This recipe comes from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s book, The Settler’s Cookbook– a memoir of love, migration and food.
Born in Uganda, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is of East-Indian descent. Her book shares the stories of East-Indians in Uganda, along with the foods and recipes that accompanied these experiences. From celebrating birthdays and marriages, to the lunches of railway workers, it is a vivid compilation of East-Indians’ lives in Uganda.
To provide context for these personal experiences, Alibhai-Brown discusses the collective histories of East-Indian Ugandans. Answering questions like, “How did Indians end up in Uganda?” she talks about being an ethnic minority in a British colony during the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as the impacts of East-Indians on the physical, social, and economic fabric of their country.
Being an immigrant to a colonized land myself, I felt a certain connection to the author. As I read the book, it became clear to me that that we shared the belief that food is more than just food– it’s culture, it’s comfort, it’s connection to the past, present, and future. It’s amazing how much a bowl of chickpeas and potatoes can say if we listen.
Some recipes in this book are a fusion of Indian and Ugandan cuisines. However, I think this dish stayed true to its Indian roots. The tamarind and date paste provides a sweet and sour backdrop and the chili gives just enough heat to warm you up on a cold day. The garnish on top is Bombay mix, a salty, sour, and spicy mixture of fried peas, peanuts, lentils, and chickpea flour noodles typically eaten as a snack, or as part of a meal. I got mine from the Real Canadian Superstore in Vancouver.
Masi’s Channa Babeta
From: The Settler’s Cookbook– a memoir of love, migration and food by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
- 3 tins chickpeas
- 2 tbsp dried tamarind
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 large dried red chili
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 lb potatoes
- 6 dried dates
- Red chili powder to taste
- 2 tsp channa flour (besan– chickpea flour)
- ½ tsp sugar
- Pour boiling water over dates and tamarind, and soak overnight.
- Heat oil in a pan with whole chili and mustard seeds until they crackle.
- Add turmeric and chili powder and cook for a minute, stirring all the time.
- Add 1 pint of water and salt to taste. Bring to a boil.
- Now add diced potatoes and cook until nearly soft.
- Chuck in chickpeas and simmer.
- Meanwhile crush tamarind and dates with your fingers, then strain into the pot with the sugar.
- Stir the besan into a little water to make a paste, then stir into the simmering pot to thicken the mixture a little.
- Cook for another five minutes.
- Serve in bowls topped with Bombay Mix if you like