour or so ahead of us and start the preparations. When we arrived, he would talk about the dishes we were going to prepare, what part of India they were from, how they differed from other dishes, what made them special, and, always, how to use spices.
Over the next four weeks we made Badaami Murgh Korma, chicken in almond sauce, Sada Pulao, a spice-fragrant basmati rice, Bhindi ki Sabji, a spicy pan-friend okra, Vindaloo, a Goan pork with vinegar, Farasbee chi Bhaji, green beans with spices and coconut, Gajarachi Koshimbir, shredded carrot salad with peanuts, Obla Chawal, perfect boiled basmati rice, Kurma, a south-Indian mixed vegetable curry, Puli Jhinga, shrimp with tamarind and coconut, Chitrannam, lemon-scented rice with cashew, Tandoori Murgh, tandoori-style chicken (in an ordinary oven), Murgh Makhani, butter chicken, Seekh Kabob, grilled ground lamb kabob, and Aam ki Lassi, a sweet mango yogurt drink.
And we still have one more class to go.
Initially, I thought the class was to be taught by an Indian woman and so was quite surprised when I walked in the first Friday to be greeted by an American male. But any disappointment dissipated by the end of the first session. Ed’s knowledge of Indian cooking, from all over India, Indian culture, Indian history, and all things Indian gastronomic are fantastic. There’s almost no question we ask that doesn’t result in us learning something entirely new about Indian cooking.
The six-week course cost each of us $185 (for non-resident seniors, cheaper for Arlington residents), and that includes all the food, all preparation items, and all we eat each Friday. That comes to $30.83 cents per week, and no charge for our upcoming Sat. trip to one of the Patel Brothers Indian grocery stores.
I’m signing up for Ed’s next course, two Friday (or Wed.) sessions on Indian vegetarian cooking, starting Feb 22 ($79).
If you’re interested in joining, call me or call 703-228-7200. Ed needs at least five ‘students’ for the two-session class to be a ‘go.’
Also, let me know if you want to be invited to any of the once-a-week Indian meals I will undertake once I have all the necessary spices.