Punjabi Chickpea Curry – CHANNA MASALA

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So for the next 9 days I am vegetarian. It’s a Hindu thing.

Okay I’ll elaborate.  The Hindu festival of “Navratri” takes place over the next nine days. It’s referred to by the elders as an “auspicious occasion” and one that symbolises the triumph of good over evil! It’s also a time where celebrations are expressed in the form of colour, family reunions, force feeding of Indian sweets by random aunties, dancing and eating (very possibly followed by more dancing and eating). Although the “eating” comes in the form of vegetarian food, it’s not really a problem for me as:

a) I’m not a huge carnivore anyway
b) I was a vegetarian for 3 of my teen years (I gave up when I moved to America-damn the USA with their tasty junk food that looks awful but tastes so darned good. I’m looking at you Mr pancakes topped with crispy bacon & maple syrup!
c) There is no shortage of delish Indian vegetarian dishes

It is slightly more of an issue for my other half however, as his dreams of kick-starting the week with Murgh Masala Monday & Tandoori Chicken Tuesday, sadly no longer exist. It is for this reason that I have decided to cook up some vegetarian dishes this week that deliver an extra portion of dishoom – hopefully easing the burn of the lack of “meatiness” in the kitchen. 

Today’s recipe is spicy, filling, comforting and moreish – I don’t know how many more adjectives I need to list about this dish before it screams out MAKE ME! Enjoy and do let me know your thoughts. Oh and p.s . Happy National Curry Week!

Punjabi Chickpea Curry
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup chickpeas, raw
  2. pinch of baking soda
  3. 4 tbsp olive oil
  4. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  5. 3” cinnamon stick (optional)
  6. 2 cloves (optional)
  7. 3 peppercorns (optional)
  8. 2 bay leaves (optional)
  9. 1 black cardamom (optional)
  10. 1 large onion, peeled
  11. 1 birds eye chilli (optional)
  12. 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  13. 2" ginger, washed
  14. 2 tsp salt
  15. 1 tsp garam masala
  16. 1 tsp paprika
  17. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  18. 1/2 tsp amchur (mango powder)
  19. 2 plum tomatoes & 2 tbsp juice
  20. handful fresh coriander
Instructions
  1. Soak chickpeas and baking soda in water overnight
  2. Wash and rinse thoroughly
  3. Place chickpeas in a pressure cooker. Cover with water until the water level is 1 1/2" above the chickpeas. Add 1 tsp of salt and place lid on carefully. Cook for 12 minutes after the first whistle. Turn off heat. Allow to de-pressurise naturally before removing lid.
  4. If you do not have a pressure cooker, place chickpeas with salt in a pan of water (same water level as above) and bring to boil. Now reduce the heat and allow to simmer until tender and cooked all the way through. This can take between 35-45 minutes. (If the water reduces before they have cooked, add more boiling water to the pan).
  5. To make the masala, coarsely grind onions in a processor and place in a bowl. Now coarsely grind the chilli, ginger and garlic.
  6. Heat oil in a non stick pan. Once hot add the cumin alongside the cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaf and black cardamom.
  7. When they begin to splatter in the oil, add the ground onions. Add 1/2 tsp salt and cook for 4 minutes, stirring continuously.
  8. When they turn slightly translucent, add the ground chilli, ginger and garlic mixture. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the masala turns completely golden.
  9. Now reduce the heat and add the remaining salt, garam masala, paprika, turmeric and amchur powder and mix well. Now add the plum tomatoes and juice and mash into the masala. When the oil begins to separate from the masala, add the chickpeas and 1 cup of water and bring to boil and cook for 5-6 minutes on high heat.
  10. Check for salt and adjust accordingly. Serve with hot chapatis, naan or basmati rice!
Notes
  1. You can add or reduce water depending on how dry or wet you would like the dish to be. Some like it to be wetter if serving with rice or drier if serving with breads.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/

Spicy Sweet Potato Aloo Tikki

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It’s autumn. It’s time to bid farewell to flip flops and open toe sandals and dust off your wellies and fleece (or sheep skin for those who are that way inclined)-lined knee-high boots. Although I am not a big fan of cold, I have a dear admiration for the autumnal months… the red trees that line the avenues, the crisp crunch of fallen leaves underfoot, and the hypnotic patter of welcome rain… are but a few of the sensory pleasures that put a smile on my face.

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Nevertheless my body invariably switches to hibernation mode – that’s “collect carbs and go to sleep” mode in case you were wondering. And that doesn’t even account for the gastronomic adventures of Christmas!!! So I usually make a conscious effort to stay in shape.I do not “diet”. I enjoy food too much. So I see myself as more of a “conscious eater”. It’s probably a phrase I have made up (I do that a lot according to my husband), but it means I just stay aware of what I put in, rather than how much per se.

One of the great boons of Indian home cooking is that we use a lot of spices… which inherently have medicinal and health-promoting properties (as well as adding the “Kapow” to my food). Even now, Indian mothers often treat their children’s cuts and grazes with turmeric paste in preference to any shop-bought antiseptic creams. It just works! What I’m trying to say is that Indian food is healthy… or at least it should be, but it may need a little tweak to get it there. So there is no need to feel guilty when you are making yourself an Indian snack! I don’t (and neither does my other half… who crosses the line between well-meaning appreciation and gluttony with child-like abandon far too often!). For example, try swapping out regular basmati for brown basmati rice or replacing white flour with wholemeal or millet flour. Don’t worry – you will not be sacrificing any of the taste! 

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This brings me to today’s recipe. Aloo tikkis are a street food favourite in India! You will often see locals chowing down on these fried potato spiced potato cakes served with chutneys and salad, on the roadsides in India because they’re so damned moreish! Unfortunately, although they taste amazing they’re probably not the kindest to your waistline. In my recipe I have used exactly the same traditional spices but simply swapped out regular potato for sweet potato, baked instead of fried and served with a kachumber salad (yes… that’s not cucumber… but kachumber – I’m not making it up!). I made a batch of 12 of these and my hubby inhaled them within minutes. I’d like to think that was a testament to the taste and not to his hunger!

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Sweet Potato Aloo Tikki
Serves 2
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Ingredients
  1. 3 medium sweet potatoes
  2. 3" ginger, peeled
  3. 1 clove garlic, peeled
  4. 1/2 cup soya granules
  5. 1 tbsp gram flour
  6. 1 whole birds eye chilli
  7. 2 tsp salt or according to taste
  8. 2 tsp whole coriander seeds, coarsely crushed
  9. 1 tsp paprika
  10. 1/2 tsp amchur/mango powdrer
  11. juice of 1/2 fresh lime
  12. 4 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  13. oil for greasing
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven at 200C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. ( I greased mine with oil)
  2. Place the potatoes inside a plastic carrier bag and tie a knot. Pierce a hole with your finger and cook in a microwave for approximately 12 minutes. (The exact time may vary depending on your microwave and size of potatoes so cook until you can easily place a knife through them).
  3. Allow to cool then peel the skin off (you can easily peel with your fingers) and cut into rough chunks.
  4. Place all the remaining ingredients apart from the oil into a processor. Process everything for 40-50 seconds until it is mixed together well. Check for salt and adjust accordingly. Empty into a bowl.
  5. Grease your hands with oil. Now get a walnut size amount of the sweet potato mixture. Roll into a ball and press down slightly so a patty forms. The width should be about 3-4" wide. Place on the baking tray and repeat with the remaining mixture.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes then turn over and cook for a remaining 10 minutes. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. You can make the patties as big or small as you like. If you make bigger ones, they are great in burger buns and make fantastic veggy burgers!
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/

 

 

South Indian Style Paneer Mattar

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Yesterday was one of those days. Yes one of *those* days. I woke up early, feeling amazing with a big smile on my face, leapt out of bed with a huge bolt of energy and drew back the curtains to see…oh what have we here? Grey skies, rain, a sodden garden and general wetness and dullness…everywhere. I immediately let out a long grunt type noise, that phonetically spelt out, would be something along the lines of UGGHH. My first thought was to jump straight back into bed and stay there. I mean, Wednesday is nearly Friday which is practically the weekend…right?! I spent a few more minutes trying to rationalise the idea but then opened up my reminders app on auto-pilot, and saw my epic “To Do” list staring at me. Grave error – my dreams of returning to a quilty haven shattered in a single click of the Home button. 

Some may call me over dramatic (my other half regularly does) but I’m a huge believer that weather can truly affect your mood. I knew that I needed something to “pick me up”. After a quick visit to the gym, (they say you only start burning fat after 20 minutes of cardio – I thought 21 minutes on the step machine was as a solid time) I decided I would make lunch before I started my day. Cooking generally puts me in a good mood and I figured it would give me something to look forward to!

This brings me to today’s recipe. Have you ever made paneer before? I make it ALL the time. It’s so quick to cook, a good source of protein and super versatile. Paneer Mattar is a dish I cook regularly at home – it’s lovely and comforting. Imagine a creamy and chunky casserole but with a depth of warm spiciness and just a cheeky little kick.  This time round, I decided to “pimp” my usual recipe by giving it a South Indian twist with mustard seeds & curry leaves. Let’s just say my pre-lunch frown was quickly turned upside-down!

If you have never used curry leaves in your cooking before, you must try. They’re beautifully warm and fragrant and bring any dish to life.

Give it a go!

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South Indian Style Paneer Mattar
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 220g paneer, chopped
  2. 5-6 tbsp olive oil
  3. 1 tsp cumin
  4. 1 tsp mustard seeds
  5. handful of curry leaves, washed, dried & roughly chopped
  6. 2" ginger, grated
  7. 2 cloves garlic, peeled & grated
  8. 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  9. 1 1/2 tsp salt or according to taste
  10. 1/2 tsp paprika
  11. 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  12. 1 tsp garam masala
  13. 2 tbsp greek yoghurt
  14. 2 plum tomatoes & 2 tbsp tomato juice
  15. 1 cup peas
Instructions
  1. Heat 1-2tbsp oil in a non-stick pan. Once hot, add the cumin seeds. When they begin to splatter, add the paneer and a pinch of salt. Cook for 2-4 minutes or until golden on one side. Turn over the paneer pieces and cook until golden on the other side. Remove paneer from pan.
  2. Add remaining oil to a non stick pan. Once hot, add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. You will see them begin to splatter immediately. At this point, add the ginger, garlic and chilli. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until golden.
  3. Now add the salt, paprika, turmeric powder & garam masala. Add the yoghurt and stir quickly. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the yoghurt blends well with the masala.
  4. Add the tomatoes and juice and mash well into the masala. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Now add the peas and 2 cups of water. Bring to boil. Now add the paneer and cook for further 2 minutes. Check for salt and adjust accordingly. Remove from heat.
  5. Serve with hot chapattis or naan bread!
Notes
  1. You can leave the skin on ginger, before grating - just make sure it's washed and clean. This way you have zero wastage from peeling!
  2. You can sauté the paneer in cumin before hand and keep it in an airtight container in the fridge until you want to use it. This paneer can also be used in salads as a tasty topping!
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/