Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Meatless Monday-- Indian Chana Masala and More...


If there's one popular cuisine I've been wanting to but haven't explored cooking at home, that's definitely Indian! Perhaps, it's the combination of the rich complex flavours and spiciness I thought wouldn't appeal to my young children's palates, and the amount of different spices you need to have in your pantry and all the time it takes to prepare and cook. But that is not the case. My kids have indeed graduated in their taste experiences, you could forgo the heat, and with a few good Indian spices (some easy substitutes) or some organization skills, and you are good to go. Perhaps I had been procrastinating all along, and with meatless Monday on the horizon, an Indian vegetarian meal easily came top of mind. With these duo challenges, I went straight to the best-- one of the leading authorities in Indian cuisine, Madhur Jaffrey and adapted from all her recipes. Also looking through my cupboards and fridge, a meatless menu came together nicely-- Chana Masala, Vegetable Pullao, Potatoes with Cumin and a side of cool yogurt raita. The aromas wafting from the kitchen was incredible-- just ask my kids! :)


This is a pretty stainless steel spices container given to me by my lovely friend and reknown Indian cookbook author Smita Chandra years ago. 


Chickpeas or garbanzo beans are high in fibre and protein, and versatile in so many dishes. This particular dish is a favourite when I eat at Indian restaurants. Warm, comfort and tasty, it's easily eaten up by the spoonful served along basmati rice.

Chana Masala (recipe adapted by Madhur Jaffrey)
Makes 4-6 servings

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 Tbsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin, divided
¼ tsp. ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tomato, chopped (1/2 for recipe and 1/2 for garnish)
1 can (796 mL) chickpeas, drained
1 cup water
1/2 Tbsp. ground amchoor (see Note 1) or use 1/2 tsp. sumak (Persian spice)
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. garam masala (see Note 2)
½ tsp. salt (or to taste)
1 Tbsp. or more lemon juice
1 fresh hot green chile, minced (optional)
1 tsp. very finely grated fresh ginger or 1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Note 1: Made from sour, unripe mangoes, amchoor comes in dried slices and powder. Amchoor gives foods a slightly sweet sourness. My recipe calls for only ground (i.e., powdered) amchoor, available in Indian grocery stores.

Note 2: Garam masala is an aromatic mixture of spices, such as cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, which are supposed to “heat” the body. Look for this spice in the spice or bulk aisle or make your own.

For the garam masala:
1 Tbsp. cardamom seeds
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. black cumin seeds (you can use regular cumin seeds if black aren't available)
1 tsp. whole cloves
1/3 of a whole nutmeg (you can break a whole nutmeg by placing it on a cloth and bashing it with a meat mallet or rolling pin)
1 medium stick of cinnamon, about 2 to 3-inches, broken up into 3-4 pieces

Put all the garam masala spices in a clean coffee grinder or other spice grinder and grind as finely as possible. Store in a tightly lidded jar, away from heat and sunlight. This makes about three tablespoons.
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Heat the oil in a wide pot/skillet over medium-high. Stir-fry onions and garlic until the mixture is medium-brown. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the coriander, 1 tsp. cumin, cayenne, and turmeric; stir for a few seconds. Add 1/2 the tomatoes; stir-fry until well blended with the onion mixture and spices. Add the drained chickpeas and 1 cup water. Stir.


Add the remaining 1 tsp. cumin, amchoor/sumak, paprika, garam masala, ground ginger (if using) salt, and lemon juice. Stir again. Cover, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the cover and add the minced green chile and grated ginger (if using). Stir and cook, uncovered, for another 30 seconds.


Top with tomatoes and cilantro.

Perfect served as a refreshing dip for spicy meat and raw vegetables, as a spread on flatbreads or as an accompaniment to tone down the heat in Indian dishes.

Yogurt Raita with Cucumber and Mint

Simply mix 3/4 cup plain or Balkan-style yogurt in a bowl until smooth and creamy; add 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional); blend well. Fold in 4-inch piece of cucumber, peeled, grated and excess moisture squeezed out and 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint. Refrigerate until ready to use.


I love this golden fluffy rice speckled with vegetables in season-- it can be served along a casual meal or elegantly in a formal dinner.

Vegetable Pullao (recipe adapted by Madhur Jaffrey)
Makes 6-8 servings

2 cups basmati rice
thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger or 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
3 Tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. brown mustard seeds or 1/2 tsp. coarse grainy mustard
1 hot green chilli, finely chopped (optional)
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice
1/2 carrot, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice
1 handful green beans, cut into ¼-inch segments
½ tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. garam masala (store-bought or try making a home-made mixture-- Chana Masala recipe)
1¼ tsp. salt
3 cups water


Wash the rice in several changes of water then drain. Put the rice in a bowl, cover with water and leave to soak for 30 minutes, then drain again.


Heat oil in skillet/heavy-based pan over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds or coarse grainy mustard. When it begins to pop, put in the chilli, potato, carrot, green beans, turmeric, garam masala and ginger. Sauté, stirring, for one minute. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the drained rice and salt. Cook gently, stirring for two minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cover the pan tightly with lid or foil, then turn down the heat to very low and cook for 25 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve hot.


How much do I love toasted whole cumin seeds now I've worked with them? So distinctly flavourful, earthy and warming. Did you know it's seed is part of the parsley family? 

Potatoes with Cumin (Zeera Aloo) (recipe adapted from Madhur Jaffrey)
Makes 4-6 servings

1 lb. potatoes, unpeeled and scrubbed
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds 
2 tsp. very finely grated fresh ginger root or 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, then drain and leave to cool. Peel and cut them into 3/4-inch dice. Heat oil in skillet set over medium-high. When hot, fry cumin seeds for 10 seconds until aromatic. Put in the potatoes, ginger, salt, cumin, cayenne and pepper. Stir-fry the potatoes for 10 minutes. Toss with cilantro and serve.

Love toasting 'em cumin seeds.

Tastes so-O goood with the cool raita!


Dinner is served! And no one missed the meat!


"Mmm.. smells so good and the food is good too! Thanks mom-- I like Indian food!"





















Give new cuisines a try-- you just never know... you may cook up some flavours your family can't live without! Go slow, make one or two new dishes to coincide with familiar ones... and before you know it a whole new world of ingredients and flavours are there for you to enjoy at your whim! Happy discovery!



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