A little bit of Italy came to Banepa last night and it was delish!
Reena (Lok’s cook) has been keen for some time to learn how to cook a few western dishes, and I promised her I’d do just that. Looking at the fresh vegetables easily available here in Banepa, I thought Italian food might be a good cuisine to start with.
Now, I could have gone into Kathmandu and picked up a ton of specialty ingredients in Patan, but I decided if Reena were to repeat the meal in Banepa, the ingredients would have to be sourced locally at a reasonable price.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been keeping an eye out for Italian ingredients and lo and behold, I managed to source capers, green olives, red wine vinegar, olive oil, a can of passata as well as dried pasta in the stores across Banepa. Che grande!
Btw, I found a small bottle of olive oil in amongst the hair products. Olive oil is used here as hair oil, not for cooking. Who knew?!
Last night was deemed to be a good night for cooking Italian food, so with a little excitement in the air, Reena, Lok’s adopted daughter Shanti and Lok himself turned up ready to roll for the Italian cooking lesson. Krishna Maya stayed safely at the kitchen door, keeping an eye on things.
I set everyone to work: washing, peeling, cubing, shredding, smashing garlic into paste … the kitchen was all abuzz and careful note was being taken of every step I took.
Our menu (thanks to Jamie Oliver’s easy recipes!) was as follows:
- Pasta with green olives
- Italian greens
- Aubergine stew caponata
- Mushrooms in garlic butter
- Garlic bread
Everyone went for a second helping – a sure sign the meal was a big hit. And no pining after a plate of white rice either! The garlic bread was something very new for everyone and was snaffled in a jiffy with no leftovers. Leftover pasta with the aubergine caponata was packed up and taken home to Reena’s daughters to try.
All in all, I think we can call the whole cooking experience a success.
A few things I learned:
- Nepali greens are no replacement for what is needed for Italian Greens (swiss chard, cos lettuce, baby spinach, arugula, and herbs like basil, parsley, sorrel and fennel). These ingredients are just not available in Banepa. The dish ended up being good enough, but not the best.
- Ghee is not a good replacement for butter when it comes to oyster mushrooms done in garlic butter. Parsley was a key missing ingredient too.
- The fresh aubergine / eggplant with super-fresh tomatoes from Krishna Maya’s own garden made all the difference with the caponata, which turned out absolutely delicious.
- I suspect garlic bread may become a regular feature in the Lok household.
- As for pasta al dente …. white rice might now have a rival!
So what’s next? While I was scouring the local stores for the Italian ingredients, I noticed the makings of a possible Thai curry, maybe a satay dip too ….. stay tuned for the next cooking installment.