The gist of the demo (I'll get to the desserts later) was how to make a basic sauce that can be used with chicken, meatballs, eggplant, or whatever you have in mind. It's a practical idea, because the sauce can be made in advance, stored in the freezer, then combined with pre-cooked meat for an almost instant meal.
The procedure is spelled out in her book, "Flavorful Shortcuts to Indian/(Pakistani) Cooking," which has just been named the winner in the international cookbook division of the 4th Annual Beverly Hills Book Awards.
The simple steps, explained in a chicken curry recipe, are to saute dried spices, then onions, ginger and garlic. Then tomatoes are added and finally the chicken. At the top, Sahibzada shows the finished curry.
A buffet lunch of dishes from the book preceded the demo at Melissa's Produce. Naan breads and crudités accompanied mint chutneys and cucumber raita (above). "I feel no guilt using store-bought naan," she said. "That's what they do in Pakistan."
To season fruit chaat (above), she combines chaat masala (available in Indian markets) with orange and lemon juices, cumin seeds, red pepper, salt and sugar. It's "a lovely snack, a street food that very easily comes to your party table," she said.
Then the dishes were cleared away for the demo, in which Sahibzada emphasized that Indian cooking is forgiving and flexible. Ingredients can be substituted or left out, and procedures can be simplified. "Keep it easy on yourself. Don't stress about it," she said.
What gives it substance is ricotta cheese, ground together with almonds, pistachios, cardamom seeds, evaporated and condensed milks and whipping cream.
The other was moist, cake-like almond squares. These would be a hit at any potluck, and they're so easy to make. All you do is grind together powdered milk, butter, eggs, sugar, almonds and saffron, spread this in a baking dish and bake it until golden. The hint of saffron as you eat is heavenly.
From Lahore, Pakistan, Sahibzada has taught Indian/Pakistani cooking for more than 20 years and last year taught at culinary schools in Lahore. Here's what I wrote about her for LA Weekly.
Sahibzada's next class, featuring a vegetarian menu, will take place April 14 at 6:30 p.m. at Juan Bautista de Anza Park, 3701 Lost Hills Road, Calabasas. For more information and to get in touch, go to her website, www://flavorfulshortcuts.com.
From "Flavorful Shortcuts to Indian/Pakistani Cooking" by Farhana Sahibzada.
1 stick butter (1/4 pound), melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
1 cup powdered milk
1 cup peeled almonds, finely ground (lightly toasted if desired before grinding)
A pinch of saffron threads
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Grind the eggs, butter, sugar, powdered milk, almonds and saffron together in a blender or a food processor. Spread in a 12x8-inch baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into squares or diamonds.
Makes 10 to 12 servings.