Market Chef : Sophie Rahman
Sophie Rahman is one very busy, very passionate lady, to put it mildly. Since we’d spoken once before, I started our conversation by asking what she’s been up to for the past 12 months. I fully expected — encouraged! — her to talk about her projects, the cooking classes that I know she teaches and the like. After all, there’s a time and place for self-promotion and an interview with someone looking to write a profile about you is one of them!
So, what did Ms. Rahman say when I asked what she’s been up to? “Well, first of all I’ve got to talk for a moment about something that happened this past Sunday at the market. As I walked through the stalls, everywhere I looked, it was just bursting with not only produce, but so many wonderful things!” Her enthusiasm was already contagious, and we’d just gotten started. As she spoke, the idea and promise of a farmers market seemed new again, she made it sound magical. A junkie for her storytelling already, I needed to hear more.
“My inspiration was just ignited by the enthusiasm of the local vendors. The passion of cooking isn’t just throwing together a few items and calling it good. It’s an art form. It’s the combination of sight, touch, taste; freshness. This wonderful produce that we get. I really want to focus on that. I’ve been cooking Indian food for 30 years, I know how to work gently with spices, with great love. I produce dishes that are fresh, though the flavors are strong, because it’s just all about what’s new in the market. That chef and market connection is SO important.” And no doubt her demo this coming Sunday will reflect that connection, through and through.
When she isn’t busy making me wish I were wandering the grounds of a farmers market, Sophie Rahman is busy teaching people how to cook! Many, many Portlanders have invited her into their homes for the private cooking demonstrations that she offers through her website Masala NW. Particularly popular around the holidays, the classes are a perfect venue for connecting (or reconnecting) with family and friends, all while learning something new. And all that good food doesn’t hurt, either.
Last summer, Rahman hosted a dinner to raise money for a local organization called Our House that provides care to people living with HIV/AIDS. Last years’ dinner featured mango lassi, biryani, lamb kabobs and live Indian music, and she’ll be doing it again this year. The theme this time around? She’s calling it “Let’s Chaat”, and the meal will celebrate the diverse (and incredibly delicious) street foods if India known as Chaat. Click here to get your tickets to Sophie’s dinner and read more about the dinner series itself, celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this year! As if that isn’t enough, Rahman also finds time to teach cooking classes at Portland Youth Builders as well, as part of their fields to forks series.
So, what will inspire Sophie next week? What deliciousness will she grace us with at her demo? I had to ask. “It’ll be Fathers day, so I’m thinking meat from Deck Family Farm. The dish is called a Frankie (see the recipe below) — sort of a wrap. Mumbai’s best street food snack. A whole wheat roti (or tortilla) and goat meat freshly ground with lots of spices and mint and cilantro, too. I’ll make a side of a salad of grated carrots and raisins (see a recipe sneak-peak below!). Lots of flavors, all from the market. I may have sliced radish on the side, too, because I noticed they were looking great.”
Do I even need to say it? Be there – Sunday, June 17 at noon.
Gujarati Carrot Salad
by Sophie Rahman
12 oz carrots, trimmed peeled and coarsely grated
2 tablespoons canola oil
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon or lime juice
2 tablespoons raisins (soaked in hot water for 2 – 3 hours) optional
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
In a bowl, toss the grated carrots with the salt.
Put the oil in a very small pan and set over medium heat. When the oil is very hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop – this takes just a few seconds, pour the contents of the pan – oil and seeds – over the carrots.
Add the lemon juice and toss. You may serve this at room temperature or cold.
This stuffed, rolled chappati is Bombay’s most popular street snack.
Dried ground red chili (optional)
Oil, ghee or butter for frying
8 plain chapattis or flour tortillas
2 onions sliced
1 tbs chopped fresh cilantro
10 mint leaves coarsely chopped
For the filling:
2 tablespoon oil
1 lb boned leg of lamb, cut
into ½ “ dice
2 onions very finely chopped
2 tbs ginger/garlic paste
1 Tbs ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbs red chili paste (see below)
4 –5 tablespoon
Greek-style plain yogurt
1 – 2 tomatoes, chopped (optional)
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp garam masala
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
To make the filling:
1. Heat the oil in a casserole, add the diced lamb and cook over medium-high heat until the
meat is browned and any liquid has dried out. Add the onions, ginger/garlic paste, coriander,
cumin and chili paste.
2. Saute until the onions and spices start to turn a rich, dark color, stirring and scraping the
bottom of the pan frequently. Season with salt, then reduce the heat, cover and cook for 15
– 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. If the mixture dries out too quickly, stir
in a couple of tablespoons of water.
3. Stir in the yogurt and the tomatoes, if using, then cover and continue to cook until the lamb
is tender and a thick, rich-looking sauce has formed. Add the lemon juice, garam masala,
cilantro and mint, then cover and set aside. If necessary, remove any excess oil floating on
4. Beat the eggs with 3 tablespoons of water. Add salt and if you like, some ground chili. Heat a
tawa or griddle over medium heat. Coat it with a teaspoon of oil or brush with a little ghee or
butter. Put a tortilla or chapatti on the pan and pour a little egg on the top, spreading it over
the bread with the back of a spoon. As soon as the egg coagulates, flip the bread over and
coat the other side.
5. When both sides are golden brown, remove from the pan. Place a tablespoon or two of the
lamb mixture on top. Sprinkle with sliced onion, chopped cilantro and mint. Then roll up and
serve. Repeat with the remaining tortillas or chapattis.
TIP: To make your own red chili paste, snip a handful of red chilies into pieces, then soak in about
5 fl oz of warm water until swollen and soft. Puree in a blender with the soaking liquid to make a
thick paste. Store in the refrigerator.
At the market I served the Frankie, garnished with thinly sliced fresh radish, which
complimented the strong flavors of the spices and goat meat.