Monday, August 16, 2010

Chana Masala with Basmati Rice

I love, love, love Indian cuisine. Unfortunately even while Indian restaurants offer Vegetarian options, usually an entire section of the menu, they do not often have many Vegan options. Butter (ghee) is a big component in Indian cooking. What to do? Cook at home of course!

Making Indian food can seem daunting, there are complex spice and flavor components and one of the beauties of Indian cuisine is setting out a variety of dishes - a taste of this a nibble of that. When I was 13 I saw Julia Child create an Indian banquet on The French Chef and in those dark days before VCRs let alone the internet I scribbled recipes frantically as she cooked and then I attempted to recreate that amazing spread. It involved a special shopping trip to a store that carried things our suburban grocery store did not - and in fact that we'd never heard of prior to this Indian adventure. Papadums, Bombay Duck, curry powders, cardamom seeds... it was all very exciting. For some reason my parents were actually supportive of this crazed cooking endevor of mine. Possibly because I had previously made a seriously impressive cake (Gateau in a Cage) after watching Julia make it and more likely because my mother was thrilled not to be cooking.

I spent the day in the kitchen with my scribbled notes and my exotic new ingredients and presented a fantastic Indian meal which my parents actually liked! (Except for the Bombay Ducks which smelled horrible once cooked and tasted fairly awful as well - but one bad dish out of 8 or so... that's not bad).

I mention this cooking memory because while I loved doing it and the results were amazingly good - hey, I was 13, had never HAD Indian food and was working off a tv show, nobody was more shocked than me that it was edible! But it did color my thinking about making Indian food at home and in fact from then until now I think I may have made one curry... So I do understand that it can feel like Indian food is just too complex to make at home.

BUT it is not!

Today I whipped together a really respectable Chana Masala with Basmati Rice with cashew and raisins and I did it without a recipe and it took less than 30 minutes. Probably less than 20 actually. So I thought I'd share it here. Because if I can do it - so can you!

Chana Masala

1 biggish onion chopped small
1 clove garlic diced and smashed
splash of canola oil
2-3 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala
1 small bay leaf
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 cardomom pod
2 whole cloves
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup vegetable broth (I used a Tablespoon of Better Than Broth)
sprinkle of pepper
1 can of chickpeas drained

Saute the onions in a splash of oil until they become translucent, then add garlic, spices and tomato paste. Stir frequently so the tomato paste doesn't burn - you want to cook the spices until the flavors meld - 5-10 minutes should do it. Then add the vegetable broth and chickpeas and heat through for a few more minutes. That's it. Seriously.

Basmati Rice with cashews and raisins

1 cup basmati rice
1 1/4 cup water
1 whole Clove
sprinkle of cinnamon (or a stick if you have one)
1 Cardamom pod
1/4 cup chopped raw cashews
2-3 Tablespoons golden raisins
1/4 cup peas (I used frozen)

Super easy. Put everything except the peas into a pot (you want them to stay bright). Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a slow simmer and cover pot. Set a timer for 10 minutes and check - mine was done in 10 and you don't want to burn it. Nothing more annoying than digging burnt rice out of the bottom of a pot. It's done when all the water is absorbed - the rice should be slightly al dente. Throw the peas on top, fluff rice and replace the lid until your Masala is ready.

Rice on the plate, Channa Masala on top - bit of bread if you have it handy, chutney if you like. And then pat yourself on the back for making Indian food at home - you wild International Chef you!

Something I've mentioned here before and I will continue to is that any recipe I post here is simply a guideline - and unless it specifically says don't substitute or something along those lines it should be understood that you should take the recipe and run with it. Get crazy with yer bad self and throw in things you like or have on hand. No need for a special shopping trip - be brave - be bold! What's the worse that can happen? You end up with something that smells like Bombay Duck? Then again you might end up with an amazing cake. (please excuse the poor quality of the following photos - they are scans from ancient Polaroids - just wanted to give an idea of what the Gateau in a Cage looks like)