The pink city cooking class.

We woke up in our Jaipur hostel feeling a lot more rested than the previous day, even though our Indian room mates enjoy 2am phone calls and loud conversations!

We also discovered that the usual bathroom queueing system that has worked in every other hostel is not the case with Indian hostellers. I may be standing outside the bathroom door with my towel and wash bag, but pushing past me and knocking on the door, then rushing in as the previous occupier rushes out is apparently the way this works. An hour after I planned to shower I managed.

Luckily we were planning a slow morning. Rooftop cafe for a drink and a snack, then a cooking class at 2.

We found a beautiful rooftop tea shop where we ordered a salad and bruchetta to tide us over until our class. It was all scrumptious and very peaceful. We sat and read until it was time to grab an uber to the class.

Our rooftop tea shop

We arrived on a bustling street outside of the tourist area, as we stepped out of the uber a man immediately asked if we were for the cooking class and walked us down a side street to his home.

Shoes off, up some stairs and into a beautiful clean open space with sofas, dinner table, work surface and gas burners. We sat and chatted with the son, who was going to be helping his mum with translation and teaching.

The family started the school 2 years ago after a French couple who had been staying with them (they’re also a homestay) suggested it. They’re now number 1 on trip advisor and always busy.

Dimple, the mother, then joined us. Dimple is extremely gentle and kind natured, her only English is ‘turn’ ‘chop’ ‘stop’ ‘more’.

First we made pakoras, we mashed potatoes, added spices, chilli, jeera, chaat masala, salt, coriander and mixed it all together. Then a batter is made form chana flour and water and they’re deep fried in sunflower oil.

Dimple then brought out home made paneer, their family has a small farm, which was the freshest lightest paneer we’d tasted, which was also then deep fried in chana flour.

The sheer quantity would have done me for dinner. The moment they were done (dimple had continually said turn, stop, more, until they looked perfect) we were given the instruction eat. We both apparently forgot we’d just fished them out boiling oil!

Once they had cooled down we tried again. Yum. But we couldn’t eat them on their own. They needed chai.

Water brought to the boil, chai spices added. Add milk, sugar and tea leaves. Heat up, down, up, down, up, down. Strain. Drink. Burn your mouth. Wait. Drink. Yum.

The masala used in the chai was different to the others. They had made it themselves, when we asked how to get it, the answer was somewhat lost in translation so we’ll have to figure that out one way or another!

We sat down with our pakoras and chai and realised the bruchetta was a mistake! I was quite worried about wasting food, but I’d read somewhere that it all gets eaten. We spoke to the son about this. All the food we don’t eat is given the the poor children on the street and in neighbouring areas. As he said, Indians always make to much food, it’s better to have left overs than hungry guests. But food is never wasted. There are always mouths to feed.

We were meant to be making 3 curries, but we’d asked if one could be swapped for chana masala. They were happy to oblige, but added it as an extra, saying that the others shouldn’t be missed!

We started making a daal fry and butter paneer. The daal was done in a pressure cooker as we were low on time. Both start with the three main spices, mustard, jeera and fenugreek. Half a teaspoon of each goes in every dish. Rinsed lentils, tomatoes and fried onions went into the pressure cooker, and we then blended chilli, ginger, tomato, onion and SO much garlic for the butter paneer.

Then we made a similar base for chana masala and Gobi, fried in the same spices with fresh tomato and chili. The chana also went in the pressure cooker and took quite some time, the chickpeas were soaked overnight but still quite hard.

Then basmati jeera. This was excellent. Ghee, onions, bay leaf and jeera all fried, then basmati and water added.

I’d been looking forward to the next step. Chipatti! It’s so simple, just gram flour and water. We mixed and kneaded them together. I was told I was rubbish. Gregor did really well. Then it was left to prove for a whole whilst we spoke to dimples husband, who was planning to start a cycling tour in town. He also apologies for all the phone calls that were being taken/ignored. It turned out that it was the first day of the families celebration of Holi. Every afternoon for a month a family would host a festival for Krishna in their house and the first one was today at dimples sisters. I think they were probably rushing our course slightly to make sure they made it, it was clearly important.

Once the dough had proved we began to roll the chipatti, here I was told I was doing well, Gregor not so much! Once rolled they’re heated on a flat iron pan, then put straight onto the gas flame, the chipatti then balloons up, if you’re me, not if you’re Gregor, and it’s turned a few times on the flame, slathered in ghee, done.

I quite like that it’ll take both Gregor and I working as a team to make a good chipatti. 🙂 I also think we’ll skip the ghee at home. Indian food is so rich, and plain chipattis suit us better.

We made a few parathas by either grating paneer or using the pakora Aloo mix, putting it in the centre of a raw chipatti, bunching it up into a ball and rolling it out. Fried in ghee, and served. So much ghee.

Then it was time to eat. It was a feast. Even though every dish had the same base they were all so different! The son joined us for some food but no one else ate. I think both Gregor and I were fit to burst, and dimple was still bringing us more chipatti!

Dimple then disappeared whilst we chatted away, in awe of the food we had produced (with serious help from people who can actually cook). Dimple then reappeared in a beautiful red sari, ready for the festival. We were invited to join and so we hopped in their car, 4 of us on top of eachother in the back and headed far out of town to a place we’d otherwise never have visited. I was glad I’d worn my nice skirt. Not some scrappy trousers!

We arrived at dimples sisters house, as the end of a small street large material was hanging over the tarmac that had all been covered in red carpet and flowers. A band of three musicians, a drummer, keyboardist, and a singer, were sat at the entrance to the house, and against the railing of the road sat women in saris of every colour, jewelry hanging off their arms ears and feet. The music was loud and in between the band and the women were people dancing. As we got out of the car all heads turned. We were far enough out of Jaipur that white people were incredibly rare. Every child came running, waving and saying hi, all too shy to come too close though. Then dimple waved us eagerly onto the dance floor. We were off. The women did their best to show me how to dance. I was awful. They gracefully moved their hips, arms doing the ‘changing the light bulb’ move as our friend Dave would call it, then singing along to a clearly popular tune which dance moves everyone but Gregor and I knew. Most men were still at work so Gregor was one of perhaps 4 men and found himself sat down watching the madness. Every so often the son would drag him back out of his comfort zone where he’d dance (quite well I thought) a foot and a half above everyone else.

We were pulled for selfies left right and centre, then the youngest niece of dimples decided it was time to rub all the pink powder on my face together, much to her amusement. She must have been 6? 7? But she was bold. Grabbing my hand I was pulled to dance with her, we were of a much similar ability than I was with the adults, and slowly more children gained confidence in approaching the gigantic white woman and soon we were holding hands in a circle dancing. Then the teenagers would drag me away to dance and selfie with them, the nice would grab my hand but she was shooed by the older girls, who were then shooed by the mothers and older women who took me to dance with them. One woman in particular was going an excellent job of teaching me moves and we went for a spin that would have fitted in perfectly at a ceilidh, then a larger older woman shooed her away and pulled me to sit next to her. A grandmother of the group, who was asking me many questions in Hindi, a few we’re translated and we had a ball. She grabbed my chin and head blessing me and smiling until I was told that I must dance again as it was the last dance.

Taken by dimples son

There were three last dances.

Then we all queued to give our respects to Krishna , waving a flame in front of his painting and scooping above the fire and brushing it over our heads.

Then someone, thankfully, gave me a chair. Puggled. Time for chai and small snacks as we watched the whole street be undressed and return to its old tarmac self.

I don’t think I stopped smiling. Gregor says I looked incredibly un-graceful next to the locals. I was a foot taller than most and looked rediculous. I’m pretty sure everyone was laughing at me, but there was also a lot of love.

We knew today would be good, but we didn’t realise how good it was going to become, we were both on a high from the whole experience. It was 7pm by the time we were back at dimples home so we’ve headed back to the hostel, no need for any more food! And are having our first beer since we left our cycling group. Sat on the roof terrace of our hostel, music playing, fairy lights twinkling, happy.

2 thoughts on “The pink city cooking class.

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