Category Archives: Garbanzo

Recreating flavors (or at least trying) – White turnip stew with toasted Chana dal.

Kootu or vegetable stews are an integral part of South Indian cuisine. Just about any vegetable, be it a root, shoot or fruit, bud, blossom or bean, doesn’t matter, chances are that a South Indian has already made a kootu out of it. The kootu is a low maintenance recipe, vegetable of choice, boiled with a pinch of turmeric, thickened with either a paste of coconut, chile & cumin or cooked & mushed up dal. A shot of sizzling tadka (with mustard, Urad dal, a single arbol chile, a pinch of asafetida and Curry leaves) and voila, a nutritious stew, all set to be served up with steaming hot plain rice.
Asafetida takes the place of onion & garlic in South Indian food, especially dishes from the Brahmin community. Yea, we were born to be a bunch of nerdy geeks whose grandmothers shuddered at the mere mention of those smelly bulbs that incited base, scandalous emotions. They usually added cinnamon & Fennel to the list as well. And God forbid, you were ever cheeky enough to mention that asafetida was in fact a byproduct from a variety of fennel,  you’d be thrown out of the kitchen, if not the house with a glowing piece of firewood or coconut fiber broom, whichever is nearby!
Dealing with Asafetida in its raw form is not for the faint of heart. To put it mildly, it stinks, until it meets a pool of sizzling hot oil. Then just as a fairy tale troll changing into a prince by the kiss of the sizzling oil, it blooms, blooms into a magnificent aroma of onions & garlic frying. Yep those South Indian ‘maamies’ (aunties) certainly knew how to get around food restrictions!
The preferred dal for kootu  is usually tuvar (pigeon peas) or mung, but this particular recipe calls for toasted split chana dal (the smaller version of the garbanzo bean/ kabuli chana). Toasting the dal brings out a nutty aroma that complements the assertive aroma of the fried curry leaves. The soft mellow turnips  balances these assertive flavors with their mild sweetness. I first tasted this dish at Chennais flagship South Indian restaurant ‘Dakshin’ at the Park Sheraton Hotel, and have been making it rather regularly ever since.

Turnip ‘Kootu (Stew) with toasted Channa Dal

You need:
2 cups peeled and  cubed white turnips (~ 8 small turnips)
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric
Salt to taste
1 cup split chana dal
2 green chiles, slit or cut into pieces
For the tempering:
2 tablespoons Oil
1 teaspoon Black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon Split Urad dal
1/4 teaspoon Asafetida powder
1 sprig curry leaves, torn
1 red arbol chile
 
Toast the chana dal until it turns a light golden brown color, Rinse in adequate quantities of water, combine with 2 cups of water  and 1/8 teaspoon of turmeric  and cook till soft in a pressure cooker (about 7-8 whistles for a traditional Indian cooker). Allow the cooker to cool, open the lid, and mash to a smooth paste using the back of a spoon or an immersion blender.
Add the turnips to  just enough water to submerge them, along with the remaining turmeric and chiles. Bring to a boil. Add salt, lower the heat and cook until the turnips are fork tender. Add the mashed dal, taste for salt and simmer until the flavors combine (~ 10 minutes on a low flame).
 In a cast iron pan heat the oil until it sizzles. Add the mustard, Urad dal and Arbol chile. Once the mustard sputters and the Urad dal turns golden, lower the heat and add the asafetida and torn curry leaves. Allow the leaves to curl and fry up lightly and then pour the entire contents of the cast iron pan into the stew. give it a good stir, cover and allow to cool slightly before serving  with steamed rice.
Bon appetit!

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Diwali Traditions – Okkarai revisited

Its a refreshing change to get back into the obsessive cooking mode after an extended slump brought about by a general saturation of food related over stimulation of the nervous system. At the same time I realize that since 2010, over three Diwali celebrations I may just have ended up ‘panfusining’ most of the traditional dishes that my family generally serves up. Here’s a recap:

Maa Ladoo: An unbelievably simple confection consisting of fresh ground Garbanzo flour, sugar and ghee flavored with a touch of Cardamom & Saffron.

Lehiyam Truffles: The traditional antidote to heavy Diwali indulgence.

Hazelnut and Almond ‘Cake’ : A burfi using hazelnuts, something that does not figure in any Indian Dishes.

and somethings that are great just the way mommy made them, like the rice chakli known as ‘Vella Thenkozhal’

 Okkarai health bars was one of my earliest experiments for Panfusine and there was a phase when I kept making batch after batch at such regular intervals and got to the point when I never wanted to see, smell or even hear about the dish.. took me a year and a half to get over it just in time for a revised version with some contrasting ingredients for added color.

 Here is the recipe for the redux. Thisversion  is absolutely no ghee involved and makes for a great healthy vegan treat. I used a coconut Palm jaggery, an ingredient borrowed from Thai cuisine. This kind of jaggery is comparatively more soft, and has a viscous consistency. Its perfect for pouting out into the pan. If you’re using regular sugar cane jaggery, just make sure you powder the blocks before measuring out the amount you need.

Okkarai Health Bars:

You need:

1 cup dried Split garbanzo beans (channa dal)
1 cup shelled pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2cup dried sweetened cranberries
1 cup jaggery, crumbled
1 cup dark brown sugar
1  teaspoon powdered cardamom.

Preheat the oven to 275 F.

Line a 15 x 10 inch baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toast the split garbanzo beans until golden. Add to a container containing scalding hot water. set aside for about 2-3 hours or preferably overnight for the beans to soften. Drain the water and and add the garbanzo into a food processor. Pulse until the mixture breaks up into a very coarse consistency. Transfer into a large mixing bowl.

Lightly toast the pumpkin seeds and sliced almonds and add them to the garbanzo along with the dried sweetened cranberries. Add the cardamom and toss to blend.

Combine the jaggery and the sugar and heat gently until the mixture melts and forms a syrup. When the syrup reaches a ‘soft crack’ (the syrup forms thin malleable threads when dropped into cold water) stage, add the scalding hot sugar syrup into the garbanzo and nut mixture. Fold to evenly coat the syrup around the mixture.

 Spread the mixture evenly on the baking sheet,

Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake at 275 F for about 25 minutes until the edges begin to caramelize. Switch off the oven and allow the okkarai to rest in the oven itself for about 10 minutes. Remove and score with a sharp knife and cut into bars. Allow the baking sheet to completely cool over a wire rack before breaking up the pieces. Store in an airtight jar.

Bon appetit!

Wishing everyone a very happy Diwali and prosperity filled year ahead!