Classic Indian Cooking: Khatte Channe w/ Cumin & Turmeric Rice
Last day of Vegan MoFo 2012, are we really here? I think this may be the first year that I haven’t felt exhausted and like I need a break by the end of the month–definitely a good sign, right? (I mean, maybe spending a good chunk of it on vacation doesn’t hurt either…but you know…) Five years–longer than I lived in one place since I left my mother’s, longer than I’ve been in a relationship, longer than I’ve been legally allowed to drink in the US–it feels pretty good to have wrapped up my fifth MoFo!
My recipe queue is ridiculous now, thanks to you guys posting so many delicious looking dishes, and I’ve even stocked my Pinterest “Travel” board with tons of places to visit. While it’ll take eons to cook everything you’ve made and to travel to all the food-filled, gorgeous places you’ve mentioned, I hope I can tick a few off my list! Annnnd, if I ever get organized enough, I’ll post a favorites list from the month sometime either later this week or the beginning of the next.
In the meantime, a final cookbook and a final recipe (actually two recipes, lucky you!)–Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni. A book for omnivores, it turns out that Julie also wrote a strictly vegetarian book that I’m now itching to get my hands on (my copy of Classic comes via G’s tiny collection), but Classic Indian also holds a bevvy of vegetarian and vegan recipes that, I would assume, are fantastic. (Once again, this is the only time I’ve cooked from the book, but G swears by several of the recipes I haven’t personally tried yet–take his word for it?)
With lengthy instructions on how to authentically cook every part of a dish, the book is great for anyone wanting to dive into the more traditional recipes and techniques of Indian cooking. Since I never got my wish for an Indian mother-in-law, Julie’s book will have to do, and, as you’ll see in the recipes, the devil is in the details. Rice is not just rice–it’s a dish that can be cooked many different ways and hold very different roles depending on the dishes it’s paired with. Or dal–the section of the book dealing with legumes holds several pages dedicated to dal: the various kinds, how each should be served, and which one is appropriate to which region. While I felt I’d never really touched an authentic preparation of an Indian dish, after cooking these two recipes, I think I might have a better idea of the direction I ought to go with my Indian cooking.
The Khatte Channe is a deceivingly simple chickpea dish flavored with tamarind and spices. I only had one can of chickpeas in the pantry and hadn’t thought to soak dried ones, so I added kidney beans in addition to the chickpeas. Maybe not 100% authentic, but definitely did the trick. The stew-like dish is deeply rich and the absolutely different but worthwhile way of cooking the onions (brown-frying) really adds a sweet depth while the tomato and tamarind adds a tangy, acidic kick.
As for the rice? I’m officially addicted to Basmati rice and potatoes paired together–it’s a starchy match made in heaven! The cumin and turmeric add a nice savory spice to the rice and the potatoes add that extra little texture to amp the rice up to a lovely dish on its own. Paired with the Khatte Channe, it’s a filling meal with many different layers of flavor, from the sweet and tangy tamarind to the spiced rice.
These dishes aren’t exactly your after-work throw-together fare–they take time and a willingness to work your way slowly through each recipe. But the result is worth it: Indian food that is better than your local Indian restaurant, as well as a little bit more knowledge about a very different cuisine (unless you grew up cooking this way–in which case, I’m uber jealous).
Happy last day of MoFo everyone–it’s been a great month this year! Now to figure out, after a month of cooking from recipe books, what normal blogging even means!
Khatte Channe w/ Cumin & Turmeric Rice
For the Khatte Channe:
2 16 oz cans chickpeas, or 4 cups cooked chickpeas
1-2 tsp tamarind paste
1/2 c light vegetable oil
1.5 c thinly sliced onions (1 medium onion or so)
2 tsp minced garlic (3 cloves)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 c fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger root, grated
1.25 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
Drain chickpeas, reserving 1 c liquid.
Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and brown fry as follows (Jes note: this is NOT caramelizing onions–read the detailed directions below to see how it is different):
Add the sliced onions and stir to coat the slices with the oil. Fry the onions, stirring constantly. For the first 5 minutes, the onions will steam vigorously, losing much of their excess moisture. As the steam begins to subside, the onions will begin to wilt and to fry. In the next 5 minutes, they will lose the rest of their excess moisture and turn limp and golden yellow. The aroma of frying onions will now begin to fill the air. The oil will now start to separate from the onions, an indication that they are ready to brown. Keep stirring the onions constantly. They will begin clumping together, and in about 5 minutes they will turn light brown. Continue frying until they look shriveled up (about 5 minutes more). (Note: if the onions stick and begin to burn, a little cold water should be added, 1 tbsp at a time, to slow down the cooking.)
Once the onions are fried, add the garlic, turmeric, and cayenne and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and the ginger. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the fat begins to separate from the gravy (about 5 minutes).
Add the tamarind paste (I added 1 tsp first and then another tsp later when adjusting seasonings) and the reserved chickpea liquid. Cover and simmer the mixture over low heat for 15 minutes.
Add the drained chickpeas, garam masala, and cumin, and continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes. Check for salt, and transfer to a heated serving dish.
Note: This dish may be prepared ahead and refrigerated for up to 3 days. It also freezes very well.
For the Cumin & Turmeric Rice:
1 medium-sized potato
3/4 c basmati rice
2 tbsp light vegetable oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
Peel the potato and dice it into neat 1/2″ pieces. Place the potatoes in a bowl, cover with cold water, and set aside.
Wash the rice thoroughly by placing it in a large bowl filled with water. The water will grow milky. If any non-rice objects float to the top, pick them out and throw them away. Let the rice settle to the bottom for 2-3 seconds. Then tilt the bowl and pour off the water. Repeat this process 8 or 9 times until the water runs clear.
Place the washed rice in a bowl, add 1.5 cups of cold water, and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the water.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan. when it is hot, add the potatoes, turmeric, and cumin, and fry until the potatoes are slightly browned (about 3 minutes). Add the rice and continue cooking until the rice is slightly fried (about 2 minutes), stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add the reserved water and salt. Stir for a moment to mix all the ingredients, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, or until most of the water is absorbed and the surface of the rice is full of steamy holes.
Reduce the heat to its lowest point and raise the pan about an inch away from the heat source. (This can be done by placing a pair of metal tongs or a Chinese wok ring on the burner and resting the pan on it.) Let the rice steam 10 minutes. (Jes note: I did not have a pair of tongs or a wok ring, so I simply reduced the heat and let it cook another 5 minutes.)
Turn off the heat and let the rice rest undisturbed for 15 minutes–do not stir!
Uncover, fluff with a fork, and serve.