Missy and I have gotten into a “tradition” of learning something new together on Valentine’s Day. The first year we started this tradition, we decided to attend a pottery making class. We made these adorable little clay bowls that we carved our initials into and painted red and pink. Mine literally looked like a 3rd grade art project, but the experience felt so much more valuable than any material item would have. The next Valentine’s Day we decided to do a glass blowing class in East Falls.
This year, since we’ve both grown a questionably unhealthy obsession with food and cooking, we decided to try out a cooking class as our Valentine’s Day celebration. Although we didn’t end up being able to get into one until March, it was well worth the wait.
This past weekend we attended an Indian cooking class hosted by the Free Library of Philadelphia in the Culinary Literacy Center.
If you live in Philly and didn’t know the library had cooking classes (let alone some free ones), you’re not alone. We lived barely five blocks away from the library for years and had no idea. I advise you now though to go to their website and look at upcoming classes!
The event, which was focused on Indian street food, was put on by Masala Meals. They’re a group consisting of a mother and her two daughters who created a project aimed at sharing their delicious (and extremely healthy) plant-based meals and spice blends. To add to how adorable it is that a family is doing something so meaningful together, the father and grandmother were sitting in the back of the class for support.
The class began with warm Indian chai for us to sip on while everyone washed their hands and settled at cutting boards placed around the room. The class was broken up into two parts that strategically coincided with one another; a demonstration on how to prepare Pav Bhaji, and creating our own Rajma Tikki. We began by making our Rajma Tikki. which is basically a kidney bean burger.
But, at the same time it’s SO much more.
Kidney beans, chickpea flour, shredded cauliflower, cilantro, and diced onion were the main components of the patty. My absolute favorite part was getting to mash everything together with my hands and feel no shame. We then added powdered suji (comparable to breadcrumbs) and their very own Sabzi MasalaMix spice blend. After brushing them with sunflower oil, they were put into the oven. The patties were definitely lingering in the minds of everyone in the room as we moved on to the Pav Bhaji demonstration.
Pav Bhaji is a dish that was explained to us as one that you would commonly find on the streets of India, and that you could make at home using a variety of extra vegetables you may have on hand. It’s a mashed vegetable curry that’s served with warm, toasted bread (drool). They do typically serve it with butter, but that can be easily substituted and made vegan.
What makes this dish so simple to prepare is that all of the vegetables will be mashed, or blended, together – therefore not much chopping and preparation is required. When I posted about Pav Bhaji on my Facebook, a friend commented and said “the Indian version of sloppy joe!” It clicked for me then why I was so in love with this dish. Sloppy Joe’s are surely an American favorite, but this cruelty-free, healthy, and more flavorful alternative had me wondering what I’ve been missing out on all these years! As we spooned the curry onto the bread and tried to savor every bite, we gave each other the look. You know, the look you give the person you’re enjoying a meal with that says “oh my god are you tasting how amazing this is?!”
You can go here for the recipe, but one thing that I’ll point out is that this dish, like the Rajma Tikki, also uses one of their spice blends: the Bhaji MasalaMix. These spice mixes were a genius creation by the Masala Meals team to take the guesswork out of which spices to combine in a variety of Indian dishes. One of my favorite parts of the whole class was when they passed around traditional Indian spices for us to try, explaining the flavor profiles and nutritional benefits of each. They also demonstrated which variety of spices to add to dishes in order to balance flavors.
You may have forgotten all about the Rajma Tikki that we put into the oven during the demonstration, but I can assure you that we didn’t forget. The aroma of the spices in the kidney bean patties mixed with the spices in the mashed vegetable curry was intoxicating.
The Rajma Tikki patties came out crispy and were held together rather impressively for being egg-less! We topped them off with some coriander-mint chutney, tamarind-date chutney, and cilantro. I could have eaten the chutney’s straight out of the bowl with a spoon and been completely satisfied. The tamarind-date chutney (my personal favorite) was rich and bold, adding a slight sweetness to the patty. The coriander-mint chutney (Missy’s personal favorite) was spicy and fresh, giving you just the right kick at the end of your bite. The addition of the fresh cilantro on top was key to bringing the dish together. We
At the end of the class each participant was given a recipe card and a sample of the spice blend to make Pav Bhaji; trust me when I say Missy and I will be re-creating this in our kitchen very, very soon.
Overall I would give both dishes AND the whole experience a 10/10.
Head over to the Masala Meals website to see their recipes, upcoming events, and coming soon you will be able to order their spice blends online!