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LCF Library spices things up for the Indian-food curious in cooking demo

LCF Library spices things up for the Indian-food curious in cooking demo
Woodland Hills chef and instructor Farhana Sahibzada will lead a cooking demonstration Saturday at 2 p.m. at the La Cañada Flintridge Library, using steps from her 2013 book "Flavorful Shortcuts to Indian/Pakistani Cooking." (Courtesy of Farhana Sahibzada)

Anyone who's marveled at the complexity of Indian curry — or wondered how to recreate the flavor profile of Pakistani kabobs in their own kitchens — won't want to miss a cooking demonstration coming Saturday to the La Cañada Flintridge Library.

Woodland Hills chef Farhana Sahibzada, culinary instructor and author of the 2013 cookbook "Flavorful Shortcuts to Indian and Pakistani Cooking" will teach participants how to create the base flavors for some of the most popular dishes on the Indian subcontinent. The free lesson, held from 2 to 4 p.m., includes a cooking demonstration and tasting.

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Originally from Lahore, Pakistan, Sahibzada grew up surrounded by the rich, warm flavors of her native cuisine but never took the deep dive into the culinary arts until she moved to the Los Angeles area and opened up a café, where she served Indian-inspired snacks to accompany coffee beverages.

"I wanted to turn it into a cooking school," she said of her café, which served as the location for several courses Sahibzada taught through Pierce College and later Santa Barbara City College.

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In the years that followed, the chef went on to lead demonstrations at Whole Foods and the L.A. County Fair, made it to the semifinal rounds of ABC's 2015 show "Grill Star" and appeared on a segment of "Live with Kelly and Michael."

Sahibzada's courses cover numerous aspects of Indian-Pakistani cooking, from the mixed rice dish biryani and appetizers to popular street food dishes and Tandoori chicken. In her years of teaching, the chef has learned most Western audiences are fascinated — and sometimes a bit intimidated — by the breadth of the Indian spice palette.

"Some cuisines use dairy, like butter, to make things delicious," she said. "The options in Indian and Pakistani cooking would be more spices. A little bit of ginger and garlic can be amazing."

At Saturday's talk, the chef will walk the audience through a simple sauce recipe that can be used as a base for many dishes and impart basic wisdom on spice handling. She said she prefers to keep the spice count to a minimum of three or four, enough to recreate Punjabi dishes that rely on turmeric, cayenne pepper, coriander and salt.

"I get a lot of responses from people who've had success with the recipes, who totally shifted their Indian cooking paradigm after being in the classes with me," she said. "That's very gratifying to hear."

La Cañada librarian Elaine Braddock said she booked the event so library patrons can expand their culinary horizons.

"The demonstration gives people a chance to try something that may be new to them," she said.

FYI: The Indian and Pakistani cooking demonstration takes place from 2 to 4 p.m. at the La Cañada Flintridge Branch Library, 4545 Oakwood Ave., in La Cañada. All are welcome, but tastings are limited to 20. To sign up in advance, visit the library or call (818) 790-3330.

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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