Instead of exchanging gifts for our last anniversary, John and I decided to try something different and treat ourselves to an experience together. As we are lovers of Indian cuisine (both dining out and cooking it ourselves) we decided to partake in an Indian cooking class. This was John’s idea, and was originally intended to be a surprise for me, but he decided to tell me to make the planning easier (I was SO EXCITED!) John found something much more interesting than a typical college style cooking school. Through a little research, he discovered Michelle Peters-Jones a very successful local food blogger who is active in the Edmonton food scene. Michelle also happens to offer private Indian cooking classes. After viewing her very impressive blog The Tiffin Box, John and I were convinced that Michelle knows her stuff and that this would be a great experience.
We arrived to a warm welcome at Michelle’s home. After coffee and some time getting to know each-other, we got started. Through browsing the recipes on Michelle’s blog and some of her own suggestions, we had already determined our menu for the day:
- A garam masala spice blend
- Beef Biriyani – a slow cooked beef and rice dish
- Chicken Korma – a rich and creamy dish
- Masala Dal – a red lentil dish
- Veggie samosas – vegetarian dumplings
- Spiced rice pudding – oh how I love rice pudding
We started by making our garam masala spice blend, a very commonly used Indian spice blend. This ended up being an eye-opening and life changing experience for John and I. To date, we have always bought our spice blends pre-made. But thanks to the incredibly fragrant and fresh blend we made with Michelle, this will change from now on.
To make our garam masala blend, we started by dry-roasting the whole spices one-by-one, including spices such as star anise, green cardamom pods, cassia bark and black peppercorns. We then put them into Michelle’s Panasonic Super-Mixer-Grinder and pulverized the whole spices into a powder.
What Is a Panasonic Super-Mixer-Grinder you ask? Well, John and I were very intrigued by this powerful little device. Turns out these mixer-grinders are a normal part of an Indian kitchen. Depending on what attachments you have, these high-powered devices will cost you much less than a VitaMix. Among other things, they can grind your spices, make chutneys, mix dough and even juice fruits and vegetables.
John and I are currently in the process of shopping for a mixer-grinder. We have it down to the Panasonic Super-Mixer-Grinder and the Preethi Mixer-Grinder. Although the Panasonic seems to be the gold standard, the 220 volt device would require some adaptations in our kitchen. We are leaning towards the 110 volt but well reviewed Preethi. We look forward to making our own spice blends at home – garam masala, madras curry powder, tandoori and even the biriyani blend!
The final product was incredible. This garam masala blend was far superior to anything we had purchased at even the best spice stores. As an added bonus, Michelle assured us that the cost of the whole spices is very affordable, less then purchasing a pre-made mix.
- Starting with the heaviest spices, you must dry-roast the spices before grinding! This is essential as it will bring out the fragrances.
- If you don’t have a mixer-grinder, you can use a Magic Bullet with the proper grinding blade, or a coffee grinder.
- Store your spice blend in a dark area.
Of course, we aren’t finished here – next week it’s the meat and potatoes of the cooking course (or perhaps the lentils and rice?) as I take you through the other delicious dishes we made with Michelle.
I have posted Michelle’s garam masala blend below, but you can click here to view her post and recipe directly on her website. In fact, if you have the urge to try your hand at some Indian cuisine, I would suggest checking out her website www.thetiffinbox.ca.
To view the next post with all of the wonderful dishes we cooked in our Indian cooking class, clike here:
Chicken Korma and Indian Cooking Class
Click here for the printable word version of the recipe:
By Michelle Peters-Jones
2 star anise
1 tablespoon cassia bark
1 teaspoon green cardamoms
½ tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 pods black cardamom, seeds only
½ tablespoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon mace
1 ½ tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 – 4 dried bay leaves
Heat a heavy based pan until it is very hot.
Dry roast the whole spices (except for the nutmeg), in the order listed (essentially, the heavier spices first, then moving on to the more delicate ones) and remove to a bowl.
Let the spices cool completely, then blend to a fine powder in a spice grinder or an old coffee grinder. If the spices don’t blend down completely, sieve them, and then blend the coarse leftovers again.
Store in an airtight tin, away from direct sunlight.