As I mnetioned a few days ago we have had some very interesting Pukka Cooking Class students lately.....one family group who are busking the world to raise money for UNICEF and embrace life wrote this on their blog......
I think they will be interesting to follow and as I mentioned if you are in the East side of Australia you could have them to visit.....the are happy to make a proprer English afternoon tea as a thankyou for anyone happy to have them park in their driveway over night.
A great family you would enjoy meeting.
Fiona is an Australian who met an Indian, Praveen, and together they run the 'Our Pukka Place' hotel in Pushkar. At their home, though, is a kitchen big enough to school a dozen people in the mysterious arts of concocting the perfect curry. We joined another group (also from Oz) and had a fantastic evening, first buying all the ingredients from the veggy stall on a street corner in town, then seeing the tiny 'hole in the wall' miller's shop where all the locals get their own grain milled into flour while they wait. The secret, you see, to the perfect chapati, is fresh flour. Remarkably, there's nothing else in 'em but flour and water, kneaded, then kneaded some more, before finally being soundly shown who's boss with some more kneading.
We all threw ourselves into chopping, peeling and prepping the veg, the ginger, chili and garlic that would, with the addition of spices like cumin, turmeric and coriander seeds, become glorious Indian cuisine. In the process of making our meal of Masoor Dal, Garga Mattar (carrot & peas) and Bengal style sweet & sour eggplant we learned such pearls of wisdom as 'dry spices first, until they pop, then wet spices (garlic, ginger etc.), then vegetables', and 'crush coriander seeds to make powder as coriander powder loses its flavour very quickly in the cupboard'.
The ultimate reward, of course, was eating the results. We sat on rugs and scooped the delicious food up with chapatis, not always perfectly round (made by us amateurs), but perfectly cooked over a naked flame by Praveen. It was unlike an Indian dinner party, though. If an Indian family invite you round for dinner they will all cook and serve you, as you are the guests, but not eat with you. After the meal you may catch your hosts glancing at their watches, waiting for you to leave, as only after you've gone can the famished hosts eat the leftovers!
Like all the best dinner parties, however, the conversation was fast, funny and interesting. It was fascinating to hear Fiona's point of view on life in India. Unhindered by the language barrier we have when talking to locals, she found herself bombarded with questions about all manner of topics. On poverty - "Does India have a welfare system?"
It does, but not like ours. The government looked at the dole system and decided it didn't work, believing it encouraged people not to work. Instead they've introduced a 'guaranteed 100 days of work'. The money earned in that time can, just about, feed a family for a year. It also means people can spend the remaining time trying to get their own farm or business off the ground, knowing they have 100 days secure pay.
The government has also tackled 2 problems with 1 stone regarding unwanted pregnancy and children's education. In some Indian cultures much store is put on having a boy, so sadly couples would get a scan to see if they were expecting a boy or a girl, resulting in elective abortions of healthy girls. It's illegal now, but still goes on. So 5 years ago the government started a scheme which pays 20,000 rupees (£280) into the account of a family who has a baby girl - and that cash is solely for her education. If she reaches year 12 (our GCSE year) she will get a further 100,000 rupees (£1,400) for her dowry. Remember that 'average salary' I quoted earlier? That figure of £238 may be a year or so out of date, but it puts those figures in perspective. It's a huge incentive for families who before might not have wanted a baby girl, and it also ties in nicely with India's 2009 commitment of every child's 'right to education'.
I had to admit that India's government sounded a little more forward thinking that our own.