Thursday, October 19, 2006

Oh Calcutta! Hands On

To show that I don’t just eat my way through Good Food Month, I’ve also booked into some hands-on classes. This first one at Oh Calcutta in Darlinghurst featured food from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Above: Yellow dahl accompaniments to the dumplings

Our mission was to make Mantu, spiced and steamed lamb dumplings, and Ashak, a poached dumpling full of garlic chives coriander and chilli, both of which are on the menu at Oh Calcutta. I was also lucky enough to test drive the Mantu at the Noodle Markets this week so I was looking forward to knocking up a few myself.

Left: steamed mantu after the class.
Basil Daniell, the bubbling personality and energy behind the restaurant, and his two helper chefs took a dozen of us through the steps in the cleared space on the ground floor near the kitchen. We donned our aprons and watched as a few Ashak were first expertly prepared and then we set upon our own bundle of pastry. The ingredients were pre-prepared so no tricky knife skills were required. A talent at dumpling filling and pinching certainly came in handy.

The session was extremely well organised. We had the option of cook and eat immediately or take home and try. MN and I chose the take home option. As well as copies of all the recipes we needed, take away containers were available, along with all the accompanying condiments, and large paper bags to carry away our treasures.
Left: Mantu as prepared in the restaurant.

We made three or four Ashak dumplings each and tucked them away between non-stick paper to steam later. Basil had stacked up neat little packs of raita, jackfruit chutney and sumac to garnish with after poaching. While the kitchen makes their own pastry for restaurant diners, we used ready made won ton pastry which is certainly a quick and effective domestic alternative.

Left: Fillings and spices for the Mantu

Next we graduated to Mantu, lamb and onion dumplings spiced with cummin, corriander, garlic and chilli. We watched as the lean lamb filling was cooked and spiced, cooled a little, and folded into the pastry.

Mantu are best made, steamed and eaten to order, so this time we filled and steamed a few to try straight away, as well as having a plate of Mantu as prepapred in the retaurant using their home made pastry.

We each had a generous serve of lamb filling and a stack of pastry to make up and steam for ourselves at home. A little pack of yellow lentil dahl (not overcooked so the lentils were still nice and al dente) came with this as well so we could recreate the dish as it’s served in the restaurant.

Left: cucumber and spices for raita.

The food we made was delicious and not too highly spiced, each with its individual subtle flavour. The two little delights were also very light and reflected Basil’s philosophy of lean, healthy fresh food. Before we left, Sonja the helper chef also showed us how to make a simple raita of yoghurt, cucumber, cumin, and pepper. After 90 minutes I had dinner in the bag and was heading home.

Left: Sonja whisks up yoghurt for raita.

The Ashak survived pretty well for a few hours, with only one succumbing to soggy pastry disintegration. Once the Mantu were made they steamed perfectly and with all the condiments provided looked almost identical to the plateful from the kitchen we all shared. I think Baz would have been proud of me.

Below: Ashak (on the left of the plate) and Mantu (right of the plate) at home topped with raita and dahl with jackfruit chutney on the side.


Anonymous jules said...

wow reb,
lucky you getting to make and eat those tasty lamb dumplings again..they look superb

11:01 AM  
Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said...

sounds yum but anything wrapped in wonton cases usually is :)

nice work on the garnishing effort too!

3:48 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

They were pretty yummy Jules - spice was very mild, and Baz is a real character.

Helen, the wontons were good but the house made pastry from the restaurant was much better. Less waterlogged when steamed or boiled. But the bought stuff was a good facsimilie. I took garnishing notes :)

5:21 PM  

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