Saturday, September 8, 2012

CSA Members Attend a Cooking Class with Mukti

Mukti's collection of spices
Twelve CSA members joined Mukti Banerjee, of Mukti’s Kitchen, this Saturday for an Indian cooking demonstration with the produce from this week’s share. After a very stormy morning, the group gathered in Mukti’s backyard around a big table piled high with vegetables and fruit. Mukti opened the lesson with a masala tea, a black tea spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, clove, and ginger. A few CSA members helped with the chopping of the onions, potatoes, yams, radishes, eggplant, and fruit.
Mukti sauteeing red onions for masala
Mukti began with a discussion of the Indian core spices – cumin, black cumin, mustard, fenugreek, clove, cardamom, mace, star anise, and cinnamon. The first five are combined to make Mukti’s “5 spices” blend.  Then began the making of the “masala”, which in Hindi means “mixture”. She placed safflower oil in a skillet and when the oil was hot, added the five spices and then two chopped red onions, explaining that she always uses red onion rather than other onions in her Indian cooking.  When the red onions were softened, she placed them in a blender, along with ginger, garlic, a whole tomato sliced in quarters, and a handful of cilantro. She pureed the masala in a blender until smooth, adding that red chiles could also be added at this point if a spicier masala was desired. In addition, this masala could be used in a variety of dishes, could also serve as a dipping sauce, and could be made ahead of time and refrigerated.
Vegetable Masala
Next, a cast iron wok was presented, and the vegetable preparation began. Mukti placed fennel, cumin, black cumin, mustard, and asafoetida (dark amber resin which comes from the dried sap from the stem and roots of wild fennel) in heating oil, and then added chopped potatoes and yams. These were sauteed for 5 to 10 minutes, and then quartered radishes were put into the mix with a sprinkle of sea salt. As the vegetables cooked, Mukti explained that the addition of roasted and then ground spices added right after cooking provided a great “kick”. In a small skillet, she toasted the five spices, and then ground them in a coffee grinder. To finish the dish, she added chopped red pepper and stirred it into the hot mixture, then removed the vegetables from the heat and sprinkled chopped cilantro and the toasted spice blend. Her last touch was a drizzle of ghee on the top of each dish.
Radish greens - almost gone!
Other dishes included a saute of chopped radish greens with garlic and black cumin, and a fruit chaat , which combined fresh chunks of peach and plum with chopped cilantro, freshly grated ginger, and a sprinkle of the five spices. Mukti said that honey or lemon could be added to the chaat as well for a different twist, and that any greens could be substituted for the radish greens.
After the dishes were completed, the group sat down for a tasting. All in attendance were amazed at the depth of the fruit chaat flavor, the freshness of the greens, and the delicious and interesting flavor of the vegetables, all of which were perfectly cooked and not at all mushy. Questions were asked, mainly focused on “what do I need to do this at home?”.

Mukti teaches private cooking classes, and can be reached at and

1 comment:

Zoya said...

Thanks for sharing photos from the CSA Indian cooking class. The food looks delicious!