The heat's in the kitchen

Bring great food and entertainment home with a cooking party

by Holly Crawford

We've all had one, and we've all been to one: a party that just can't seem to get out of the kitchen. Why not embrace the urge to gather around the heart and hearth of our homes, and plan a kitchen party from the start?

With a growing flock of foodies out there it is no wonder Arvinda and Preena Chauhan have expanded their business into home cooking parties. The mother/daughter duo, bring everything you need to host an authentic Indian meal prepared over the course of an evening cooking class.

On this night the pair arrive at the Burlington home of Lori and Tony Kafato, toting boxes brimming with recipe cards, cooking tools, foods and spices. They set themselves to work in the family kitchen, and in no time the makings of a traditional Indian feast are set out.

Party guests will each have a printed menu and recipe collection from the evening, so they can recreate what they have learned at home. Pots simmer away on the stove, so preparation of some dishes can be expedited during the party. And the counter; a delight for the senses spread with bottles and tins of richly coloured and scented spices.

Guests on this night won't just leave with a belly full of traditional home cooked Indian cuisine, they will have gained the knowledge to cook the dishes at home and an insight into the ingredients and regions of India where the cuisine originated.

Arvinda Chauhan arrived in Canada from her native India in the early '70s. Indian cuisine was not the popular restaurant and takeout meal it is today, but Arvinda had a passion for cooking and wanted to introduce people to the healthy, tasty cuisine she had grown up with.

In the early '90s, Arvinda launched Arvinda's Healthy Gourmet Indian Cooking School with a goal of introducing people to the world of Indian cuisine. While her classes focused on traditional Indian cooking, Arvinda quickly realized that her students were looking for ways to recreate her dishes more quickly at home. Enter Arvinda's Artfully Created Indian Spice Blends, combinations of spices made from the finest ingredients.

Derived from family recipes, Arvinda started by selling Curry Masala to the students in her classes. As time went on and the blend gained loyal customers, Arvinda's children ““ daughter Preena and son Paresh ““ wanted to expand sales of the spice blends.

In 2005, their dreams became reality and the spice blends were launched. Their unveiling to the public was at a food expo in Toronto where Arvinda enjoying overwhelming response.

The spice blends are now manufactured in a production facility in Oakville, where spices are roasted, ground, blended according to family recipes and packaged for retail and foodservice. The line has expanded to 12 products and are available at specialty stores across the country.

As guests arrive, as to any gathering, there are the usual congenial greetings and the passing of glasses of wine.  Women gather in one room to coo over a new baby, and the guys inspect the Indian beer that is being served to complement the theme of the evening.

It's a very relaxed and easy start to the evening, and as guests naturally gravitate to the delicious aromas emanating from the kitchen, Preena begins the teaching aspect of the night.

First an introduction to the large number of spices that can be required to prepare authentic Indian dishes; tins are passed, touched and smelled. And then on to the preparation of the first dish. Guests who want to get their hands dirty, so to speak, head straight to Arvinda's side to gleen her knowledge. Others simply watch from across the counter, or go on about catching up with the other guests.

As the appetizer course is completed and served (delicious Curried Red Lentil & Carrot Soup), teaching of the next dish begins and continues until an authentic Indian feast is spread out in front of us. The bounty in the Kafato's kitchen includes Mattar Basmati Pullao, Sambar, Aloo Gobi and the ubiquitous Creamy Butter Chicken. Chai Infused Pears with Cranbery Compote and Vanilla Chai Ice Cream will end the meal.

If you can stand the heat in the kitchen, invite your best pals to join you. You might just have the hottest, spiciest time of your life.