Situated outside of the town of New Milford, Connecticut lies The Silo Cooking School located on Hunting Hill Farm. This is a cultural kind of place being an estate and working farm once owned by Skitch and Ruth Henderson.
The twin Silos at Hunting Hill Farm are the home to the Cooking School and store.
I flew into Hartford, Connecticut and drove down to New Milford for a weekend of healthy indian cooking with celebrity chef, Suvir Saran. Since attending his 2 classes last summer (2010) here at the Silo, I have been inspired to change the way I prepare food for my family and others. Saturday night's class was attended by 18 students who came to get their hands into cooking. We prepared a veritable feast consisting of 8 dishes from Suvir's second book, Indian Home Cooking:
Bean Poriyal (Stir Fried Green Beans with Coconut)
Gobi Taka Tak (Cauliflower with Green Peppers, Tomato & Yogurt)
Baigan Kaa Bhartaa (Smoked Spiced Eggplant)
Kaddu Kee Sabzi (Sweet & Sour Butternut Squash with ginger & chilis)
Mung dall Kee Khicharee (My Grand-Uncle's Khicharee)
Hara Keema (Ground Beef with Spinach and Fresh Mint)
Dhaansaak (Spicy Squash, Eggplant, & lentil stew)
Turkey-Paaluk ka Keema (Ground turkey with spinach & whole spices)
We divided into 2's and took a station around the room. The students each donned an apron and washed their hands at the station. Each recipe was laid out with the required ingredients, 2 cutting boards and 2 chef's knives. We were instructed to read our chosen recipe at least 3 times, then to begin our preparation. Mary Kravec is the Executive Chef director of the cooking school. She and had her staff were standing by as the cleanup and fetching crew as the organized chaos (not really!) went forward.
I got to cut the onions with tears and all. When the class was first advertised back in the spring, I made an announcement on the bulletin board at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition(where I am learning about holistic health). My fellow friend and student Wendy Gonzales registered to attend. Suvir's introduction gave us all a point of reference about indian food and culture in general, then brought the current state of American eating into perspective. Americans have become unhealthy by eating foods that are overly processed, too much protein and have lost the ability to sit down and enjoy our food.
Suvir shared how the food of his country was not the same as what you get in most indian restaurants in America. "If we ate that way each day we would all be sick!", said Suvir. He talked about the use of fats and talked about his involvement with Harvard University in the area of food and nutrition. He spoke of Dr. Willett who has done leading research on how nutrition affects our health (Dr. Willett is head of the School of Nutrition at Harvard University and Professor of Medicine at Harvard. Willet was our very first lecturer at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition).
This is mise en place for the spicy squash stew with lentils. (I have made this three times and love the warmth and heat of the spices combined with a plethora of summer vegetables. The vegetables can be changed with the season.
Suvir also touched on how a dish with rice and lentils constitutes a complete protein. Combine these with yogurt and there is nothing else needed for sustanance. India is a nation of mostly vegetarians although there are parts of the country that have meat in their diets. The cost of meat is very high in India (as here in the U.S.) and it is being shown that we consume too much protein on a daily and weekly basis.
There was more flavor on this plate then you can imagine. Starting at the top and going to the right: Kitcharee, Dhaansaak, Butternut squash with ginger, Turkey keema, cauliflower, Hare keema (beef), & green beans. No bread was served with this meal.
With every meal, one should strive for a balance of flavors from sweet, sour, salty, pungent, and astringent. When these flavors are present a meal will be balanced.
As we all sat down to eat, Suvir answered questions spawned by our evening's activities. We talked about food and politics, where we are going and where we are. He quoted the late Michael Batterberry talking about how young America was as a culture. We have come together as a melting pot of cultures and through the mechanization of our food system have lost our roots. He said that perhaps America would one day contribute to the culture of food once it gets back to its roots. I certainly think we are headed in that direction and want to be a part of that change.
My message today:
Get back into the kitchen.
Eat and celebrate together.
Thank you Suvir for planting seeds of change in people's lives.