Petra KitchenEarlier this month, while in Wadi Musa, Jordan to tour Petra, the ancient Nabatean capital, I spent an evening chopping and stirring with fellow travelers and the good-natured teaching chefs of Petra Kitchen.

After a day spent scrambling up and down rocky hillsides admiring the “rose-red city”, our group was more than ready for a home-cooked meal. Petra Kitchen offered just that, with one little detail. We would have to cook it ourselves.

Petra Kitchen co-founder Wendy Botham welcomed us and introduced several local chefs and a housewife, our instructors for the evening. Event manager Ali reviewed the menu: a full-on, four-course affair, to be served in just an hour’s time. We were then sent to prep tables set up around the room, and put to work.

I ended up wielding a peeler and chef’s knife through an enormous bowl of potatoes, while others at my station faced equal portions of onions and tomatoes. There was a table for would-be pastry chefs, and another piled high with all manner of veggies for mezze and salads.

I’d peeled just one potato before my little group was summoned to one of the three stoves for a look-see: Shourbat Adas (lentil soup) was already underway, and we arrived in time to see the spices go in. Back to our chopping duties for another go, then we were off again to set garlic and tomatoes going for Galaya Bandura, a savory vegetarian dish topped with sauteed pine nuts.

Meanwhile, others kneaded and rolled out dough, and prepared the sauce for our main course. Oven doors clanked as trays of cheese- and za’atar-topped pastries went in to bake.

The scrum continued until the mounds of ingredients had made their way onto cooking trays and into simmering pots and serving dishes. The pastries came out of the oven.

Staffers cleaned off two tables and pushed them together for us to help prepare the main course: Kofta with tahini, a crowd-friendly Bedouin dish of ground beef, tomatoes and potatoes. Several of us got messy, and helped mix a hearty dose of spices into the meat and rolled the stuff into cigar shapes that would be layered into casserole dishes for a turn in the oven, while others prepared the dining tables.

Steaming bowls of soup and baskets of bread were brought out as we pulled our chairs up to the table, followed by salads, pastries and later, our kofta main course. After just an hour of Petra Kitchen’s organized bedlam, we tucked into a meal that was as good as any I experienced in several excellent restaurants in Amman and Madaba.

Wendy, a transplanted Texan, had explained earlier in her inimitable drawl, “Ya’ll are here to experience Jordan, right? Well, here at Petra Kitchen, we aim to show you how it’s done.  You’ll get good cookin’,” she had promised, “our chefs will see to that. But most of all, we hope you will have a rollicking good time.”

That we did, Wendy, that we did!

For more information, and to book your own Petra Kitchen experience, contact Petra Moon travel.

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This post is part of Wanderfood Wednesday, at Wanderlust and Lipstick.


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