Indian food, with its gorgeous colors and calliope of tastes in every single dish, has always been a mystery to me. I've enjoyed it at restaurants, both holes in the wall and white-tablecloth establishments, all around the world. But when it has come to home cooking, I've often been reduced to TastyBite pouches over rice. Not bad, but I longed for more. And fresh vegetables.
So I was delighted to take a class from Sudha at the Charlottesville Cooking School on Barracks Road before we left Virginia. We had a small class of four (the other classes I've been to there have been a dozen or so), and she taught us a few basic North Indian dishes and explained what ingredients to look for in Indian grocery stores.
We made a dry dal, paneer, rice and chipatti bread.
Sudha taught mostly by doing, and she chopped vegetables into the pans as she cooked, much like my grandmother did, not in tiny chef dice but in big, hearty chunks. Lest you think she was from another era, she used a MagicBullet blender for her sauces.
I wish I had the recipes to pass on, but really, recipes are not the point. Spices and technique and practice are. But I am happy I bought a spice tin like Sudha had; having all the basic spice on hand, not in a bunch of lined-up jars, so I can add a little or a pinch more as I cook, has made a change in how I cook, and not just Indian dishes, either.