It wasn’t long after Arvinda Chauhan opened an Indian cooking school that word got out that the school, which concentrated on healthy gourmet classes, was a must for Canadians wanting to broaden their culinary horizons.
“When my mom started her cooking school we used to run an eight-week Indian beginners’ workshop,” says Chauhan’s daughter and partner Preena.
The course at the Oakville, Ont., school covered all the components of an Indian meal from flatbreads, to condiments, lentils, beans and vegetables, she explains.
“The last week of the course we would hold a graduation and have the participants make a favourite recipe,” says Chauhan.
“We realized that we were covering so many recipes in this eight-week course that we decided to put them all together in a cookbook,” she adds.
The result is Healthy Gourmet Indian Cooking by Arvinda and Preena Chauhan (self-published, $20 paperback, plus shipping).
“That then became a six-week beginners’ course and now we run one- and two-day intensive workshops and we give the students the cookbook in the class,” she says.
Arvinda says that from the beginning, when the pair started the school 17 years ago, “we understood our time-pressed students needed to learn how to whip up great Indian meals quickly or with fewer steps without having to compromise authenticity and taste.”
The cookbook features a chapter entitled “The Indian Spice Box,” which explains the spices and ingredients most commonly used in the country’s cuisine.
Another chapter lays out the basic utensils required in the Indian kitchen, one of which is a pressure cooker to cook curries, lentils and beans.
As dairy products are very much a part of Indian cuisine, the Chauhans give instructions on preparing organic milk paneer (homemade Indian cheese), ghee (clarified butter) and organic homemade yogurt (curd or dahi).
On the commercial side, the pair has developed a line of ingredients for Indian cuisine called Arvinda’s. However, generic blends can be substituted for the Indian spices called for in most of the recipes in the book.
Here is a recipe from the book for Masoor Dal or Red Lentil Curry, which the authors call “comfort food at its best.”
Red Lentil Curry
250 ml (1 cup) red split lentils
750 ml (3 cups) water (more if necessary)
15 ml (1 tbsp) ghee or butter
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
5 ml (1 tsp) salt or salt to taste
10 ml (2 tsp) ground cumin and coriander mix
2 ml (1/2 tsp) garlic puree
2 ml (1/2 tsp) turmeric powder
2 ml (1/2 tsp) chili powder
15 ml (1 tbsp) cilantro, finely chopped, for garnish
2 ml (1/2 tsp) garam masala, for garnish
Wash lentils in five changes of water or until water runs clear. Place drained lentils in a medium pot with water and salt. Partially cover and simmer on medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until lentils are thoroughly cooked.
In a separate pan, melt ghee on medium-high heat. Add onion and fry until it becomes softened.
Add cumin-coriander powder, garlic puree, turmeric powder and chili powder. Fry masala until spices are combined.
Add cooked lentils to spice mixture. Mix, cover and simmer until lentils thicken.
This dish should have soupy consistency.
To serve, garnish with chopped fresh cilantro and garam masala. Serve hot with chappati or rice. (Chappati is a pancake-like unleavened bread.)
Makes 4 servings.
Note: Cumin and coriander powder mix can be obtained in many Indian specialty grocery stores or in supermarkets.
To learn more about Arvinda and Preena Chauhan or to order the cookbook, visit www.arvindas.com
Judy Creighton writes for The Canadian Press.