Spiced peanut and chickpea flour stuffed aubergines were what we had the pleasure of tucking into last Sunday for lunch. And completely delicious it was! If you've been wondering what to do with the pot of asafoetida that's been at the back of the cupboard for a while, a few spoonfuls of it makes this dish truly sing!
All thanks to Kuldip and Ankita who are now running AK's Kitchen - online Gujarati cooking lessons, all the way from Kutch. In pre-Covid times, Kuldip runs Kutch Adventures India, sharing his deep passion for the area he loves, with travellers and tourists. His tours connect people and enable visits to remote artisan communities, who are known for their extraordinary lifestyles and traditional craft. Kuldip has built relationships with these people over many years, so each visit is insightful, respectful and feels like being welcomed by old friends. His tours also explore the incredible rich wildlife and landscapes of the area and are planned according to your interests. It was visiting the area with Kuldip in 2015 - and becoming completely besotted with it - that led to the creation of the Artisan Crafted range at the Handloom Room today.
AK's Kitchen has been created in response to a lack of travel during the pandemic. Instead Kuldip and his wife Ankita are facilitating a sensory journey through the food culture of the region. They have a long list of vegetarian meals to choose from, and we plumped for the stuffed aubergines this time. We had a cooking lesson when we were in India, but this online experience was a revelation of flavour! Heating the chickpea flour, adding more asafoetida than ever before and eight garlic cloves resulted in an extraordinary taste sensation.
Not only did we cook alongside Kuldip, Ankita and some friends who also joined, we were lucky enough to have taken the class on the week of the first rain in Bhuj in a whole year. Kuldip spoke of their sheer joy at the rain and he also shared a very special video with us, that he had taken a couple of days after the rain. A chameleon had chosen his garden in which to lay and bury her eggs! It was an extraordinary burial ritual, where the chameleon knocks the soil with her head around the eggs to protect them. We are hoping to take another class - and maybe see the chameleon babies!
I would wholeheartedly recommend booking a class with AK's Kitchen, not only will you enjoy a fantastic feast, but good company and stories too - and as Kuldip says
"sharing food is sharing love".
You can book via Kuldip's Instagram page - where you can also see the chameleon for yourself!