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Lunch Express – An Hour in India

15 October 2008 3,079 views 6 Comments

chutneys_papadumsToday Megan and I stole away from work for an hour to participate in a “lunch express” class at Whole Foods Culinary Center. We won the time entry drawing at the last staff meeting so our company actually paid for the class — only $18/person.

Our teacher, Shefaly Ravula, has roots in multiple parts of India and has been cooking and teaching regional Indian cuisine for several years.
We filed into the classroom and sat in rows where we enjoyed a full meal while learning how to prepare a menu of mostly Southern Indian dishes. These included Cilantro-Mint and Tamarind-Date Chutneys with Papadums, Andhra Chicken Curry with Tomato Basamati Rice, and Gulab Jamun Sundaes.
chxcurry_tomatobasamatiriceShefaly dropped so much knowledge on us during that short hour! We learned that most of the Indian food that we are accustomed to in the U.S. is from Northern India. The practice of serving yogurt with spicy dishes cuts down some of the heat (Shefaly makes her own yogurt). The crispy papadam is made from lentils and can be fried or dry roasted over an open flame. Tamarind-Date Chutney is a delicious accompaniment to a peanut-butter sandwich (I have to try this). Southern Indian cooking tends to be less cream-based than Northern Indian. That is why the chicken curry recipe we learned does not include any milk. Indian cooks keep their beautiful spices in a Masala Box kept next to the stove.

Shefaly told us we can buy Indian spices and products at two grocers in Austin:

masala spice boxTaj Grocer – Lamar and Rundberg
MGM Indian Foods – Rich Creek Plaza on Burnet Road (South of W. Anderson)
Shefaly’s favorite Austin Indian restaurants:
Swad – Pan-Indian vegetarian
Bombay Express – South Indian vegetarian
Clay Pit – Northern Indian with great appetizers/mussels

Gulab Jamun Sundaes

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes plus at least 2 hours soak time
Serves: 10, 2 per person
Simple syrup:
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups water
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. crushed saffron (optional)
Gulab jamuns:
3/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
Canola oil for deep frying (has a lower smoke point than other oils)
Vanilla ice cream or Pistachio ice cream (we were served delicious Whole Foods pistachio gelato)
1/4 cup chopped toasted pistachios
shefaly ravula
Make your simple syrup: combine sugar and water in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring frequently. Add cardamom and mix well. Lower heat and keep at a constant simmer. The syrup will be thin initially but will thicken over time.
Combine Milk Powder, flour, and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl. Add heavy cream. Using hands or spatula, mix well. if the dough is too dry, add a little more cream. The dough ball will be sticky. Place dough on a smooth floured surface. Roll evenly to coat with flour. Wash hands now and the dough will now be easy to work with. In the meantime, heat oil in a deep fry pan on medium-low.
Divide dough in half, and divide each half into 2 more halves so that you have 4 balls of dough. With your hands, roll dough into logs and begin pinching off small 1-inch size balls from each of the 4 balls. You should be able to get 5 small rounds from each of the 4 dough balls. Roll each 1-inch ball between your palms until they are fairly smooth, using light pressure. Set all 20 dough balls to the side.
Check your oil. The key to gulab jamuns is that they have to be slowly fried at 325 degrees F. If the heat is too high, your gulab jamuns will be dark brown on the outside and undercooked on the inside. Test a small piece of your dough or one entire dough ball. If the dough rises to the top and becomes deep brown right away your heat is too high. It should take 4-5 minutes for the gulab jamuns to fry.gulabjamunsundaes
Fry all the dough balls in batches, rolling the balls evenly in the oil. They will double in size and should become a deep caramel brown by the end of 5 minutes. Drain on a paper towel briefly.

In batches, dunk the dough balls in hot syrup, leaving room for expansion. The balls will immediately double in volume, absorbing the syrup. Ladle gulab jamuns into a deep serving bowl and pour syrup over them. Let them soak for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight (they will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days).

When serving, bring to room temperature or warm slightly. Place 2 gulab jamuns in a bowl. Pour a spoonful of syrup over them. Add a scoop of ice cream and garnish with pistachios. YUM!
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  • Sinda

    Have you tried the Whip In?


    They’ve got vegetarian Indian food, Gujarati, and I’ve heard great reviews – it’s on my list to get to, some day…but I did get to go visit the Clay Pit last week, it’s one of my faves.

  • Jodi

    Thanks for the tip, Sinda! I definitely need to try the Indian at the Whip In one of these days.

  • Conner

    Dude. I challenge you to an Indian food eat off. The first one to cry curry loses. You just name the place and time!

  • Anonymous

    Technically what this lady makes is not yoghurt but ‘curds’. The former does not have live cultures, the latter does.

  • Mohit

    Great write up. I’ll have to check out Shefaly’s class!

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