Chana Masala & Rajma – From Scratch!

As promised, here is the recipe for my chana masala (chickpeas curry) and rajma (red kidney beans), made entirely from scratch!

As I said, I was loosely inspired by the ingredients list on the MDH chana masala box (I’ve long stopped using it though). The basis of the dish is made of browned red onions, garlic, ginger and green chili, spiced with a combination of whole and powdered spices. I’ve read somewhere that the difference between whole and powdered spices is like the difference between high and low notes: think high notes when using whole, and low when using powdered spices. Of course, quantities matter, too. The coriander stand out a little, as I’ve added 1 1/2 tsp of it. That’s how I like it. The dish is finished off with a sprinkle of garam masala to round the flavours, and some amchoor to add the sour tones that I’m so addicted to, and to heighten the other flavours.

(The photos are of rajma only, though!

Rajma

Rajma – Punjabi Red Kidney Bean curry

 

Spice Tip – Coriander powder

Coriander powder does not burn easily. You can add it first among the powdered spices.

Techniques – Slicing onions

This is how I like slicing my onions. They look gorgeous when cooking, and cook rather evenly; another advantage is that I find it quicker than chopping onions as it takes no time to do it. Also, it does need a chopping board!

Take the sharpest small knife that you’ve got. Of course, you can use a bigger one, but it’s easier to use a small one. Also, the sharper, the better! Peel the onion, and cut it half, removing the hard end at the top where the little moustache used to be. Now, start slicing the onion thinly, creating thin semicircles of onion rings. That’s it!

Techniques – FRYING ONIONS to make Indian food

See this web page: Cooking Indian: How to fry onions.

Rajma

Chana Masala Perfected

 

SOURCE: ingredients loosely based on MDH chana masala box

PREPARATION TIME: 5 min

COOKING TIME: 45 min

CUISINE: North Indian – Punjabi

SERVES: 2 (as a main, 3 – 4 as a part of an Indian meal)

 

ingredients

2 medium red onions, sliced

1 1/2 tbsp ghee

 

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

3 – 4 cm ginger, peeled and chopped

3 – 4 green chilies

 

1 bay leaf

3/4 tsp cumin seeds

 

2 green cardamoms, slightly crushed

a pinch of fenugreek seeds (about 1/2 tsp)

4 – 5 cm cassia bark

 

1 1/2 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 – 3/4 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cumin

3/4 tsp chili powder

 

1/2 can tomatoes

a pinch of sugar (optional; I use it to tame the sourness of the tomato)

 

1 can chickpeas, or the equivalent amount of dried, soaked and cooked chickpeas

 

1/2 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder)

1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped

 

method 

1. Heat the ghee to high medium heat, and add bay leat and cumin to it. Fry the onions, until they start to brown, following  the instructions here. (This is important; please take some time to read the instructions.)

2. When the onions start turning dark brown/purple, add garlic, ginger and chilies. Now add cardamoms, fenugreek and cassia bark. Fry further until the onions are dark brown, taking care not to burn them.

3. Now it’s time to add the powdered spices: add the coriander first and fry for a few seconds, then add the paprika, turmeric, cumin and chili. Fry for another 10 – 15 seconds.

4. Stir in the tomatoes and a pinch of sugar (optional). Cook until the mixture is thickened, preferably until the oil starts oozing at the top, which normally takes 10 – 15 min. This will  give it the best flavour.

5. Add the chickpeas, and cook for another 10 min.

6. Just before serving, stir in the garam masala, amchoor and coriander leaves. Serve with rice. Enjoy!

 

Verdict

I think I can now throw the MDH masala away! 😀 This is so much better! Especially when made with dried and soaked chickpeas, whose flavour is absolutely superior to the canned ones!

 

To Make Rajma

 Use the same quantity of rajma (red kidney beans) instead of the chickpeas.

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Others’ chana masala recipes: Nabeela’s Chana Masala without the shop bought spice mixChana masala from Lisa’s KitchenHow to make your own chana masala powderMahanandi’s Chana MasalaMeena’s Chana Masala, and a lesson on legumesAnother Meena’s Chana Masala, garnished with a funny storyBarbara’s Chana Masala Sailu’s Chole Masala with PuriAnita’s Punjabi Chhole_____________________________________________________

Other recipes with chick peas at Maninas: My version of Catalan chick peas with tomatoes and almonds . VThis is a must-try, with its delicious flavours of saffron, garlic, tomatoes, almonds and coriander!My Moroccan-inspired chickpeas  VChana Masala for RCI Punjab ______________________________________________________

 

 

Festive Food from Dalmatia: FRITULE

At Christmas time, upon entering my Dalmatian home, you will be greeted by a bowl of fragrant and sweet fritule. Shrug off the cold, and close the door behind you. Come in. We will exchange Christmas greetings, and have a chat over fritule, and perhaps a little brandy to warm you up. The next guest will be also greeted by fritule, and by our laughter.

 

For this year’s Festive Food Fair hosted by Anna of Morsels and Musings, I present you –  fritule, a traditional Dalmatian sweet that can be found on every Dalmatian table at Christmas! Fritule (pronounced ‘freetooleh‘) are aromatic bite-sized dough balls, flavoured with lemon zest, orange zest, grape brandy (loza in Croatian) and/or dark rum, and sprinkled with icing sugar. Everyone has a winning recipe of their own, and this one is my mum’s tried and tested version! We made these together this summer. These days, whenever I go home, I use this as an opportunity to learn a new Croatian dish or sweet from my mum, and rediscover the good old familiar dishes. 🙂

Fritule

 

 

SOURCE: My mum’s recipe

PREPARATION TIME: 5 – 10 min + the time the dough will take to rise

COOKING TIME: 20 – 30 min

CUISINE: Croatian – Dalmatian

SERVES: Loads!

Ingredients:

50 g of raisins, rinsed and soaked in warm water (this softens them)

1 kg of all purpose flour

3 eggs

3 tbsp sugar

2 sachets of vanilla sugar (or two tsp of vanilla essence)

1 1/2 cube of fresh yeast (40 g), or 3 sachets of dried yeast

1 dl vegetable oil for the dough + more for frying

zest of 1 – 2 lemons

zest of 1 – 2 oranges

2 tbsp dark rum (or loza, grape brandy, or why not both!)

warm water as necessary

METHOD:

1. Put the eggs, sugar, vanilla and vegetable oil in a bowl, and beat together with a wooden spoon for a little. Add lemon and orange zest, and raisins.

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2.  If you are using dried yeast, mix in the yeast in one part of the flour. Then, add this to the eggs.  OR If you are using fresh yeast, melt the yeast in 2 dl warm water. Then add the yeast to the egg mixture, and then the flour.

3. Mix with the wooden spoon. Continue mixing until the dough stops sticking to the wooden spoon.

IMG_7500  4. Leave the dough to stand, until it almost doubles in size. The mixture is going to be warm, but it mustn’t be too warm otherwise it will ruin the yeast (says mum). If your pot/bowl is cold, put it in another bowl/pot filled with warm water. IMG_7560

5.  Pour some oil in a pan – you need to have enough so that the fritule don’t touch the bottom of the pan when you add them to the oil. Heat the oil until fairly hot.

6. Dip a spoon in the oil. This will stop the dough from sticking to it. Then, take a bit of dough in your hand, squeeze it in your fist, and scoop off what comes out between the thumb and the index by using the spoon. IMG_7586

7. Put the dough ball into very hot oil. And repeat the process: dip the spoon into hot oil, then scoop the dough, then put the dough ball into hot oil. Fry until golden brown. IMG_7574 

8. Turn the dough balls over. Start taking them out when they get this (see below) nice light brown colour. IMG_7564 9. Take them out in batches and put on some tissue paper which will soak up some of the oil.

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10. Put the fritule in a pan and cover with a lid to keep them a little warm.

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11. Repeat the process until you use up all the dough. Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving. Fritule don’t need to live in the fridge, and can last for a few days.

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NOTES:

Surfing the net for some background info on fritule, I came across this interesting idea: add prunes instead of raisins, and slivovitza, plum brandy instead of loza/rum! Which gave me another idea: use apricots and loza, or any apricot brandy! 🙂 Not traditional, but I’m sure it would be tasty! As you can see,the basic dough lends itself to creativity well. Excellent!

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Nigerian Red Kidney Bean Stew with a Peanut Sauce

I wasn’t going to post tonight, but I simply had to! I think I’m addicted to this:

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Nigerian Red Kidney Bean Stew with a Peanut Sauce – Itiakiet Stew

SOURCE: adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian

PREPARATION TIME: 5 min

COOKING TIME: 30 min

CUISINE: Nigerian

SERVES: 2 – 3 (as a main course)

 

INGREDIENTS

1 can of red kidney beans (undrained)

Groundnut oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

4 – 5 Thai green chilies, chopped

2 1/2 tsp of ground cumin

1 can of chopped tomatoes

3/4 teaspoon of cayenne

1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons of peanut butter

2 teaspoons of sea salt

METHOD:

1. Heat the oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and chilies. Stir and fry until the onions become translucent

2. . Add the cumin, stir, then add the tomato sauce, cayenne, lemon juice and a little water. Stir and then bring to boil. Then, turn the heat to the lowest setting and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

3. While the tomato mixture is simmering, put the peanut butter in a small bowl. Slowly add a little liquid from the beans, mixing as you add the water.

4. When the tomato mixture is finished cooking, pour into it the beans and and the peanut butter and stir. Bring to simmer, cover, and gently cook for 10 – 15 minutes.

It’s absolutely delicious served with some brown basmati rice, or with some bread.

Verdict

Amazing! It’s a real winner! It takes very little time to make, it’s easy, inexpensive – and it tastes amazing! I am so happy I discovered this deliciousness! I loved it! The silkiness of the peanut butter was totally seductive and ultimately simply addictive! It was perfect with brown basmati rice. – Can you tell I really like this? 😀 Go on, make it now!  

Notes

I think I may try using a bit less peanut butter next time, to try and get a better balance between the peanut butter and the rest of the sauce.

Madhur says pinto beans can be used instead of red kidney beans. She likes to serve greens or green beans on the side.

This was my first attempt and even taste of African cooking other than Moroccan, so that was very exciting! I first saw this recipe over at Lisa’s blog, and then somewhere else, and then I got Madhur’s book from the library. The book is going straight to my wish list! The recipes are delicious, and the writing is very soulful and warm, so much that it’s hard to stop reading it.
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Sunday Roast Special!

Let me tell you about George. George is a funky, chunky kind of guy. A guy every girl likes having around the house. Especially around the kitchen. Or in the kitchen! 😉 You see, our George makes one mean Sunday roast! Chicken is his speciality – succulent, delicious, with golden crispy skin. Simply to die for. Leaves us breathless every time. And very very happy.

And the best of all is – every girl/boy can have a George! You see, George is our – rotisserie! 😀

He he! I bet you all thought George is my new heartthrob! Well maybe he is… This is one hell of a roast we’re talking about here!

I’m giving you three recipes in one tonight, three recipes for fantastic British-style Sunday roasts: Chicken with tarragon, and Lamb with rosemary + gravy. The first roast is made with our George’s help, and the other in the oven. Actually, both can be successfully made in the oven, so don’t worry if you don’t have a George. The gravy recipe may not be traditional, but it’s definitely tasty!

Which one do I prefer? Oh no, don’t make me chooose….. I love both!

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Recipe 1

 

Roast Chicken with Tarragon Rub

 

SOURCE: Our George’s Owner Manual

PREPARATION TIME: 5 min

COOKING TIME: 50 min

CUISINE: British

SERVES: 3 – 4

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 whole chicken  (ours was 1 kg)

2 -3 tsp dried tarragon

1- 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 – 2 tsp salt

METHOD:

1.  First, make a rub of equal quantities of dried tarragon, pepper and salt. Make about 2 – 3 tbsp in total. We went for extra super herby – delish!

   NOTE: It is suggested that you make 1 – 2 tbsp of rub per 500 g of meat.

 

2. Next rub the mixture into the chicken.

3. Then, put the chicken into the rotisserie, or onto a baking tray and into the oven.

4. How long you will roast it for depends on the size of your chicken. See below for suggestions.

  ROASTING TIMES: According to Delia, it’s 20 min per lb (450 g),   plus 10 –  20 min extra, at 190 C/Gas mark 5/375 F.

 

5. We did ours in George, so that made it really easy. We just shoved it in, and went off to do sth else. Minimum effort. That’s why we like our George! 😀 The only thing we did was to collect the juices at some point towards the end, which we used to make gravy!

6. When the chicken is done, take it out of the rotisserie/oven and leave for at least 15 min to stand before carving it. This is absolutely vital. This way, the juices will not evaporate as you cut the chicken, but they will stay inside, so your bird will remain juicy and succulent! While the chicken is roasting, you can make the gravy! See below for details.

Serve with roast potatoes and a few other vegetables (boiled broccoli, peas, carrots, corn, etc). Pour over some gravy. Take a forkful and put it in your mouth. Close your eyes and go mmmmmm! 🙂

Roast chicken

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Recipe 2

 

Roast Lamb with Rosemary

 

SOURCE: My husband taught me this 🙂

PREPARATION TIME: 5 min

COOKING TIME: 1 h 15 min min

CUISINE: British

SERVES: 3 – 4

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 kg lamb shoulder

a few sprigs of rosemary

freshly ground black pepper

salt

METHOD:

1.  Preheat your oven to 190 C. Make incisions in the meat, and put pieces of rosemary in them. 

2. Wrap the lamb in aluminium foil and put on a roasting rack, placed in a roasting tray. This will keep the juices in the foil, and the meat will be lovely and tender.

3. Roast the meat 25 min per lb (454 g), plus 25 extra. In our case, that was 1 h 25 min. 15 minutes before the end of cooking, take out the lamb out of the oven. Carefully peel the foil, and let the juices out. Reserve the juices. You will need them to make gravy. Then, return the lamb to the oven, uncovered, so it browns nicely on the outside. You can whack the temperature up a bit now.

4. When the lamb is done, leave it to rest for 15 min before cutting. Meanwhile, make the gravy! 🙂

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Gravy

 

SOURCE: A friend

PREPARATION TIME: 1 min

COOKING TIME: 5 min

CUISINE: British

SERVES: 3 – 4

 

INGREDIENTS:

butter

flour

a glug of wine (red for the lamb, and white for the chicken)

meat juices from the roast

(if you don’t have enough juices, add some chicken/lamb/beef stock, too)

METHOD:

1.  Put the same amount of flour and butter together in a pan (make it non-stick, it will make your life easier).  

2. Put it on the hob and stir. The butter will start melting incorporating the flour into it, forming a thick past.

3. Slowly add other liquids, keep stirring!

4. Boil for a few minutes until the flour is cooked (you can’t taste it as much). Reduce to the pouring consistency. Serve warm.

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For more British recipes on this blog, click here.

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Craving vitamins: Chinese-style vegetable stir-fry with sushi ginger

I’ve been ill for a few days. It’s the boring old common cold – a nuisance really. As a consequence, I’ve had a huge craving for vegetables, crisp and fresh, and full of vitamins, and spices to give me a fix of energy. My body was yearning for something Indian or Chinese, but one look into my fridge decided the match: it was to be Chinese. A spicy, nutritious, aromatic and healing vegetable stir fry. 5-spice powder gave it a bit of warmth, and I like a sour tang in my stir-fries, so some rice vinegar took care of that! I added loads of garlic (I have a cold, people!), and sprinkled some sushi ginger on top – Delicious!

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Chinese-style Vegetable Stir-fry with Sushi Ginger

 

SOURCE: My own recipe

PREPARATION TIME: 5 min

COOKING TIME: 5 – 10 min

CUISINE: Chinese-inspired

SERVES: 1 – 2

INGREDIENTS: 

groundnut oil

3 cloves of garlic

2 red chilies (small & spicy!)

1/2 large carrot, cut into sticks

a handful of broccoli florets

broccoli stem cut into sticks

3 chestnut mushrooms

a handful of bean sprouts

a few slices of sushi ginger

1/2 mug basmati rice

Sauce:

oyster sauce (or replace with a vegetarian variety)

sesame oil

1 tsp ketchup manis (Sweet Indonesian soy sauce – can be substituted with soy sauce and sugar)

2 tsp rice vinegar

a generous dash of 5-spice powder

dark soy sauce

a few drops of Thai fish sauce (optional)

METHOD:

1. Prepare all the ingredients. This is essential, because everything cooks really quickly and you don’t have time to chop the veg as you go. Put the rice to cook. When it boils, start preparing the stir fry.

2. Heat some groundnut oil in the wok. Add chilies and garlic and fry for a few minutes (add fresh ginger if you have some now, too – I didn’t have any).

3. Add carrots and broccoli. Fry for a few minutes and add mushrooms. Then add broccoli stem. (I learnt this trick off Barbara: peeled broccoli stem has a wonderful tender structure and mild flavour, and is great in stir-fries. Of course, the choice of vegetables really depends on the content of your freezer! 🙂) The vegetables should soften slightly, but not too much – they should still be quite crisp.

4. Add the sauce and cook through. Serve with basmati, and sprinkle with sushi ginger.

Inhale deeply. It sure smells delicious! And it is delicious.

Notes

Don’t worry if you don’t have ketchup manis – just use soy sauce and add a bit of sugar.

You’ll notice I don’t add salt to stir-fries. This is because soy sauce and oyster sauce add enough saltiness to the dish.

As for the amounts – use your instincts and your preferences.

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