I went to a Vegetarian Cooking Class at Hainault Vineyard yesterday. Hainault, by the way, is one of my family's favourite places for lazy (and delicious) Sunday lunches.
The Chef was Kurma. I had done one of his classes a couple of years back and thoroughly enjoyed it. At that class he had us making Panir, and I've made it a few times since. So when I received an email from Lyn at Hainault saying that they were running a class with him I booked in immediately.
There were 14 students, Lyn, her husband Michael and Kurma in the kitchen. I was a bit apprehensive at first as to how we would all fit in the area but it was arranged perfectly.
We met at 3.15pm and after a brief "meet and greet" and a walk-through of the recipes we would be doing things got underway.
There were 10 different recipes - including Panier. The one I was most looking forward to was Hot & Sweet Eggplant Pickles. I love eggplant but tend to avoid cooking it as I never seem to get it right.
I read through the recipe (during the "meet & greet") and was perplexed at the line which said "Wash and dry the eggplants. Cut them into wedges, ensuring each wedge has some skin on it.", as I couldn't figure out how you can cut large eggplants small enough for pickles but leave skin on each bit.
Luckily, Kurma nominated me for the eggplant chopping task and I learnt how to chop large eggplants to achieve this. Oh, you want to know??? ... umm, it's really hard to explain ... if you really, really, really want to know, leave a note in comments and I'll see if I can do a demo in a later blog.
Here's the recipe for the Eggplant:
Hot & Sweet Eggplant Pickles
This tender and delicious pickle from Maharastra is simultaneously hot sweet and sour. Select firm fresh eggplants for best results. Makes 3 cups.
450g eggplants, about 3 medium
½ cup peanut oil
2 teaspoons finely minced ginger
1 teaspoon yellow asafetida powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
½ cup apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground roasted cumin seeds
Wash and dry the eggplants. Cut them into wedges, ensuring each wedge has some skin on it.
Heat the oil over moderate heat in a wok until fairly hot. Drop in the ginger and saute for 1 minute, or until aromatic. Sprinkle in the yellow asafetida powder, saute momentarily then add the eggplant, salt and cayenne. Stir-fry the eggplants constantly for about 10 minutes, or until the eggplants are soft enough to pierce with a knife.
Add the vinegar or lemon juice, and the sugar. Reduce the heat and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the eggplants are very tender. Sprinkle in the ground cumin seeds, and remove the pickle from the heat. Allow to cool then serve.
That recipe is from his website - we used raw sugar when we did it yesterday.
As far as I can work out the Nutritional Information for this recipe (using the quantities above) is:
The class was conducted in a fun and humerous way. Kurma gave as many people as were interested an opportunity to do the different things and apart from the circuit breaker blowing every time the electric wok was turned on, there were no major hiccups.
Anyway, after about four hours of cooking we trekked all the food onto a large table and sat down to a feast ... we started with a dal soup (this wasn't a favourite of mine - if I was to make it again, I would make it thicker and a bit spicier); BBQed asparagus with macadamia nut pesto (YUMMY); rocket salad served with sweet potato mash and the panier steaks (Panier pan fried with a splash of soy & sweet chilli sauces); roasted cauliflower with snow peas, cashews and sour cream and, of course, the eggplant pickles. There were puri (a fried Indian bread) and for dessert .... fennel flavoured donuts served with fresh berry yogurt.
The roasted cauliflower was divine. I tend to generally eat cauliflower (and most vegetables) raw, but I am definitely going to roast cauliflower in the future - and maybe do the whole recipe if I have time.
To accompany the meal, there were two Hainault wines provided - Forrest Fruits, which is a sweetish wine and a 2006 Semillon. I decided that the Semillon would go best and it was a good choice.
Discussions raged around the table, it was interesting to note that none of the students were vegetarian. Most had decided to come to the class as they loved cooking and loved food (or their spouses did). Two of the guys said that they had signed up for the class before realising it was vegatarian. I don't think anyone actually missed having meat at the meal, I certainly didn't. It was one guy's first ever evening meal without meat (and he was in his 50s at least) and he said that he enjoyed it.
We finished the evening with coffee before rolling down the stairs and home :)
Just a note: Kurma is now based in Sydney, he conducts cooking classes there, in Melbourne and occasionally in Adelaide. If you ever get the chance to do one, it is really worth it.