Sunday, April 10, 2011

Indian-Ness

     I am not a great displayer of Indian-ness. I am not in an Indian groups on campus, I do not have many Indian friends. But, when I am in the kitchen, my Indian-ness is generally on full display. Open the kitchen cabinet and you will see it stocked with spice box and various other boxes and bags of spices: chana masala my mom ground up at home, chaat masala I just bought yesterday, even that giant bag of coriander seeds from the grocery store. 

Chickpeas in slow cooker pre-becoming true chana masala
     I experiment a lot with Asian food, which feels "fancier" to me, and Western food, which is generally just super easy, but in the end I always return to Indian food. It is easy for me cook, stocked as I am, for sure. But it is also familiarity and home and comfort. So, when I think of how I need to make a good, well-rounded meal for myself, it most always ends up being Indian. I have parathas in the freezer, they are like thinner, layered, buttery naan-type bread? (I have the frozen Pillsbury ones - super good, super unhealthy too probably, but super good). I have spinach for veggie. And what will hold my meal together? My most favorite food of all: Chana.

Figured I should just put a picture: This is a Paratha
     Chana, or Chana Masala as you may know it, is chickpeas. I guess you could think of it as a chickpea curry? Curry is such a huge umbrella term. Chana the way I make it is not exactly the chana masala you get in restaurants (it's a lot less liquidy), so I would just go by the picture a little bit below. It's also ridiculously easy to make. Especially if you are lucky enough to own a slow cooker, which I am. Making chana really has more to do with owning things than any kind of fancy cooking: you need to own chickpeas, chana masala, and either a slow cooker or just a big pot. Look at that, we're ready to go! 


     With a hot paratha, spinach (just sautéed up with a little garlic), and dahi (yogurt) of course, this made the most delicious meal. I love chana. It is like being home again for a little bit. Which is why I ended up making more chana, more spinach, and another paratha today to repeat that same meal for the second day in a row. Things may be good in moderation, but who says moderation has to be just one serving, right?


Slow Cooker Chana 

Note: I will put up a non slow cooker chana recipe AND a recipe for home-ground Chana Masala later, but I have an exam tomorrow, so no time for extras today. 

1 cup Chickpeas 
1 Black Tea Bag (How the chickpeas got their color for Picture 1)
2 cups Water
1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 tbsp Chana Masala (or Chhole Masala, they are equivalent)
1 tsp Salt (and probably more) 

Place the chickpeas, tea bag, and water in the slow cooker. Turn it to low, and allow the chickpeas to cook in there for 7 hours (i.e. A day at school). You can turn off the slow cooker and then leave the chickpeas in there for longer if you don't want to cook them that day, nothing will happen to them. When you are ready to cook them, heat the oil in a large saucepan at medium heat. Then, add the chana masala. Stir it into the oil, until it is fragrant (about 2 mins). Then, after taking out the tea bag, add the chickpeas and the water remaining in the slow cooker (it should not be that much) to the saucepan. Add salt, and stir everything together. Using a wooden spoon (or whatever you have), smush some of the chickpeas against the wall of the saucepan. The mashed chickpeas will be the thickener for your "curry". Do this a couple of times, until you have a good handful of mashed chickpeas along with the whole ones. Stir everything together, and allow it to simmer for 5-7 minutes at low-medium heat. Serve on rice or with a roti or paratha or naan! 

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