Learning to Cook in Petra Kitchen

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Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

Andddd….that is what happens when Dalene goes into the kitchen to help cook meals. This is why I am the chef in the relationship.


I can’t say that I regret any of the decisions in my life, but I do wish that I had done one or two things differently. If I could go back to school and start again, I would probably enroll in classes for the culinary arts.

Before leaving Canada I had the amazing opportunity of being invited by my good friend Scott (one of the top chefs in Calgary) to join him in the kitchen of his restaurant to see what life is like behind the scenes. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but what I experienced and learned that night from Scott and his team has forever remained with me.

So I was eagerly awaiting one particular item on our itinerary in Jordan – a night in Petra Kitchen. Instead of just being on the sidelines waiting to be served, we were going to be preparing our own meals with a group. It’s no secret that one of the great wonders of Jordan is their delicious food, and I couldn’t wait to add some new recipes to my arsenal.

The menu at Petra Kitchen

We were divided into groups, assigned our menu items, and got to work. The smile on my face was that of a child and it couldn’t be removed. I was in my element. No other time has chopping onions, tomatoes, and peppers been so enjoyable.

Pete in his element

Prep ingredients

“How long have you been a chef?” I asked our group leader. “About a week,” he joked as he effortlessly chopped a pepper faster than anyone I have ever seen, all while looking me straight in the eyes.

Right….” I say, sure that we’re going to be having finger with our main dish.

But it’s not his finger that will nearly end up in the Baba Ganuj, it’s Dalene’s.

Uh oh!” Dalene laughed as her finger tip was now fully exposed, “that was close”. She put down her ultra-sharp knife and began looking for a piece of rubber glove in the mint she was chopping.

After replacing the gloves and receiving a lesson on how to properly grip the knife and chop, the rest of the prep went flawlessly.

The smoky, roasted eggplant in the Baba Ganuj smelled amazing. The scent and power of the hot peppers and garlic in the Galaya Bandura was enough to make everyone’s eyes water and attract them to come over and see what magic we are stirring up in the pot.

Dalene having a peek

I also happened to be in the right place at the right time, and was able to sample some of the Sambousek b’jibn (cheese triangles) and Sambousek b’zatar (thyme triangles) as they came out of the oven. They melted in my mouth. I hopped from station to station, seeing what other tips I could learn and what other foods I could sample.

To tell you the truth, I don’t remember eating much of my meal once we all sat down to enjoy it. But I know it was wonderful. I remember just watching the faces of each of the guests, and seeing their pleasure and satisfaction with each bite they took.

The final dishes at Petra Kitchen

And now what is in my arsenal can be in yours too. Here are two of our favorite recipes!

Baba Ganuj

2lb (1kg) eggplants
1 hot green pepper
2 garlic cloves
1 T. mint
1 tip of a rubber glove for taste
2 T. lemon juice
1 large tomato
1 medium onion
1 T. salt
2 T. olive oil
Parsley for garnish


– Roast the eggplants on baking dish in oven over medium heat for approximately one hour. When the skin is charred and begins to split they are ready. Allow to cool
– When the eggplants are cooled, break open and scoop out the pulp
– Mash the pulp with a fork until a smooth puree. Add the olive oil and lemon juice and set aside.
– Chop tomato, pepper and onion very finely and mix into the eggplant puree.
– Chop up garlic very fine and add salt. Stir this into the mixture into the lemon juice and olive oil. Then add this mixture to the vegetables.
– Stir in the mint and then prepare to serve in a shallow bowl garnished with parsley.

Galaya Bandura

1 lb (1/2 kg) tomatoes chopped finely
1/4 cup olive oil
1 hot green chili pepper chopped finely
4 garlic cloves chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 t. salt


– Saute the pine nuts in the olive oil until light brown then remove the nuts from the oil.
– Lightly brown the garlic in the oil and then add the tomatoes, salt and peppers.
– Cook for 5 minutes at a boil stirring constantly.
– Let the mixture simmer over low-medium heat for approximately 15-20 minutes stirring every 5 minutes.
– Remove from heat and serve in a shallow bowl.  Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with warm bread.


Our experience at the Petra Kitchen was arranged by the Jordan Tourism Board. As always, any opinions of our experience are entirely our own.

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    1. This same thing happens to me, right after I eat I come across a wicked food blog post and am instantly hungry.

  1. Sounds like a great experience! I absolutely love to cook and am looking forward to taking many cooking classes abroad. Will have to try out the baba ganuj recipe you posted here!

    1. The baba ganuj was so good! Let us know how you like.. This was my first cooking class abroad and it certainly will not be my last.

      1. Anytime I see a blogger writing about a good experience with a cooking school I make sure to make a note of it so I can check it out when we’re abroad. If you make it over to Asia I’ve gathered a huge list of various cooking schools in that region and don’t mind passing it along if you’re interested.

        1. What a GREAT idea Vicky! I’m not sure when we’ll make it to Asia but would love to have that list as a resource (info at hecktictravels dot com). Thanks!

  2. Lovely memories of a great evening. It was good to meet you both and wish you all the best in your travels.

    1. Thanks Sheila, it was a wonderful evening wasn’t it (at least at our end of the table, haha) So nice to hear from you and meet you too. Hope to see you around again on our site 🙂

  3. It looks & sounds (with the excitement I feel in your words) delicious Pete. You truly were in your element. 🙂

  4. Any food with garlic strong enough to make my eyes water is devoured by this garlic-loving-fiend! I will openly admit it has been a deterrent to finding a significant other – this love of garlic. Or maybe its my breath? I will have to try those recipes when I get home – TONIGHT!

    1. I’m the exact same. Luckily Dalene is a garlic fiend too, so we stink together. Let us know how the recipes turn out. The best thing about them is that they are super easy.

    1. I was going to ask before we started the class if they had kids knives for Dalene, but I forgot. Thankfully no finger was lost…

      When we meet up, we will have to find a cooking class. Deal?

    1. I had no idea how AMAZING food was in Jordan before we got there, so now that we (or should I say Pete) can cook some of these dishes for us, I am so glad that we did this!

    1. Pete tells me how to do it properly all the time, but I don’t have the patience to do it. My way is faster for me (albeit slightly more dangerous!)

  5. The food looks easier to eat than pronounce. I watched a lot of FoodTV when I still lived in the US. I am thankful to have learned how to use a knife well enough to not slice off things I don’t wish sliced.

  6. Ohhh yummy! And what a fun experience. I hope to taste food in Jordan sometime myself.

    Glad that you enjoyed your meals and that no one lost a finger. 🙂

  7. I always wrote off cooking classes until we took that class in Thailand – then I became a convert! We’ve cooked those dishes at least a dozen times since being back in OR, so it was probably the most useful thing we did while traveling. I’d love to take more, and I’m definitely going to try out those two recipes. Thanks!

  8. Are you *sure* Dalene can’t cook?
    I have a great aunt, who shall remain nameless for this story, who set the kitchen on fire while making her first meal as a married woman. She *says* she didn’t do it on purpose, but freely admits that life was much easier once no one expected her to cook. That’s probably why she managed to bring up five kids and stay (relatively) sane.

    1. I’m not the worst cook in the world, but Pete just walked in the kitchen a few years ago and started taking over. My skills have since lapsed. Not that I am complaining…

  9. Looks good! I’m glad you didn’t actually cut your finger off! I took 2 cooking classes while I was in SE Asia last fall, but I’ve yet to try any of the recipes since I’ve been back home. I should dig up the cookbook from the Bali class. I’m not a fan of mint, but that first recipe sounds good!

    1. Funny, I would take a round of golf over a cooking class too right about now. But the food in Jordan is AMAZING, and I’m glad to have those dishes to make for ourselves now!

  10. I wish we’d gotten to do this in Petra! You’re not alone Dalene – I have actually almost lost my thumb with a heavy Henckels knife a few years ago. I was washing it in the sink after a tiring day, dropped the blade on my thumb and severed the tendon. It required an emergency room visit (make that two – one for the actual surgery the next morning) and about eight weeks of rehabilitation where I had to wear this brace that made me constantly have my hand in the thumbs up position a la Fonzie – hey! So embarrassing and a lesson learned. I still cut my fingers all the time in the kitchen though…

  11. I want to take cooking classes so badly… and by me wanting to – I mean Shaun. Mainly because the man can only make mac and cheese.

  12. Aww, yay Pete! I can vouch for Pete’s cooking skills. His contributions to family dinners in Baños were the highlight of our week! I still dream about that chicken curry you made one time. And 4th of July apple pies!!!

  13. The Jordan posts that have really made me the most jealous on various blogs have all been the ones about food. I’d love to take a class and be able to recreate the goodness at home!

  14. I remember my experience at Petra Kitchen. It was my first cooking class abroad and I really enjoyed it, gave me an appetite for more cooking classes. Not to mention the delicious Jordanian food!

  15. Oh man– now craving Jordanian food like never before. Love the recipes, and will try my hand at recreating them this weekend… crossing my fingers that it turns out something like Hashem in Amman, Jordan 😉

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