Last week my wife had an extended long weekend, so we decided to take the opportunity to pop over to Jordan for a quick visit. For such a small country, Jordan really packs in the sites – Petra, Jerash and the Dead Sea were all on the itinerary and were fantastic. Of course, in keeping with our theme of doing cooking classes in the countries we visit, we also managed a class at Petra Kitchen to learn a little bit about the local cuisine.
Owing to its geographic location, Jordan’s cuisine has absorbed many of the traditions from its neighbors – particularly Turkey & Lebanon. In addition to the always popular falafel and shwarma, both hot and cold mezzes (aka appetizers that are often used for dipping pita bread or salads) are quite common. Main entrees are quite varied too and often consist of stews and/or rice dishes with meat and various spices (such as cardamom, tumeric, parsley and sumac).
The Petra Kitchen cooking class was a little different than the last few we’ve taken in that we had quite a large group – 17 participants this time! When we found this out we were a little worried this might be a negative because with so many people it would be a challenge to get everyone involved. Fortunately, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. The folks at Petra Kitchen had their program very well organized and split us into 3 groups (each with our own chef) so we could tackle the rather lengthy menu we’d be preparing for the evening.
Each group worked on several of the dishes – we prepared the Baba Ganuj and Fattoush cold mezzes. We also took the lead on the Galayat Bandura and assisted with the Magloubah entree. To speed things up, the chefs had already done some of the more time consuming prep work like making the chicken stock and roasting eggplants.
For the most part we ended up mostly just prepping vegetables and herbs, but since we had our own chef (Tarek) guiding us, we had ample opportunity to ask lots of questions. I found it particularly interesting how several of the dishes were things I’d eaten before (Baba Ganuj, Fattoush, Tabouleh), but they had a distinct differences from what I was used to. For example, the Baba Ganuj (aka Baba Ganoush) lacked the creamy texture I’d previoiusly experienced. Instead the roasted eggplant was mixed with fresh vegetables and herbs, which I think I actually preferred.
After all the food was prepared we sat down to a nice family style meal with the other students and shared some great conversation. Well done Petra Kitchen. This was definitely one of the more enjoyable cooking classes we’ve ever taken.