Thursday 3 July 2008

back to school

Last Saturday, I took an Indian cooking course at Angela Malik's cookery school, which was a Christmas present from my fabulous husband. I did ask him for it, I hasten to add - it wasn't one of those "'Ere. Go and learn how to make me something edible, woman!" kind of things. I was somewhat hesitant about taking the course on my own and feeling a bit awkward, as I imagined it would be mostly friends and couples attending together. There ended up being another lone lady in the class, but in the end, it didn't really matter at all.

The school is in a beautiful Georgian country mansion roughly 10 miles from where we live. It was a fantastic day. I learned quite a bit about combining flavours and picked up a few tips on how to make the perfect (authentic) curry, and the food we made was absolutely delicious. We had spicy deep fried paneer (Indian cheese), crushed aubergines, a creamy coconut salmon curry, and vegetable pakoras, all washed down with some rose Zinfandel. Gorgeous. The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed, and the people who attended the class were great fun. Most of them were self-professed "foodies" (not the pretentious variety) who were deeply passionate about cooking...and eating. We were encouraged to go around and taste everyone else's curries to get a sense of how different the same dish could turn out, depending on individual taste. We all left with big smiles and full bellies, which to me is always the formula for a very good day.

Ice cream cone cupcakes On Sunday, we held our annual Canada Day BBQ, which again involved lots of smiles and bellies full to bursting. In honour of our beautiful girl's first birthday, I made these ice cream cone cupcakes, which were incredibly easy to make. That is, once you've done at least one test run. The original recipe was from the Betty Crocker site, which stated that you needed to put the cake batter in muffin tins and stick the cone in on top. The problem with that method is that the cone topples over as the batter cooks and rises. What's worse is that I used a mix for that test run, so I couldn't even eat the mistakes as the cake tasted so horrible. For the final run, I made my own sponge using Nigella's Victoria sponge recipe (food processor method) and it worked really well. My faith in Nigella has been restored after the buttermilk cake fiasco (seriously, avoid that one at all costs unless you like your cakes 1" thick and as dense as a steamed suet pudding.)

For the Canadian Content, I made butter tarts and Nanaimo bars. As with all North American desserts I serve to my friends, they were deemed yummy but incredibly sweet. I think there is a Victorian psyche in every British person that makes them outwardly denounce American puddings for their terribly uncouth decadence, but they secretly enjoy them. Put a New York cheesecake in front of a Brit and they'll claim it's "too rich" but leave them alone with it, and they'll be naked and rolling in it, giggling like schoolgirls. It's the only thing that explains why every British television chef has to apologise or make a comment about ingredients such as cream and sugar in recipes. "This isn't for the faint-hearted", "This isn't a diet dish", etc. Just make it, for crying out loud! We know that clotted cream will kill you, but at least we'll all die happy!

So anyway, yes. The desserts must have been enjoyed because all that was left was one lone cupcake. Paul made some gorgeous salmon, trout, ribs, and pulled chicken in the smoker and grilled up burgers and sausages on the BBQ. I made coleslaw and Greek salad to go with the meat fest, along with my newly-acquired aubergine recipe from the day before. The crowd must have been hungry that day because even the salads were gone by the end of it. We had a fabulous time; the dances to the weather gods were heeded.

More photos of the day can be seen here.

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