Friday, June 04, 2010
I couldn’t believe it when I read the email invitation – a chance to cook with Rohani Jelani at Bayan Indah...could this be true? Honestly, I thought it was even more surreal when I saw who the other invitees were...I couldn't believe I'd be cooking alonside some of Malaysia's most prolific 'floggers'? How can I turn down such a golden opportunity?!
Having been a great fan of Rohani for the longest time - well, she has left an indelible mark on me from the days she was food editor of Her World magazine years ago and I was lucky enough to own several of her mini cookbooks. Naturally, I have read about and heard of her cooking classes but I never had the inclination to enrol in any partly because:
1. I was lazy and somewhat daunted by the location of where the classes were held...
2. the motivation to go just wasn’t there. After all, her recipes have served me well over the years; I've attempted many of them and they always yielded the desired results.
But my curiosity was piqued and as serendipity would have it, I got to meet Meena of A Whiff of Lemongrass, Cheng Yi of Fat Boy Bakes and Jonathan of A Lil'Fat Monkey at a wine dinner just two days before our scheduled cooking session.
Thanks to Li-Hsian's detailed written directions, hubby and I succeeded in getting to Bayan Indah without too much trouble. The serene, lush greenery and verdant surroundings of Bayan Indah literally took our breaths away! We could even detect different scents of local herbs in the fresh morning air.
Since we were the early birds, one of Rohani's staff went all out to make us feel welcomed and told us that we could help ourselves to coffee or tea and cookies which we did. We prowled around admiring the well-equipped kitchens and work tables, the semi-open patio that serves as the guest seating and dining area, and the lush, sprawling gardens adorned with trees, shrubs and plants of all heights, shapes and sizes complete with a fish pond and old-fashioned wrought iron swing set. I suddenly felt like Alice in Wonderland all right; cocooned in this peaceful haven with a grey, plump snoozing cat, frolicking birds and fishes for company.
When the other invitees showed up on the dot, there was much merriment as everyone got acquainted with Rohani, Wati and Li-Hsian. After devouring the scrumptious Mushroom & Onion Pastry and Apple Cake laid out for us, Rohani took us on a tour of her double-storey premises.
The charming double-storey house is outfitted and furnished just like an exclusive, cosy resort. We all agreed that Bayan Indah would have been the perfect retreat for Martha Stewart when the American lifestyle guru was Malaysia recently. But it wasn't meant to be though such a feat wasn't from the lack of trying according to a visibly frustrated Li-Hsian. Oh well, Ms Stewart had no idea what she missed out on...really. Here's a sneak peek of the guest rooms and lounge area upstairs but seriously, my photos really don't do the actual place justice.
After giving us an overview of Malay cuisine and a chance to read through the recipes for our Kampung Cuisine cooking session, Rohani divided us into groups.
Together with Audrey of Audrey Cooks and Chris of Pure Glutton, the three of us were tasked with preparing Kerabu Jantung Pisang (Banana Flower Salad), Udang Masak Lemak Nenas (Prawns with Pineapple Curry), Nasi Kerabu (Rice with Mixed Herbs) and Ayam Percik (Roast Chicken with Spiced Gravy).
Soon the kitchen was bustling with frenetic activities as the three different groups pounded, blended, sliced, cut, chopped, tossed, mixed, fried, grilled and stirred merrily away.
Rohani was a fabulous teacher, generously sharing tips and tricks, and even chiding us in mock horror when she discovered some of the sliced fresh herbs for Nasi Kerabu were not fine enough to pass the time-honoured 'mother-in-law' test.
That was when I realised made the difference from trying out recipes at home on one's own and cooking in person with the sifu - you pick up on loads of invaluable advice, useful hints and nuggets of wisdom as the class progresses. Also it is a lot more fun getting hands-on with so many like-minded food/cooking enthusiasts around...every moment's filled with good-naturedly ribbing, endless teasing and a sense of camaraderie to ensure everything turns out well.
Doesn't the Ayam Percik look delicious? The bright yellow spiced marinade was so flavourful, it thoroughly imbued the chicken thighs with its aromatic and mouth-watering nuances.
The Nasi Kerabu looks like a tricky dish to make but under Rohani's guidance, everything seems incredibly simple. As expected, the end result was superb as these pictures bore testament to that.
Pick Shan of Babe in the City KL gets down to tossing the mixed fresh herbs and rice for Nasi Kerabu with pleasing results...and we followed suit. Needless to say it was well worth all our efforts!
Although it was my first time learning how the classic Kerabu Jantung Pisang is prepared, the salad was also ready in two shakes of a tail feather.
As we sat down to lunch, everyone couldn't help but smile from ear to ear as we savoured the fruits of each other's labour. Of course, we couldn't have done it without Rohani's team of capable helpers led by Wati who had done so much of the prep work ahead of time and then pitched in to help keep our work tables, used kitchen tools, crockery and cutlery clean. Thanks guys and gals - it was certainly one Saturday I'd remember and cherish for a long, long time!