Monday, May 24, 2010

Have Fun Cooking With Rohani Jelani

This is a much overdue post and I hate having to make excuses like being busy with work and the demands at home. Then again, that is the truth :|

Anyway, I have been very excited about this piece of stale news... recently (early last week, rather), I attended a cooking class by Rohani Jelani.

I found out about her when a blogger-friend wrote about her cooking lesson, visited the link that she provided and was sold instantly! ;P thanks, Izreen... the power of blogging, indeed...

Rohani Jelani is a petite bubbly personality who exudes an infectious charm. The moment that she came into the dining area where her eager students were waiting for her, I was totally enchanted by her small size and zest.

From what I read about her, she studied at the London Cordon Bleu before returning to KL and was employed in a commercial kitchen, slaving through back-breaking hours working in a large hotel. Through time, she made a switch in her career and became a resident food writer of a woman's magazine. I guess after awhile, it was a natural step for her to set up part-time cooking classes which I personally feel is a success story...

I mean, I went for a class on a Tuesday and was worried that it'd get cancelled as there is a disclaimer in her website which states that some classes may be cancelled if there are less than 4 students. It surprised me that she had a big turn up that day, 9 pax, to say the very least.

Since I am always such a stickler for time and totally hate the bad morning traffic at the LDP, I made my way a little early that day, to her beautiful resort-like cooking school in Sungai Penchala. As I was very early, the gates were still closed. Called them up and Wati, her assistant answered the phone and walahh... open sesame. Another student came just minutes after and we introduced ourselves to each other. I found out that Aishah, was to be my partner that day and we chatted non-stop. One look at her and she reminds me of my beloved cousin, Fida, who's residing in the UK for more than 10 years already *sigh... how I miss her dearly*

the pathway from the entrance leading towards the kitchen.

a neatly arranged dining table and a view of the spacious kitchen.

One-by-one the students arrived... we even had a Swiss couple who were so friendly and a reporter from the Star online, who was doing an online reporting about Bayan Indah, which not only has a spacious and airy kitchen for cooking lessons, but also accommodation facilities to those who need to get away from the hectic lifestyle and relax in its warm atmosphere (and, enjoy good food all day long!)

Rohani does her lessons according to themes. And I am not embarrassed to tell you that I enrolled in the theme, Kampung Cuisine. Yeah yeah... one may think that it is easy to whip up masak lemak and all that (and I believe I do whip up a mean dish at that) but I wanted to learn much more... I believe that cooking is an art and that one should be consistent with the quality one produces. More often than not, I work according to my gut feeling... a dash of this and a dash of that, some spoons or this and some cups of that.... I wanted much more. I wanted a proper step-by-step guide so that I do not have to worry all the time (since I am such a pain hehe...) and I would like for someone to tell me what I am doing wrong. I know that we could always learn from our moms but since my mom doesn't have specific measurements every time she cooked, I thought it would be an eye-opener to learn from the best in the industry.

That day, I chose Ayam Percik (spiced, grilled chicken), Nasi Kerabu (herb rice salad) and Masak Lemak Ayam Nenas (chicken and pineapple curry). I chose them because my family loves them compared to the other three dishes that were also listed under this theme. Aishah, my partner that day, chose Onde Onde (glutinous rice ball with palm sugar) instead of my last choice but since there weren't anyone else with similar choices to ours, we were given the option to whip up 4 dishes instead of 3. It sounded pretty okay until we were in our 2nd-3rd hour... and I'll tell you all about it later on :)

Before we started, we had a really wonderful chat with Rohani. I think she wanted us all to feel welcomed (and very welcomed, we did feel). She explained how the class will be like. She also said that many of us were first timers compared to other classes where she would have students who come by every once in awhile to take up different lessons from her over 60 themes! I could tell that Rohani loves company, she loves to be around people, she loves to talk to enthusiastic people, she loves sharing her passion for cooking with people and she's very engaging. It made me feel totally involved in what she was sharing with us all and made everyone aware of everyone else. She also explained on some of the processes and preparation that were done the way her team did and we all then grabbed an apron and a hand towel each before getting into action.

a properly arranged work-station is also key in the art of cooking.

moi holding a torch of ginger bud for the nasi kerabu...

My 'work' station was further inside and I liked that the kitchen was pretty airy... it was hot, I tell you, cooking and going here and there to whip up stuff which was explained clearly in the recipe that she provided in a folder but the atmosphere in the airy kitchen made it less stressful.

nice and airy, makes cooking so much more pleasant.

First up, we cooked Ayam Percik. I loved my partner, Aishah. I think we made a good team. There was good chemistry between us and she wasn't afraid to tell me if I had done anything I shouldn't have done. We were also both a little too cautious about the size of the flame on the stove that even though our gravy took awhile to cook, Rohani said our chicken came out beautiful :)

during the earlier stage - the preparation of the gravy...

rohani showing us how to peel the banana flower as our neighbour was doing kerabu jantung pisang.

While the chicken was cooking on the stove, we quickly went on to the next one - masak lemak nenas. Instead of chicken, we both got large prawns instead. Now, I know I always like to cook masak lemak at home and I do believe I cook it really well too... but through this lesson, I learnt the things I shouldn't do and Rohani scolded me in a joking manner on two things. Of course, I do think that if she could, she would have reprimanded me much firmly haha... but then again, she did want us all to have fun while cooking instead of being afraid to cook ;) in the end, the dish still turned out pretty tasty...

rohani thoroughly explaining how a prawn should be cut and the things that we need to have on our table top...

moi in action, frying salted fish for the nasi kerabu. aishah laughed hard when she found out i did a self-timer on my camera for this shot ;P

bending to ensure the herbs for Nasi Kerabu are chopped fine...

Next, came the ironic part.... as I mentioned earlier, my partner wanted to make Onde Onde, right... and the main reason I enrolled in this class was to learn how to make my favourite Nasi Kerabu. However, we discovered that I am not very good with knives and didn't cut the herbs as fine as how they should be cut. Therefore, Aishah took over slicing them herbs oh so finely while I had to move on with the next recipe as we only had another half hour before lunch. So.... you guessed it... I did the Onde Onde instead... and what a tedious task, as I found out later!

I know I've seen my mom done it many times before and I've even helped her put them balls into boiling water before taking it out after it floats to the top. But mannnn... I find making kuih very very cumbersome. You know, when you cook, it's like you take a little of this and that and grind and chuck them all in a wok bla bla bla... but this... the flour and the water temperature must be right to ease making a perfect dough. I was baaaaddd at that and Rohani had to add more flour and then even more because it was a total mess for me! Another student from the neighbouring group had to assist me as we were running late and Aishah had to help with the Nasi Kerabu from other groups but alas... the Onde Onde turned up ok despite all the drama. Still, if you asked me to make it again, I would give you a piercing stare. Ok?

my fat, juicy Onde Onde that tastes marvellous! ;P

Hmmm... then again, I think it must be a test from god since He knows how much the one loves Onde Onde. So I guess (and I am making a promise!!) that this year's fasting month, the Onde Onde shall come from my kitchen, not the Pasar Ramadan at Kelana Jaya hehe... *errksss*

We all then enjoyed the finale where everyone gets to taste everyone else's creations (I thought I took a picture of our Ayam Percik but that photo seem to have gone missing from my camera). We all chatted away and got to know each other even better.

moi looking oh so tired after the gruelling exercise in the kitchen haha....

Nasi Kerabu

Masak Lemak Udang & Nenas

Kerabu Jantung Pisang from another group...

Sebastian and Kaisa, shared with us their 'expensive' experience with the mangosteen over in Switzerland ;)

All in all, I truly appreciate this wonderful opportunity to learn while we expand our contacts. I think learning is a never-ending process in life and there is always so much to learn. I also admire at least one of them, who has a high-ranking position in one of our largest banks who took some time off work just so she could do the things she had always wanted to do. I mean, you may think that Kampung cuisine sounds too simple and easy for us locals but you'd be surprised how so many of us would jump at the chance of learning to prepare these dishes the proper way.

Rohani doesn't just teach us how to cook, she gave us valuable tips on preparation and presentation. It was even better that everyone was so lively and it helped even more that Rohani was quite patient with our quirks.

Aishah, Rohani & I.
They've all asked for my tips to posing in front of the camera hehe...

I came home feeling good yet highly lethargic as I kinda overdid myself after I swam for the first time in 2 years just the night before... and being on my toes for a good 3 hours in the kitchen made me hit the sack early that day.

I look forward to attending more classes from Rohani Jelani but especially her next one where I would be bringing my mom along, as a belated Mother's Day treat... that one shall be another memorable experience ;)


Paris B / Pink Parisian said...

Eh I'd LOVE to go for a cooking class like this! Next time can let me know? :D

toughcookie said...

sure, Paris! currently she doesn't do any classes during this fasting month but i will gladly look up her calendar again after raya. would definitely let you know :D