While working in the Unesco office in New Delhi, sometimes my co-worker would invite me home to dinner at her place and sometimes I’d invite her over. It was easy enough to do! Our moms did the cooking with a bit of help from our lovely maid. Yes!! We had the absolute good fortune to be blessed with hired help that I miss a lot here in Canada. I have to confess modern conveniences can sometimes be more of an inconvenience. Where each of us has to wear way too many hats in a day..the industrialized west does make us all a rather exhausted nation. And for that I turn to yoga. Just back from an amazing yoga retreat in the Bahamas..
Returning to the cold in Canada recently struck by an ice storm was hard.
What made it easy was a visit by a fellow yogi. Having been in a retreat for about 3 months, Carolyn was used to mildly spiced food.. So I turned to this recipe.. courtesy my coworker’s maid. Tart and mildly spicy, it uses my favourite bean – chickpeas in another avatar.
I modified the recipe slightly using a technique in Indian cooking called Potli. It means a bundle and is a mix of spices like cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and peppercorn. Spices are tied with a string and allowed to simmer with the food. Or they’re wrapped in muslin cloth and when the food is cooked and ready, the spices are tossed out. The beauty of the potli .. Potlis enhance food flavour without overwhelming and you don’t; have to crunch on raw spice.
I also know that you my dear reader may not have a cupboard stocked with Indian spices to give that unique tartness. You know the one I’m talking about, that amazingly unique one-of-a-kind taste you only get in Indian restaurants. So I’ve given you some north American options.. to still get that lip smacking flavour.. Its our secret.. so next time someone tries to impress you with their knowledge of Indian spice, you can smile knowingly.. knowing that you managed to do what they do with very little sweat
1 cup kabuli channa(or big white chickpeas)
½ cup chopped red onions
¼ cup chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp fresh minced garlic
1 tbsp fresh minced ginger
1 slit green chilli
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp roasted and ground cilantro seeds
The Potli Spice Mix
2 black cardamoms-bigger than the regular ones
1 cm cinnamon stick
• Wash chickpeas thoroughly in running water, using a fork.. Try not to use your hand to rinse it.. a tip I learnt from my mother-in-law.. Note: I NEVER ever use canned chickpeas.. I prefer to soak and cook. Its a habit I find hard to break. No chemicals leaching from can is the obvious benefit. Besides all it takes is the extra soaking time, so If can allow yourselves some planning time, you’ll benefit from eating fresh, satvic food(yogic language for food that is nourishing and cooked with full attention and love.. more on that later)
• Soak in 2 cups fresh water overnight and keep covered. Next morning rinse again. You’ll see bubbles rise to the top, you need to skim off this so do take your time to rinse thoroughly, so that the chickpeas are easily digestible. What is all that scum anyway? Anti-nutrients, that’s what! And those anti-nutrients such as phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors are going to be in your gut causing you gas, heartburn, reflux and whatever other digestive ills beset you when you eat something that isn’t particularly digestible unless you soak your beans before cooking them. Traditional cultures took great care to prepare legumes with a long soak before cooking to enhance digestibility and nutrient absorption. Sarah explains it well here.
• Cover with 2 cups of water and pressure cook till soft.
• Meanwhile peel onion and chop coarsely.
• Thinly peel ginger and chop finely. Peel garlic and also chop finely.. Slit green chilii.
• Heat pan and add coconut oil. I’m a complete coconut oil convert now and use Costsco Harrington farms organic coconut oil.
• Add hing, cumin and the potli spice mix. Then quickly toss in chopped onion, ginger and garlic. Saute till onions are cooked completely. Do NOT, I repeat DO NOT skimp on this step, otherwise your final dish won’t meet fragrance high standards.
• Add roasted cilantro powder, slit green chili, turmeric powder.
• Add chopped tomatoes. Here’s my slight departure from fresh.. I use canned tomatoes and freeze them in ice cubes so its easy to take 3 cubes.
• When tomatoes are cooked, add the cooked chickpeas to the pan.. Press down on about 2 tbsp of chickpeas to break them up. This is what makes the channa chunky and adds that interesting texture.
• Add salt and let come to boil. Take pan off heat. Discard whole spices.
• Stir in lemon juice. Here`s my secret revealed. Lemon juice & tomatoes give the tartness in place of the hard-to-find spices like pomegranate seed, mango powder or tamarind paste..Voila!!!
• Garnish with cilantro.
• I made chapatti to go with these chickpeas, but you could serve it equally well with some cooked basmati rice.
The French use the same technique. But call it way more elegantly as Bouquet Garni! The name, doesn’t it conjure up images of a fragrant bouquet of spices.. I`ll leave you with this parting fragrance. I really, really want you to try this recipe for your own special dinner and let me know how it turned out.
–soul of spice–