I’m hosting a party!
This little blog has seen many parties – real and imagined – pass through its virtual doors. I’ve occasionally talked about dinner parties at Casa Gander. I’ve planned a middle eastern tent feast with Laura of Laura’s Mess (and she has done it, wow!). I’ve even gatecrashed a Sicilian cocktail party with Liz of Food for Fun.
If you haven’t met Angie yet, you should – she is fun, witty, her blog is full of creative food ideas, she gardens and forages and makes the prettiest things from the foraged bounty. And Sir Johnny? – I can’t wait to see what he will wear, having come to previous Fiestas in fisherman’s waders, a black PVC ensemble, that magenta onsie with a white zip, and – it was rumoured – a chamois.
As for this week’s Fiesta, get ready for madcap party tricks when you least expect – Sir Johnny and I are both in crazy time zones compared to State-side friends, so when you are blinking at the rising sun, we’ll be just getting the disco lights and cocktails started.
Fiesta Friday celebrates that best of weekdays with the funnest of parties. Please, please, come and join the party! Visit the Fiesta-goers’ posts, even better link up your own post! We may be rowdy, but we are a friendly bunch and always looking out for more people to share the fun. It’s a great way to get more people visiting your blog, and I’ve met some talented bloggers along the way. Have I convinced you yet? (actually, can you tell I’m not a salesperson??)
And onto the food! This week, I’m bringing to Fiesta Friday a bowl of chana masala (or chole masala), a chickpea dish that is found in Indian and Pakistan cuisine. According to Sir Google, a popular version of chana masala comes from Punjabi cuisine, and has a distinctive sour and tangy flavour. There are also south Indian versions such as one from Kerala, and a version with black chickpeas.
I made the Punjabi chana masala, which has been popularised by Madhur Jaffrey (including via Smitten Kitchen). This was one of the most flavoursome and fragrant dishes I’ve ever made, and it looks like you’ve slaved over a stove for positively hours – when in fact it’s quick enough for a weeknight meal. Low fuss & high impact = win win.
The last time I made this was for an after work impromptu dinner. One of the dinner guests was on a vegan diet (or at least I was told ‘vegan’ is the easiest way to understand what she can and can’t eat). Rather than trying to veganise something on the fly, I looked for recipes that just happen to be vegan but are also packed with colour and flavour.
This chana masala was the star of the meal.
The mix of ingredients almost read like a poem from the Spice Road: ginger, onions, garlic, coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, turmeric, paprika, garam masala, fresh chili peppers, amchoor, tomatoes, chickpeas. The smell was intoxicating. The flavours came together beautifully, the spices, sharpened by the ginger, onions, garlic and chili peppers, mellowed by tomatoes. The chickpeas revelled in this mixture and gave it an earthy substance.
As the ingredients cooked and melded together to form a gorgeous reddish sauce, I stood over the stove, closed my eyes and thought about travels to India (and finding these chai wallahs).
Alongside the chana masala, I made Madhur Jaffrey’s genius stir-fried cabbage with fennel seeds (cabbage has rarely been so flavourful, and so lacking in that cabbagy smell), and rice with lentils which was a travesty simplified version of mejadra. For dessert, there was coconut and lychee jelly made with agar, which, unlike gelatine, is plant-based.
For that distinctive sour taste, Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe calls for amchoor (a dried sour mango powder). SK suggests substituting with the juice from 1 lemon, but I stirred in a good dollop of tamarind paste at the end of cooking (I read on another forum that adding tamarind too early can result in a slightly ‘muddy’ taste).
Traditionally, dried chickpeas are soaked and cooked with tea leaves or tea bags, which gives the chickpeas a distinctive brown colour (similar idea to Chinese tea eggs). I have only used canned chickpeas and so didn’t do this – but this is on the cards for next time. Because there will be a next time, soon, as we head into winter.
Chana masala is commonly served with flat bread, especially bhatura, a leavened and fried bread popular in Punjabi cuisine.
The list of ingredients look a bit daunting at first. But you probably have a lot of the ingredients in your pantry – or if not they are relatively common spices. The cooking instructions are a cinch, all you need to do is stand elegantly at the stove as the guests walk in the door and marvel about the smell.
(by Madhur Jeffrey and adapted by Smitten Kitchen)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 fresh hot green chili pepper, minced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tablespoon amchoor powder (I used two tablespoons of tamarind paste instead)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala (note you will need more if your spice mixture is a bit old/tired), plus another teaspoon
2 cups tomatoes, chopped small or 1 15-ounce can (or two standard Australian cans) of whole tomatoes with their juices, chopped small
2/3 cup water
4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 15-ounce cans (or four standard Australian cans) chickpeas , drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 lemon, juiced (or more to taste)
1. Heat oil in a large skillet or saucepan. Add onion, garlic, ginger and pepper and sauté over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn heat down to medium-low and add the coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, cumin seeds, amchoor (if using), paprika and garam masala.
2. Cook onion mixture with spiced for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and any accumulated juices, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the water and chickpeas. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, then stir in salt and lemon juice (and tamarind, if using).
3. Totally optional: I stirred through another teaspoon of garam masala at the same time as adding salt, lemon juice and tamarind, to really get the spice mix’s fragrance and flavour when serving the dish.
Tagged: chana masala, Chickpeas, chili, chole masala, coriander, cumin, Dinner party, Fiesta Friday, garam masala, garlic, ginger, Novice Gardener, onions, paprika, parties, recipes, Smitten Kitchen, tomatoes, turmeric, vegan, vegetarian