How to Roll a Falafel (and other stories)

2008.May.04 Sunday · 1 comment

in Life

“A waiter arrived with a tray of falafel, the one item on the menu that didn’t taste as if it had been scraped off the wick of Aladdin’s lamp.”

– Tom Robbins, skinny legs and all

Buenos Aires – Continuing on my educational journey about one cuisine or another or method of cooking, I noted in passing, about 5-6 weeks ago, that a class in cocina arabe was coming up at the Club Sirio Libanés, nearby to the house. I’ve eaten in their restaurant, and wasn’t overly impressed – good, but nothing exciting – however, it sounded like an interesting opportunity to see some of the techniques that go into the recipes, if not the recipes themselves. I contacted Chef Abdala of the restaurant, and he responded quickly with details on the class. Upfront, 350 pesos didn’t sound too bad for a four session, hands-on, limited enrollment class, as he stated it. Turned out, that enrollment wasn’t so limited, when I showed up on the first evening there were twenty students in attendance, and a few more joined the class at the other sessions, and a few didn’t return – so all in all it ran at about that number. But the disappointment was that it wasn’t hands-on. I clearly wasn’t the only one who had been under that impression – in the first few moments of seeing the classroom demo style setup for the course, someone piped up with the question about it – the chef’s response “well, if you want to come up and push the on/off button on the food processor, you can do that…”.

It didn’t turn out to be totally non-interactive – on a few of the dishes he asked for volunteers to come up and scoop one thing or another into a mold or roll a grape leaf, but overall, it was a demo class, followed by eating. Still, I learned a few tips and tricks to making some things turn out right, and I have the set of recipes from the class – some of which were very good, while others were simply okay – but given that I’ve got other recipes to use, I now at least have the methodology to help make them work out well. So hmm… do I recommend the class? I’m not sure – if you don’t mind paying 80 some pesos for a two hour session where you’ll watch someone make and explain how to make 4-5 dishes, and then getting a chance at the end to sample them – I suppose it’s a decent value and it was certainly interesting. And given how expensive some of the organized cooking classes here are getting to be, it’s probably not at all out of line – I may have just been spoiled by the private classes in cheese, preserve, and sausage making that only ran about 40-45 pesos for a 3-4 hour session… on the other hand, I certainly got far more out of those.

Over the course of the course… we learned the basics of: hummus, tabouleh, kebbe (both cooked and raw styles), fatay (arab style empanadas), babaganoush, falafel, salsa taratur (sesame-lemon sauce), various stuffed vegetables, rice and vermicelli, persian rice with chicken, chicken with honey and cous-cous (well, instant cous-cous, though he told us how to make the real stuff), a braised lamb dish (the last two not on the original lesson plan, but added in), and four different pastries. Promised in the upfront communication, plus on the list of recipes we received at the beginning of the class that we could count on learning – but never materialized – making pita bread, two other pastries, making both the drinkable and the thick styles of laban (more or less yogurt), and shawarma (though he did list off the marinade ingredients and talk about how to make it).

Met some new people. Got some ideas for recipes. Got some ideas for teaching… overall, I suppose, not a bad return on the investment of cash and time…

Club Sirio Libano cooking class

Club Sirio Libano cooking class

Club Sirio Libano cooking class

Club Sirio Libano cooking class

Club Sirio Libano cooking class

Club Sirio Libano cooking class

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