Friday, April 25, 2014

A few things I've been cooking recently

I get my protein mainly through lentils and beans. Maybe only next to dairy. In any case, just a few simple recipes here for different types of Indian choles/dals. Since my son's first birthday, when we ordered Gujarati food from Raj Bhog (a small and nice restaurant in Jackson Heights, Queens), I have fallen in love with Gujarati food. So, the first chole is my imagination of how a Gujarati chole would be.

For the beans, I prefer a mix of chickpeas and vatana (who, dried peas). It is best if you use the raw version (not from a can). Soak for 12 hours. Pressure cook with a little bit of water for a few whistles - around 2 whistles in my cooker. I find that soaking + pressure cooking yields a much better product than simply pressure cooking (which will also need a lot more water and whistles).

Cut a few tomatoes into halves/quarters. Not too fine. Cut as much ginger as you want. If you have some curry leaves, that will be a great addition to the dish. Break a stick of cinnamon into smaller pieces and toast it in a toaster with cardamom. There is a version called black cardamom that goes better with dishes, as opposed to the usual cardamom which goes better with tea. Dont use black cardamon with tea - I can't imagine it being any good. Grind the cinnamon and black cardamom into fine powder. Heat some oil in a vessel (into which the cooked chickpeas/vatana will go eventually) and fry the spices. Spices can include some mustard, jeera, some dried red chillies, but none of these things are really necessary. Add some asafoetida (I think this is necessary, but that is just me). Add the cinnamon + black cardamom powder. Once it has fried sufficiently, add the tomatoes. Add some salt and let it simmer for a while. Then add the cooked lentils. Add some turmeric and some water and let it cook on a low flame for some time. Make sure food does not burn at the bottom of the pan. Finally, add some tamarind and brown sugar. Better still, jaggery. Add the curry leaves. I like to let it cook for at least 30 minutes. Sometimes more - just on a very low flame. I also like to add a few green chillies. The key thing about Gujarati food, this is my opinion, is the nice mix of sweet and spice together. Anyway, this should go well with rice, tortillas, chappathis, nans, bread,....

For Punjabi dal, I'd fry some onions before adding the tomatoes. Instead of the cinnamon + black cardamom powder, I'd add some garam masala. You can make some garam masala yourself but it is easy enough to buy it. Ditch the jaggery in this case. Garam masala does not go well with sweet. In this case the mustard and jeera are absolutely necessary. Finally, you should add some chopped cilantro.

You can also make a pretty good imitation of a mofongo with some lentils and some raw plantains (not the stuff you have for breakfast). Soak and cook your lentils (not chick peas this time but masoor dal or toor dal are ideal). Fry some garlic and ginger in some oil. Then add the pressure cooked dal. Finally mash the plantain and add it to the simmering dal. You can mash it easily if it is slightly ripe. If not steam/pressure cook it before mashing. Let this whole thing cook for a while. Add as much salt as you want. If you like it hot, add chillies.

 Try it out. But for salt, you cant really go too wrong with any of these items. Good eats!