14 March 2008

Of earbuds, rolling pins and lighters

One fine spring (almost), I mentally prepared myself for a workshop on Indian vegetarian food. I've done a few other workshops and talks before. I've had demos of Indian attire, rangoli, Indian children and customs, and 5 other cooking workshops.

The cooking workshops tend to be the easiest. The format was always one curry (sometimes two) and rice, and we all sit down to lunch after that. The rice and curry workshops were rather simple. All the participants had to do was to prepare the assorted vegetables and watch me assemble the final dish, answer questions about spices and finally eat.

This one however, was the most interactive, as I was going to teach them to make phulkas. After making 2 curry dishes, the participants would roll out their own phulkas. In the flyer that went out, I'd asked people to get rolling pins if they had them, but that's a whole other story...

On the day of the workshop, I took along my rolling pin, and hoped that 20 odd people would not have to make chappatis with just one rolling pin in under two hours. Fortunately 5 others had brought their belans along, and we got off to a good start. Phew...

I spoke to soon. I'd planned to make baingan ka bharta and Palak Tofu. Unfortunately, the person who was in charge of local purchases couldn't find the big eggplants, and bought plenty of Japanese eggplant. So there was some on the spot improvisation, and with the same ingredients listed in the recipe, I decided to make a different type of baingan curry. No problems there.

The ladies in the workshop were quite skeptical about the use of spinach in curry. Initially, I had this idea of making palak paneer, but the co-ordinators asked that I use locally sourced ingredients as much as possible. I took the recipe for this particular palak-tofu curry from Mahanandi. When I asked her, Indira was kind enough to let me use the recipe and the picture from her post in the promotional flyer. Thanks, Indira!

As the curries reached final stages, and just needed to be simmered, I started on the phulkas. I rolled out one thin circular disc, toasted, and let it puff up on an open flame... to applause. And I was asked to do it again. After I made three, I handed over the baton.. er .. belan and asked someone else to have a go.

Mrs. A, a lovely Korean lady, took her turn, rolled out a chappati, toasted, and puffed it up beautifully... on first go... and every time she tried after that. Each one of hers was a perfect circle, and puffed up evenly. Damn, I can't remember the number of times my phulkas have been confused with khakras, or worse, appalams. Or the time we could use each roti and guess what country's map it looked like! I asked Mrs A if she used a rolling pin in Korean cuisine. But no, it was the first time she's rolled out dough of any sort. And I thanked my lucky stars that I hadn't had one of my off days, where I start with phulkas and after a a failed attempt or two, switch to parathas.

The ladies started rolling and toasting and flaming their phulkas. Literally. Mrs W figured out hers wasn't cooked fully through, refused to wait her turn at the skillet to toast it again, and very resourcefully took out her lighter and started flaming her phulka. No comments there.

A burst of applause every now and then meant someone got their phulka to puff up right.

When we sat down to lunch (just 10 minutes behind schedule) I could see folks looking at each other, and not quite ready to commit themselves to the lovely green of the spinach. I tore off a piece of phulka, scooped up some spinach and popped into my mouth. And fed some to my little one. When they saw that we didn't quite turn funny colours or start doing weird things, they too started to eat. And went "Oishii!" (delicious) with very surprised looks on their faces.

Just as I packed up and was leaving, Mrs K came up to me, and said what a lovely time she'd had, and would I do another session during the school holidays. And then, she had to know,
"But what did you want earbuds for?"


bee said...

dang. i thought you'd use the earbuds - as appetiser props or something.

Vani said...

Did you celebrate with a drink after that?! :) I still cannot roll out round chappatis and my phulkas NEVER puff up, so I don't even try to make them anymore! Glad to know it went well.
So what DID you tell Mrs K about the earbud?! :)

Alpa said...

i was readying myself for the big ta-dah! Oh well, maybe next time :) the class sounded like a lot of fun. I can't believe that lady who made perfect phulkas on her first try... i'm glad my mom isn't reading this :)

Pooja said...

That Korean lady must be a wonder, its normal to see people learnign to make round roti after ample of practice .
This kinda classes are fun to be a part of , specially as a head :)) .
i also want to know - what was your answer for earbuds? :)

evolvingtastes said...

Excellent write-up about the event, Vidya.

Vidya said...

@bee: next topic for click??? *lol*

@vani: thankfully it was not so traumatic. I ceased to answer questions about earbuds. i refer all questions on earbuds to the main organizers :)

@alpa: trust me, I was stumped. all those years of rolling a and toasting practice, and someone who's never ever eaten one gets it right the first time... painful, isn't it??

@pooja: no answer to that... being a foreigner with a minimal grasp of the language does have its advantages.

@evolvingtastes: thanks :)

Revathi said...

thats wonderfull... I am sure u would have felt jubliant... funny write up as usual !

TheCooker said...

These ladies got their phulkas to puff up the first time??
Very impressive.

Miri said...

Mission accomplished - congrats!! (even without using the earbuds;) )

My cousin always wanted to learn to make phulkas, so when I spent 4 days in December at her place I showed her "how to". I was very miffed when she picked it up on the first go - I mean I spent 2 years perfecting this art! hmph! :)