Cooking Club

A few weeks ago we attended an event started by one of our new friends here, Cooking Club.  Steve and I both enjoy cooking and I thought it would be interesting to see how others were handling cooking here.  We've had some stress finding certain ingredients and getting used to a new variety or lack of variety as compared to a typical Wal Mart in the States.  We made two main dishes, a side, and a dessert.  The two main dishes were Tikka Masala and Ratatouille neither of which we had made before.  I've considered Ratatouille in the past, but considered the all vegetable dish to not be up my alley.  The side dish was rice pilaf, which we had made before.  The dessert was Reine de Saba cake, a great chocolate and almond cake.  In regards to cooking, I wouldn't say we learned any new techniques, but it was so much fun be around so many people.  I'd say there were easily 40ish people there.  One of the tricky parts about the event was the location.  The single (as in non married) students live 2 or 3 to an apartment so their kitchens are a really nice size where as married students get pretty small kitchens by comparison.  However, single students can only have students of the same gender in their apartment, whereas married students don't have that restriction.  So the event ended up being hosted at the apartment of one of the other American couples.  The small kitchen was a bit of a hassle, but it was still a lot of fun.  Hopefully, we'll have another event here in the upcoming weeks as the group didn't meet because of the Eid holidays.

Recipes, in case you're interested:

Tikka Masala
Serves 4-6
Prep/Cook Time: 30-40 minutes

2-4 Chicken breasts (or leave out)
1 cup thick plain yogurt
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs butter (28 g)
28 oz Tomatoes, diced (790 g)
1 yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs Ginger, minced or grated
3 Tbs Garam Masala spice mix
1 Tbs Cumin, ground
1 Tbs Coriander, ground
1 Tbs Sugar
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
Optional: 4 Tbs cilantro, chopped

1. Season and press chicken with salt, pepper, coriander, and cumin on both sides.  Brush both sides liberally with yogurt.
2. Broil chicken near top until done and slightly blackened about 10 minutes for each side.
3. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat and saute diced onion until it softens, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, ginger, and salt and continue to saute for 2 minutes.
4. Add Garam Masala and tomatoes, then stir.  Add sugar and let cook 5 minutes.  Add cayenne pepper.
5. Chop broiled chicken into 1" pieces and add to pan.  Add cilantro if desired.
6. Add heavy cream and stir.  Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
7. Serve over Rice Pilaf

Serves 4-6
Prep/Cook Time: 1 hour

3 Tbs Olive Oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
4 medium tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup Dry red wine or bouillon
1 Tbs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
1/4 cup fresh basil or 2 tsp dried
1 medium eggplant, peeled and chopped 1" pieces
3 small zucchini, 1/2" thick slices
1 large green pepper, 1" squares
1 large red peper, 1" squares
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

1. Heat oil in a large heavy pot.  Saute onions until trasnlucent.  Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
2. Add tomatoes with their juice, wine/bouillon, thyme, basil, bay leaves, salt and pepper.  Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
3. Add eggplant, zucchini, and green and red peppers.  Simmer covered for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.  Stir occasionally.
4. Stir and serve.

Reine de Saba Cake
Serves 6-8
Prep/Cook time: 40-50 minutes

Round cake pan, 8" diameter, buttered and dusted with flour
4 oz semisweet chocolate (113 g)
2 Tbs coffee or rum
8 Tbs butter, unsalted (113 g)
2/3 cup Sugar + 1 Tbs
3 eggs, separated
1/3 cup Almonds, pulverized
1/4 tsp Almond Extract
1/2 cup cake flour

Chocolate Butter Icing:
2 oz semi sweet chocolate (56 g)
2 Tbs Coffee or rum
6 Tbs butter, unsalted (85 g)
(Follow Step 1 then cool slightly before spreading)

1. Place chocolate and coffee/rum into double boiler and heat until chocolate begins to melt, then remove and stir until combined.
2. Cream butter and 2/3 cup sugar until fluffy.  Beat in egg yolks until well blended.
3. Beat egg whites and salt in separate bowl until soft peaks form, sprinkle with 1 Tbs sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
4. Blend chocolate into batter, stir in almonds and extract and immediately stir in 1/4 egg whites.  Alternate adding flour and egg whites until incorporated.
5. Pour into pan, pushing batter to rim.  Bake in middle level for about 25 minutes.  Done when cake is puffed, and center is a bit oily.  Cool for 10 minutes, loosen edge then reverse onto rack.