Last Friday, I was dilly-dallying on Facebook (as one tends to do these days), when an opportunity to do a Goan Masterclass at The Essential Ingredient at Rozelle the very next day popped up. I quickly emailed, without thinking too much and minutes later I was in!
I’ve often ogled the classes on offer at The Essential Ingredient, but I’ve never taken the plunge. I really didn’t know what to expect. My knowledge of the food from Goa was extremely limited. Other than knowing that they use a lot of seafood, I didn’t really know anything else.
So Marko took all three kids to Saturday morning soccer on his own, and I whizzed off to Rozelle.
Running the class was Valentine Dsouza (assisted by his wife). They run a company called Goan Cuisine based in Perth, which makes high quality pastes, chutneys and pickles. Their product differs drastically to anything you can find on a supermarket shelf. They pride themselves on making products that are natural, made from high quality ingredients and do not contain fillers and preservatives. This means that a lot of their products are made by hand.
Valentine gave a brief history of Goan food, telling us that there is a strong Portuguese influence from colonial times. Goan food is highly spiced, but not really hot with chilli like Northern Indian food. Valentines aim with all his recipes is to honour the memory of the food he ate that was cooked by his mother. He is very passionate about maintaining authenticity in his products.
He did say something that really connected with me and it reminded me a little bit of Heston Blumenthal’s philosophy about food being a total sensory experience. Though he tries his best to get the recipes for his pastes just right, what’s missing is the smells, the air, the visual feast that is Goa. He says that it all makes a difference to how you taste food.
It was interesting to learn that Masala basically means ‘mix’. Brick layers even call their cement mixture a ‘masalsa’. For cooking, you need a dry component, which is the spices, a wet component which is usually onion, garlic, ginger, vinegar plus you need something to release and combine it all which is oil.
Valentine cooked three distinct dishes for us. The first was a spicy and sour chickpea soup. It was very refreshing on the palate. The second dish was Xec Xec (pr shek shek) prawns which is pretty famous around Goa. Goan Cuisine have a paste that you can use to create this meal. It was so fresh and light for a curry. The finale dish was Xacuti Crab which was just phenomenal. Again, he used their own jarred paste, with coconut milk and simmered fresh blue swimmer crabs in the masala. I’ve never tasted a better crab in my life nor a better curry. All the dishes were served with matching wines which was an indulgent touch at 10:30 in the morning!
I had such a wonderful morning learning about Goan food. I picked up a trio of curry pastes and made a chicken version of the Xec Xec a few days later. I definitely picked up a lot of useful tips and I could taste it in the curry that I made. My husband really enjoyed it.
I’d definitely come back and do more classes at Essential Ingredient too. It was such a great way to spend some quality time on my own (which is rare).
So tell me, do you cook much curry at home? Do you make your own paste from scratch or do you prefer to buy one ready made?