Chickpeas in a Coconut Curry

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.
-Rabindranath Tagore
It was a cloud-masked spring morning. The colour in question, a myriad of greys.  My favourite kind of morning. My hands cuddled a warm cup of peach and ginger infusion as I gazed out the window. Soft rain drenched the streets of Toronto, its people huddled under umbrellas. Unable to peel my eyes away from a nonchalant scene, I hoped the sun would stay on hiatus for the day.
41350349125_1d1222533e_o
Normally, on days like these, I crave a hot chocolate and a couple of chocolate chip cookies on the side. But on this occasion, I found myself pining for a warm bowl of curry. Spicy, creamy and perhaps poured over some hot rice. Maybe a dash of ghee melting its way into the gravy. It was time to pause the bout of reverie and get working in the kitchen.
Chickpea Curry/Channa Masala is an old soul in the plethora of Indian Cuisine. It’s a classic, and has ubiquitous presence in India and outside. I remember the brothers and me delighting in this curry with hot pooris and a side of mango ShreekarNe(Mango pulp and milk) and imaginably, it was nothing short of a celebration.

42084348692_a5da4043b9_o
In today’s recipe, whilst retaining much love and respect to the classic and drawing inspiration from the original flavors, I also borrow the creamy richness of Coconut Milk. Coconut Milk, a luscious, velvety milk, is made by grinding coconut meat and water and is rich with the nutty, sweet flavors of coconut. It’s addition to the modest & much-loved chickpeas ensues an experience filled with comfort and indulgence and as predicted, just what that rainy afternoon demanded. As the imagined preview in that daydream, I poured it over warm rice with a spoonful of ghee. But, it pairs wonderfully with rotis/chapatis as well. Also, sans the ghee it works as a vegan dish too.  I hope this dish enamors you on rainy days and others!
42084349222_33254fdfd7_o (1)

RECIPE FOR CHICKPEAS AND COCONUT CURRY
Serves 2

INGREDIENTS
1 1/3 cup of canned Chickpeas
1 large onion – chopped into large chunks
2 tomatoes- chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 green chilli – split into 2
1 tsp Ginger- finely chopped
12 whole Cashewnuts
1/2 tsp Turmeric
2 tsp Coriander Powder(Dhaniya powder)
1 tsp Cumin Powder(Jeera powder)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder(or more if you like it spicy)

3 tbsp Oil
2 Dried Bay leaves
1 Star Anise
3 Cardamom Pods(Elaichi)
1 inch piece of Cinammon
1/2 cup canned Coconut Milk
1/2 cup water
Salt to Taste
1 tbsp dried mint or dried fenugreek leaves

METHOD
-In a kadai, add the oil and once it’s heated, add the green chilli and ginger. Saute until the ginger is lightly browned and add the chopped onions with a sprinkle of salt.
-Once the onions turn soft and transluscent, add the tomatoes, cashewnuts and season once again. Saute for a few minutes until the tomatoes are cooked nicely and their raw smell is gone.
-Add the spices: Turmeric, Coriander Powder and Cumin Powder, red chilli powder, stir-fry the mixture for about 2-3 minutes. The, put off the heat and remove from the pan into a blender. Let it cool completely. Once cooled, blend into a paste, adding just enough water only if necessary. Keep aside.
-In the same kadai, add a teaspoon of oil and let it heat. To this add the whole spices: Star Anise, Cinammon, Cardamom and Bay leaves, saute until the cinnamon pops.
-To this add the ground onion-tomato paste along with half a cup of water(add more if you prefer a thinner gravy), canned chickpeas, salt and let it simmer. Finally add the coconut milk, dried mint/ dried fenugreek leaves & stir it well and allow to simmer once again. Keep stirring once in a while to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Once it comes to a boil, put off the stove and garnish with coriander or other microgreens.
-Serve hot with rice/rotis , some ghee and a side of lemon & onions.

Bisibelebath: food and emotion

Rice and dal(lentils) mingling oh so gently with each other but emerging into a fiery romance of flavors when emboldened with a coarse crumb of roasted spices. The barrage of vegetables ensues a flawless texture. Oodles of melted ghee lends it a dash of oomph. Forgive me for this dramatization but this blessed dish has inadvertently transpired into an emotion and a delicious one at that. I humbly present to you, Karnataka’s pride and joy, the Bisibelebath.
IMG_9223
The affair began years ago. Amid 3 inch candles, an ornate cake, a ceiling masked by balloons & a slightly untuned rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to you’ , my maternal aunt and her kin unfailingly ensured that their guests returned home content and happy. Cake hardly disappoints but this sweet treat was always trivial in comparison to the pièce de résistance of the said series of evenings aka,  The Bisibelebath. Melted Ghee was poured over a sizzling plate housing the above dish and spicy potato chips tossed in chilli powder (that we bangaloreans fondly call ‘khara chips’) were nestled on the side.

Continue reading “Bisibelebath: food and emotion”

Let there be Dal: Gujarati Dal with Green Pea and Coconut Dumplings

Rewinding to languid Bangalore afternoons, when I was younger in a younger city. The sun washing the sand splashed grounds of college. Amid the frenzied flutter that the final years of college demanded, the one constant was my stainless steel lunch dabba. Plain toor dal, rice, salt, jaggery  and unmeasured quantities of ghee tied together into an epitome of comfort. Tovve anna in Kannada or Dal rice in English. On rare occasions, it would be spiked with raw chilles, coriander and perhaps a splatter of mustard and hing tadka. Those few minutes of lunch break dwindled before I knew it, mostly plagued by a string of worrisome thoughts about the remaining day. But devouring this meal was my present moment, my moment of unfettered, happy calm. I’m as drawn to the simplicity of this dish as I am to the  uncomplicated memories that follow in its trail. Long story short, I love tovve-anna and have never shied away from celebrating Dal and its many avatars.

Continue reading “Let there be Dal: Gujarati Dal with Green Pea and Coconut Dumplings”

Lessons I’m Learning from my Mother….Sihi Kootu & More

“My mother is my best friend”….the old chestnut holds true with me as well…
Admittedly, I can go on for ages about how her children received immense priority ultimately leading up to her sacrificing her best career years in order to render us all a warm home. With a husband whose job entails touring the country half the month & three children, two of whom are really hooligans disguised as chubby little boys, the cacophony & chaos can prove challenging and not just in terms of time. I can write about how her face beams with a blend of pride and satisfaction when people notice me as her mirror image and how the same face cringes when some mistakenly mention otherwise! I can write about how she thoughtfully scribes the sweetest( and longest!) messages that prompt me to effortlessly tear up 10,000 miles away and how she indefatigably listens to me blather for hours about the most inane topics. I can write about how she instilled the love of God in our hearts at a tender age thereby guiding us to live a life saturated with faith. I can also write about how she perpetually corrects our lapses and how she relentlessly eludes us from the poisons of revenge.
However,  I won’t.
Today I want to share with you the lessons I am LEARNING from her….
To say she is the epitome of patience is practically an understatement and this can be vouched for by any soul that’s crossed paths with her. The worst of agitations don’t trigger her to bring the roof down. She is the icy water that douses fiery hot heads! As a teen, I learnt the rewards patience can bestow upon one….the learning continues…

Her calm demeanor culminates as her biggest strength. Recalling the pandemonium that joint families can be subjected to, it dawns on me that her serene silence and smile nonchalantly answered most circumstances. My learning continues….

Trying times bizarrely are directly proportional with her degrees of optimism. Needless to say, much needed. Hope is never a dearth at home and that’s saying something.
When life hands lemons, she musters up courage and emerges a winner. She protectively continues to stand up for us in our toughest times and is indubitably my pillar of strength. I continue to learn and if only I can soak in one drop in that ocean of optimism…..

Among the many feathers in a mother’s cap, she also transpires as a long distance constant cooking coach, guiding me gently and indulgently through the complications of it all, awaiting reviews from a hungry son in law. Although I picked up the the basics of Madhwa Cuisine under my mother in law’s unremitting tutelage, there are some recipes that I continue to learn from my mother….Sihi Kootu is one such. How can I possibly forget devouring bowl after bowl of Sihi Kootu with warm rice as I rushed back home from school? Or when I visited the same home with a husband by my side,  15 years later?

We now arrive at the kitchen of my mother’s home, wafting with  aromas of a simmering Sihi Kootu!

IMG_9523

IMG_9535
The recipe has flawlessly been passed down the many generations: what my mom learnt from my great grandmother, I learn from my mom. While my great grandmother laboriously and painstakingly ground the spices and coconut in a mammoth stone mortar & pestle, we get away with a turn of a knob! “It doesn’t taste the same”, my mom says.
IMG_9542
Sihi means sweet in Kannada & Kootu basically belongs to the sambar/stew family which means it is rich in dal, coconut & vegetables. I feel the need to clarify that it’s not necessarily sweet but mainly called so to ensure that it’s not confused with another Kootu, the ‘Kharaddu’ meaning Spicy.
The addition of pepper & dry chillies impart a subtle heat to the dish. Byadgi (mildly spicy but adds colour) & Guntoor (very spicy but doesn’t add much colour) are the two types of dry chillies used and together they create a balanced combination. There’s jaggery, which is a mandatory in Madhwa cuisine that lends a sweet note to the dish that when mixed with ghee(clarified butter) and rice can easily become a feast for the Gods! Dal i.e. Toor Dal is added in a slightly generous quantity than regular sambars to give a thicker, creamier consistency. With a whole lot of Dal(lentils), Veggies, & a medley of spices, this authentic South Indian Vegan dish is a bowl of warmth & comfort.

The learning continues….

I hope you try this recipe and I would love me a feedback:) Also, I’m trying my hand at food photography and styling these days….I do hope you like these pictures!

RECIPE FOR SIHI KOOTU

INGREDIENTS
3/4th cup Toor Dal
Roughly 3 cups of chopped vegetables like Beans, Carrots, Chayote, Potatoes & legumes like pigeon peas & Padpi lilva
1.5 tbsp jaggery
10 curry leaves
Salt to taste
For the masala paste –
1.5 tbsp urad dal
3 Guntoor dry red chilles(very spicy)
5 Byadgi Dry Red chillies( a little less spicy)
3/4 tsp peppercorns
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
For tempering –
1 tsp of oil
1 tsp of mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal
A good pinch of Hing/AsafoetidaMETHOD
1. Pressure cook toor dal with 2.5-3 times the water
2. Cook the veggies in boiling water & a little bit of salt. Alternatively, it can be pressure cooked along with the dal itself but there is a chance they may become a little mushy.
3. In the meanwhile, make the masala paste.In a kadai, take a teaspoon of oil and fry Urad dal, chillies, peppercorn in medium heat until the dal is golden brown in colour. Allow them to cool.
4. Once it’s cooled, grind it with fresh grated coconut and some water to get a paste of medium coarse consistency.
5. Add this to the cooked dal & veggies along with jaggery,curry leaves & salt. Let it come to a boil.
6. To temper, in a smaller kadai/tadka pan, add oil and once it heats up,  add urad dal & mustard seeds. Let the mustard crackle and then add Hing.
7. Add this to the Kootu. Serve hot with rice & ghee

Black Eyed Peas/Lobiya & Spinach Curry

Inspiration for cooking can be drawn from a lavish buffet restaurant or from a simple meal at a temple made with the most basic of ingredients; from a loving great grandmother or sometimes a 5 year old even. The possibilities are infinite & the only tools one needs are an open mind & a speck of imagination.
En route from Bangalore to Mysore, there is a restaurant, Kamat Loka Ruchi and on a sultry weekend road trip, the husband & me decided to lunch here. The restaurant is dressed in a simple attire sans any frill or fancy; simple dining chairs & tables, limestone sculptures of Gods & Goddesses, scraps of rotis strewn here & there and even harmless fruit flies to keep one company. Most customers are tourists punctuated with theater artists from the adjoining ” Janapada Loka”. The friendly staff run hurriedly from table to table not just merely serving utterly delicious food but also eagerly coaxing hungry patrons to relish the myriad of dishes and treating them to bonus helpings like a well meaning relative.
img_9394
Now, the food. Their speciality is cuisine from North Karnataka , all served on the traditional banana leaf & comprising Jowar rotis( with a nice spoonful of butter), brinjal curry, Black eyed peas curry, Methi & onion salad, Bajji(veggies coated with chickpea flour & fried), Sambar , Rasam(lentil soup) & Curds. Dessert is Holige ( sweet rotis with a dal filling) & a banana. Simple, unsophisticated soul food that will leave one supremely satiated.
img_9466
The Black eyed peas curry from Kamat is a treat for a legume lover like me. But, a drive of 1.5 hours on sunny Sunday afternoons can leave you too tired to face the tyranny of Mondays. So, one morning I decided, why not try it at home…”if it fails, then at the least I tried,  but if it works, then nothing like it”. Well, it turned out to be the latter and I’m not going to toot my own horn & say that it tastes exactly the same. But, it’s my version & will have to do until I visit Kamat again.
img_9445.jpg
The curry I present to you today celebrates the goodness of black eyed peas or lobiya. I’ve paired these protein-rich lentils with another favourite, spinach leaves. But, if spinach is not your cup of tea, then it can be omitted or replaced with other leafy greens such as fenugreek. An aromatic spice mix brimming with coconut brings it all together. It pairs well with rice or rotis but don’t forget to include a dollop of ghee!
Hope you like this one!

RECIPE FOR BLACK EYED PEAS CURRY
INGREDIENTS

3/4-1 cup lobiya /black eyed peas/cow peas (once soaked, this will yield about 2- 2.5 cups)
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
3-4 green chillies
1 Dry red chilli
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
1 medium sized onion, roughly chopped
1/2″ cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tbsp jeera/cumin seeds
1 tsp oil
salt to taste
FOR TEMPERING:
1 tsp oil
1 tbsp mustard seeds
Pinch of Hing powder/ Asofoetida
1-2 dry red chillies

METHOD
1. Soak the black eyed peas/lobiya overnight.
2. Once soaked, drain the water off and wash the peas well. Then pressure cook it with 3 cups of water. (can even be cooked in hot water in a pot but will take a longer time)
3. Once cooked & cooled, grind together,
onion
green chillies
dry red chilli
coconut
cinnamon
turmeric
jeera/cumin seeds
1/4th cup heaped, cooked lobiya/black eyed peas
and roughly 1/4th to 1/2 cup of water
Grind to a medium coarse/smooth paste.
4. In a kadai/deep bottomed pan, add a tsp of oil. Once it’s heated, add the chopped spinach and let it cook until the stalks are tender.
5. Add the cooked black eyed peas to this. Add the ground paste, salt and let it all come to a boil.Keep stirring from time to time to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the pan. Remove from heat.
6 To temper, in a small pan/ tadka pan, take oil and let it heat up. Add the mustard seeds and allow it to splutter. When done, add hing & dry red chillies. Add tempering to the curry and serve hot with rice/chapati.

#Rice with Coconut & Mustard/ Kayi Sasive Chitranna

Before I go into the details about this delectable recipe, I have to acknowledge a person who is the sole reason behind my intense love for the dish . She was Sita Kaki, my grand aunt and my dad’s paternal aunt. One of the strongest people I have come across , she was a picture of elegance, immaculate neatness and an expert in the kitchen. Her patience and optimism was something I constantly admired.
Amma ( my mom) would take us to her place now and then to spend the day & she would lovingly treat us with a delicious juice made with cooked raw mango every single time. Being passionate about gardening, she had a florid garden around the house bounteous with roses & the chinese fireball. Her backyard was brimming with lemon grass and she was responsible for introducing  lemon grass tea to my mom who is an ardent tea lover. Continue reading “#Rice with Coconut & Mustard/ Kayi Sasive Chitranna”

#Soup with Cream of Rice and Yogurt / Hulinuch

There are days when all you want is some no-fuss comfort food that can satiate the tummy & the soul. Hulnuch is one such dish. Made with Idli Rava or Cream of Rice and curds, it’s ideal for  winter mornings. This recipe takes me back to a simpler time a.k.a childhood when my grandma would make this for us. A few days back, bored of the usual upma, poha, idli & dosa, I was in a dilemma as to what to make for breakfast. It suddenly dawned on me that it’s been more than 6 years since I had/made Hulnuch. A quick call to my mom & I was more than ready to face the morning.
Continue reading “#Soup with Cream of Rice and Yogurt / Hulinuch”