I was at Petra Kitchen, a cookery initiative which aims to give visitors to Petra a hands-on experience of preparing and eating Jordanian cuisine. The evening started with a short briefing, explaining the names of the dishes we would be preparing and the ingredients we would be using. We were then divided into tables of 8, with each table allocated their own chef.
“Not like that – watch me.” I stood back as Tariq took over with my chopping knife and within seconds had reduced my onion to pieces barely larger than grains of sand. After he’d delivered a few instructions to our group and we’d got the measure of his cheeky grin, we gave as good as we got and soon our table was enjoying a healthy dose of banter – just as well for a group of strangers standing in close proximity with sharp knives.
In truth, we didn’t really ‘cook’ any dish in full. Most of the work we did involved chopping and peeling, with nobody being asked to do much more beyond frying onions. The meat had been prepared in advance, and some ingredients (such as the aubergine for Baba Ganuj) were pre-cooked, cutting out several golden opportunities for us to mess things up.
I cooked alongside 3 American couples, and we soon shared travel stories as we sliced our way through several bowls of veg and salad. Soon enough it was time to taste the meals we’d had a shared hand in preparing, and in proper Jordanian style the portions we had made were far in excess of what we were able to eat. At the end of the evening we were all presented with a set of recipe sheets for the dishes we’d cooked and eaten.
Petra Kitchen is very much a local initiative, with ingredients sourced from nearby suppliers and distinctive plates made by local artisans. An evening at Petra Kitchen costs 35 JD (3000 INR), which includes the cooking, the eating and all soft drinks.
Glance over a few photos from the evening in the kitchen.