Archive for January 2011

Spiced Chickpeas

January 30, 2011

Chickpeas are one of the most often used legumes (whole beans) in my nani’s Indian kitchen. These come in different shapes, sizes and color. The best part is that dried chickpeas are used in a variety of ways – whole, hulled, ground, fermented, boiled, pureed, steamed, braised, sautéed, deep-fried, baked, roasted and sprouted as I have mentioned in previous blog entries (recipes posted Feb. 27, 2008, August 19, 2008 and November 22, 2009). Another nice fact is that dried beans can easily be stored at least for a year and are a great staple to have in any pantry, especially given the winter storms we are facing this winter!

Spiced Chickpeas
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon chana masala mix
1 1/2 cups crushed canned tomatoes
4 cups cooked chickpeas
1/2 tablespoon salt or to taste
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Coriander leaves for garnishing

1) Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy-bottomed three-quart saucepan and add the onion, stirring, until the onion is lightly brown. Add more oil if needed. Add ginger-garlic paste and cook for approximately 30 to 35 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients except the lemon and coriander leaves and stir to mix.
2) Cover pan, lower the heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Add water as needed to adjust the consistency of the dish. Before serving allow chickpeas to rest for at least 30 minutes so that the flavors have a chance to blend. Garnish with lemon wedges and freshly chopped coriander leaves.

Note: If you like to use soaked chickpeas for this recipe simply follow the steps given for Spicy Red Kidney Beans (Rajma) recipe posted on my blog February 27, 2008. While using commercial spice blends it is important to taste them for heat (cayenne pepper) and salt content. I personally use all-purpose spice paste (AP Spice Paste posted August 12, 2007 on my blog) recipe for cooking the whole beans.

Yield: 8 servings


Amaranth Halwa

January 14, 2011

Happy Makar Sankranti!

Halwa (or halva) is a dessert that is typically prepared with grated vegetables (carrots, sun chokes or Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes, potatoes, lauki, water chestnut, zucchini and winter melon), hulled beans, nuts, seeds (amaranth or sesame), sooji (semolina), flours, sugar, clarified butter and milk.

The halwa recipe below is amaranth-based and can be prepared by using whole seeds, coarsely ground amaranth flour or simply by using the combination of both in making a variety of sweet to savory dishes particularly while fasting when the grain based diet is avoided. As I have mentioned on my blog, Indian cooking varies dramatically from region to region with its own distinct flavors. Brought up in the northern hills of India, my mother often used amaranth seeds in many forms and the leaves were cooked as any leafy greens like spinach, fenugreek, radish leaves and mustard. Traditionally, this type of halwa is very sweet with gelatinous in texture somewhat similar to cooked cream of wheat.

Amaranth Halwa
1/2 cup amaranth, (preferably soaked overnight)
1 cup water or milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar or to taste
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads – optional
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or ghee
1/4 cup cashews, chopped

1) Using a very fine mesh sieve (or colander lined with a clean cotton cloth) carefully drain the amaranth and set aside.
2) Combine milk, sugar and coarsely ground cardamom in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring milk to a simmer, stirring often, until sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.
3) Melt butter in a saucepan (preferably non-stick) over medium heat without burning the butter. Add amaranth, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes quite fragrant. Add more butter if needed. Reduce the heat as low as possible and gradually add milk, while stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula to prevent sticking on the bottom of the pan.
4) Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until the amaranth halwa is soft and has absorbed almost all of the liquid. At this point the mixture will become quite dense and will start to pull away from the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and add the cashews. Cover and let it rest at least 10 to 15 minutes. Serve the amaranth halwa warm or at room temperature.

Tip: The easiest way to make this dish is to simply combine all the ingredients except sugar and cashews. Cook until amaranth is soft or all the liquid is absorbed. I eat it as my morning cereal like oatmeal.

Yield: 4 servings

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!  Thanks to all of the readers for the interest and support over the past year.  Wishing you health, happiness, and prosperity in 2011!