Sunday, 24 November 2013

Channa Masala with Red Capsicum

It’s true.  I buy chickpeas by the case.  They are my favourite legume, and I’m more than happy to have them breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Combined with some rice or chapatti, they also make a great protein, and they’re high in fiber and generally fabulous all around, ideal for vegetarians and vegans.

Red capsicum, or sweet red peppers, are another favourite.  The long pointy ones seem to have the best flavour, although that could be my greed speaking, since they’re the biggest.  I buy lots at a time, and use them in so many recipes.  (I've tried to give a link for my red pepper search results, but it's not working.  Use my search bar and type in red pepper.  You don't want to miss the red pepper dip!)  I also love to slice them in lengths, and use them like chips for guacamole, a delicious but healthy treat.

This channa masala recipe is fairly easy, involving about twenty minutes of preparation, and at least an hour of cooking time.  It makes a goodly pot that will serve at least six people their main course. 

1 piece of tamarind and boiling water to cover (you can make extra and freeze the rest, but you’ll be using 1 tablespoon of tamarind puré for this recipe)

Roast gently, till a bit of incense like smoke wafts...
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon fenugreek seed
6 cloves
1 teaspoon black cumin seed
2 flakes mace
5 Kashmiri dried chillies
4 green cardamom pods, bashed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns 

1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground hing 

2 tablespoons (maybe a bit more later) mustard oil
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 Indian bay leaves
Gently fry in oil for a few minutes.
2 sticks cinnamon

1 red onion, diced

2 cups fresh roughly chopped tomato
1 ½ inch fresh ginger, roughly chopped
3 Thai chillies (or to taste)
5 cloves fresh garlic
2 sweet red peppers, roughly chopped
2 cups water
2 cans chick peas
1 package spinach
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional) 

fresh cilantro leaves (optional)

Start by tearing a piece of tamarind away from the block.  I usually use a big knife to get it started.  Place in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Set aside for now.

I love these long skinny red peppers.
In a large pot, roast the first set of whole spices.  Put them on medium high, and watch carefully.  Once they’ve begun to darken, and become very fragrant and a bit smoky, brush them into a spice grinder, along with the turmeric and hing.  Grind to a fine powder. 

Pour oil into the same pot, and when it’s hot, add the next bit of cumin, bay leaves and cinnamon. Fry for a minute or two and add the onion, stirring.  Turn heat down to medium, and cook onion till it’s translucent and golden in spots.  Add the ground spices, stirring, and cook for two or three minutes. You may want to add a bit more oil at this point if it looks too dry.

Add the tomatoes, ginger, chilies and garlic to the blender, and buzz.  Add the red pepper and buzz till fairly smooth.  Pour into the pot, setting the blender aside for now.  Cook for a few minutes, stirring. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, and add to the pot.  I used a block of frozen spinach, and added it now.  If you're using fresh, add it about twenty minutes before serving.  
Cook the paste for just a few minutes.

Add fresh water to the blender, buzzing a bit at a time and pour into the pot, till the water is used up and the blender is almost clean.  (You don’t want to leave good bits in the blender.)

Getting back to that tamarind, use your fingers to pinch out the seeds, and pinch away at the pulp till it’s almost smooth.  Pour into a strainer, and push through to remove all seeds and fibrous pieces.  You’ll be using just a tablespoon of puré but the rest can be poured into a plastic ziplock and frozen. 
I like this gravy fairly thick, so I let it reduce a bit longer.

Add salt at this point, and let cook for at least forty-five minutes so that flavours blend and the gravy has thickened.  Once your rice or chappatties are nearly ready, add the coconut cream, stirring.  Cook till well heated through, maybe even let it reduce a bit if you have time.  If you really wanted to be bad, you could add a tablespoon or two of heavy cream at the last minute, but don’t tell anybody I told you so.

Serve with rice or chappatties, or even both.  If you can remember to garnish with cilantro, that would be wonderful.  Sigh, I have yet another bunch of cilantro ready for the compost, because my mind blanks it out almost every time.  Sigh.

This vegetarian channa (vegan if you leave out the dairy cream) is spicy and delicious.  Full of anti-oxidants and anthrocyanins, (the coloured bits) protein and fiber, this will delight you, and leave you wondering why you’d even want to eat anything else.  

What could be more delicious or pretty?

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