Last Monday evening at Rice Epicurean Market, I got a chance to attend Indian cooking school with chef Shubhra Ramineni, author of the award-winning Entice with Spice, a cookbook for people who don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. The class ran for two and a half hours and had about fifteen students, a size that enabled Shubhra to give each table personal attention.
I tip my hat to Shubhra’s creativity. During the section on samosas and mint chutney, she taught us a novel way to make samosa dough using a readily available staple. I’m not giving away the rest of her secret on this blog – you’ll have to go to her class or buy her book for that; however, suffice to say that Shubhra’s method was original, successful and easy. The golden brown samosas that the class assembled and fried were excellent and even flaky and not even remotely greasy, which is a problem that I have seen with other samosas. Her method probably requires about 1/20th the effort and time required to make the dough from scratch.
Shubhra also taught us how to perfume cumin seeds and incorporate them into various dishes, including potato & pea samosas, basmati rice with peas, cadamom chicken (masala murgh) and a refreshing raita (yogurt) with tomato, cucumber and onions. The perfuming of the cumin was a common thread tying all of the dishes together. Although I’ve never been to India, my bet is that this is a ritual performed in thousands of Indian kitchens everyday.
My favorite food of the class was the combination of the potato samosa and mint chutney, a chutney that is made with mint, onion, cumin and cayenne. The sensation on the tongue was of fire and ice, of fiery spice and menthol coolness. This contrast was outstanding and mesmerizing, and it’s not something that you experience in other cuisines. The raw onion was strong — my table was in tears after chopping the onion, which may explain why the heat was so intense. Potato samosa and chutney is a dish that I am going to do again and again for my spouse, who used to eat samosas all the time when she lived in Africa. I can’t wait to fill them with the fresh ground moose that my neighbor brings back from his hunting trips to Canada.
Shubhra ended the class with the classic mango lassi. There is just something so smooth about the texture of the lassi, the light sweetness of the mango and the tang of the yogurt. Words can’t do it justice. It was a perfect end to a course that began with intense flavor.
Shubhra Ramineni has a wonderful way with people. When she wasn’t busy explaining the basics of each dish in front of class, she was walking from table to table and providing suggestions and constructive correction to everyone. I strongly recommend her cooking class and am looking forward to reading my signed copy of her new book Entice with Spice. Thank you, Shubhra, and thanks also to the staff at Rice Epicurean Market on Fountainview, who were approachable, friendly and very helpful. And thanks to my ex-British table-mates who were good company that night!