Channa Bateta (Chickpeas with Potato)

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.

Chickpeas with potatoesSome 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

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

  1. Pour boiling water over dates and tamarind, and soak overnight.
  2. Heat oil in a pan with whole chili and mustard seeds until they crackle.
  3. Add turmeric and chili powder and cook for a minute, stirring all the time.
  4. Add 1 pint of water and salt to taste. Bring to a boil.
  5. Now add diced potatoes and cook until nearly soft.
  6. Chuck in chickpeas and simmer.
  7. Meanwhile crush tamarind and dates with your fingers, then strain into the pot with the sugar.
  8. Stir the besan into a little water to make a paste, then stir into the simmering pot to thicken the mixture a little.
  9. Cook for another five minutes.
  10. Serve in bowls topped with Bombay Mix if you like

Chickpeas with potato

Sambar- Vegetable and Dal Stew

This recipe comes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, which describes this dish as thicker than ordinary dal and especially easy to digest. I wanted to make this because it called for tamarind, which gives a great tangy flavour to a dish. As with all recipes from this cook book, it makes enough to feed quite a few people (6-8) so if you’re cooking for one or two and do not want left overs until the next week, I recommend that you half this recipe.

Sambar: Vegetable and Dal Stew
Sambar: Vegetable and Dal Stew  

Begin by boiling salted water, then adding washed mung dal.
Bring back to a boil, remove any froth on the surface, and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

While the mung dal are simmering, extract the tamarind pulp.
This is a picture of the tamarind and water mixture. 

Tamarind is a tropical fruit, it is often sold as tamarind paste, which looks like a small brown square brick wrapped in plastic. To extract the pulp, you can boil the tamarind paste in just enough water to cover for 5 minutes, then press the mixture through a sieve with the back of a spoon. Or, if you’re too lazy to put on another pot, submerge the tamarind paste with just enough boiling water to cover, then microwave for 1 minute. But be careful, the tamarind paste mixture may boil over in your microwave, so watch it carefully!

Extract the pulp from the tamarind by pressing it through a sieve with
the back of a spoon. Discard the dry and stringy bits left in the sieve. 

When your dal is almost finished simmering, start another pan for the vegetables. Heat oil until hot, then add black mustard seeds and pop a lid on your pan. When the mustard seeds stop jumping around, add in ground cumin, coriander, and turmeric, saute for a second more, then add in your vegetables. I’ve used some peeled green squash (looks like a large, curvy, light green zucchini), and carrots.

Saute vegetables of your choice in spices, I have some green squash and carrots.
Once the vegetables are lightly brown, add in grated coconut. 

Toast the coconut for 2 minutes, then add the dal and tamarind pulp to the vegetable mixture.
Be very careful, the dal may splash as you add it to the hot pan. 

Simmer the sambar until the dal is fully cooked and the vegetables are soft. Check to adjust the seasonings before serving with white rice and an Indian bread, or with masala dosa or atta dosa.

Sambar: Vegetable and Dal Stew
Sambar: Vegetable and Dal Stew

Sambar (Vegetable and Dal Stew)
Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 6 cups (1.4 L water) 
  • 3 tsp salt 
  • 1 1/4 cups (250g) mung dal, toor dal, green split-peas, or whole lentils, picked and washed thoroughly 
  • 1 1/2 lb (675g) assorted vegetables (eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, green beans, squash), cubed 
  • 2 oz (50 g) tamarind 
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) vegetable oil 
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin 
  • 2 tsp ground coriander 
  • 1 tsp turmeric 
  • 4 tbsp grated coconut (I substituted with unsweetened desiccated coconut) 
Method 
  1. Bring water and salt to a boil, add washed dal and boil uncovered using high heat for 10 minutes. Skim any froth that accumulates, then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. 
  2. Meanwhile, extract the pulp from the tamarind by boiling it with enough water to cover for 5 minutes and pressing the tamarind and water mixture through a sieve to extract as much of the pulp as possible. 
  3. In a separate pan large enough to hold both the vegetables and the dal, heat up the oil, then add the mustard seeds, quickly putting a lid on the pan to prevent the mustard seeds from popping out. 
  4. When the mustard seeds have finished popping, add the cumin, coriander, and turmeric, then add the cubed vegetables and cook until the vegetables are lightly brown. 
  5. Add in the grated coconut and toast for 2 minutes. 
  6. At this point, the dal should be ready. Add the dal and tamarind pulp to the vegetable mixture, and simmer until the dal is fully cooked and vegetables are soft. Serve with rice and an Indian bread or dosa. 

Mixed Dal with Vegetables

I’ve been cooking a lot of dals lately, and I’m sharing one of my recipes today. Dal is an Indian dish made by simmering beans or peas (usually without their skins and split in half) in water then seasoned with various spices. Dals are a great addition to any meal, they are usually high in fibre, iron, protein, and contain a plethora of B vitamins, which can help you feel more energized.

Mixed dal with vegetables
Mixed Dal with Vegetables 


Interestingly, dal refers to both the dish, and the bean/ pea that the dish is made from. The most common beans/ peas used for dals include the mung dal, toor dal, urad dal, channa dal, yellow split peas, or red/ yellow lentils. I used an equal amount of mung and urad dals for this recipe. Feel free to experiment!

Wash mung dal and urad dal, soak in water for 1 hour, then drain

Sauté ginger over medium heat with oil for 1 minute, then add turmeric 

Add in drained mung dal and urad dal, sauté for 1 minute
Add water, bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes 

In addition to the dal, this dish also calls for sautéed vegetables. First heat up some oil and wait until it’s medium- hot, then add mustard seeds and immediately put a lid on the pan to prevent them from jumping out. As soon as they’ve quieted down, add the cumin seeds, bay leaves, and the minced chilies and sauté for half a minute. Then add the cut up vegetables. The process of adding spices to hot oil is commonly used in Indian cuisine to build up the flavour of the dish. It toasts the spices to release their flavour into the oil, the sequence is also carefully timed so all the spices finishes cooking at the same time without any burning.

Toast spices in oil (see above), then add cubed eggplant and carrot
Sauté vegetables for 5 minutes 

Pour dal into the vegetable mixture and simmer for 10 minutes.
Season with salt and garam masala. 

Mixed dal with vegetables
Mixed dal with vegetables, best served hot with rice 
Mixed dal with vegetables
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried mung dal 
  • 1/2 cup dried urad dal 
  • 5 tbsp oil, divided 
  • 2 tbsp ginger, minced 
  • 1 L water (approx), divided 
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 green chilies, seeded and minced 
  • 1 eggplant, cubed 
  • 2 carrots, 1/2 inch segments 
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala 
  • Salt to taste 
Method 
  1. Wash and soak the mung and urad dals for 1 hour, drain. 
  2. In a deep pot, heat 2 tbsp of oil, when hot, add ginger and sauté for 1 minute, add turmeric and sauté for 15 seconds.
  3. Add the drained dals and sauté for 2 minutes to toast gently, then add 800 mL of water, bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. 
  4. In a separate large pan, heat up 3 tbsp of oil, when hot, add mustard seeds and immediately put a lid on the pan to prevent the seeds from popping out. When the seeds have finished popping, add the cumin seeds, bay leaves, and green chilies. Cook for 30 more seconds. 
  5. Add eggplant and carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Pour the cooked dal into the vegetable pan along with 200 mL of water and simmer for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to blend. 
  6. Season with garam masala and salt before serving with rice. 

Paneer Butter Masala

Paneer Butter Masala
Paneer Butter Masala 

Paneer cheese is cooked in a sauce of onions, spices, cashews, and tomatoes. The cheese soaks up all the flavours of the sauce and becomes soft and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Recipe inspired by Edible Garden.


I’ll be honest, my dish didn’t turn out fantastically awesome (but I also did not follow the recipe from Edible Garden very closely). The main flaw was that there was way too much onion in the sauce, which overpowered everything else. I never thought that would be possible, since I usually love onions in a dish. So the recipe I’m providing here is not the one I made, it’s the reduced-onion version that I would try next time.

Paneer cheese- Indian fresh cheese made with cow's milk
Paneer cheese- Indian fresh cheese made with cow’s milk 

Dice up approximately 2 cups of paneer cheese into 1 inch cubes.

Saute mustard seeds, then add pureed onions,
minced ginger, garlic, and cashew paste in butter

Cook the base of the sauce for about 4-5 minutes until the onions have softened and are slightly caramelized.  This recipe calls for cashew paste, lacking cashew paste, I simply put some raw cashews into a food processor and processed until it was the consistency of a rather dry looking paste. (Edit: Here’s a video explaining how to make cashew nut paste properly. First boil cashew to cook and soften, then blend with a little water)

Add in crushed tomatoes, ground turmeric,
and ground coriander 

Stir it around and cook for another minute before adding the diced paneer. Add water/ milk/ cream to make a sauce with the consistency that you desire.

Simmer for ~15 minutes in the sauce,
sprinkle garam masala and garnish with cilantro 

This is delicious with rice or naan. 

Paneer Butter Masala
Serves: 2-4

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter 
  • 1 onion, pureed
  • 1 tsp brown mustard seeds 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 3 thin slices ginger, minced 
  • 2 tbsp cashew nut paste 
  • 1/8 cup crushed tomatoes, or 1 diced tomato 
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric 
  • 1 tsp ground coriander 
  • 1 lb pressed paneer cheese, cubed (~2 cups)
  • Water, milk or cream 
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala 
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander, minced 

Method

  1. Heat butter over medium-high heat, add mustard seeds and put a lid on the pan immediately. 
  2. Once the seeds stop popping, add pureed onions, garlic, ginger, cashew nut paste and cook for 4-5 minutes, until onions are softened and slightly caramelized 
  3. Add tomato, turmeric and ground coriander and cook for 1 minute more. Add in diced paneer cheese
  4. Add water, milk or cream until the sauce is a little thinner than the desired consistency. Simmer for 15 minutes
  5. Mix in garam masala, garnish with fresh coriander and serve 

Stuffed Mushrooms with Paneer Cheese and Peas

Stuffed mushrooms with paneer cheese and peas
Stuffed mushrooms with paneer cheese and peas

Great idea for an appetizer or a side dish with an Indian twist. White button mushrooms are stuffed with peas and fresh Indian cheese for a healthy and delicious bite.

Saute paneer cheese
Heat oil in a pan, add minced ginger and black mustard seeds
Once mustard seeds stop popping, crumble in paneer cheese 

Paneer, peas and mushroom stems
Saute cheese for a few minutes, then add in fresh or frozen
peas and mushroom stems, season with salt and garam masala 

Process in food processor
Process in food processor until mixture resembles
coarse breadcrumbs 

Season mushroom caps and stuff
Season mushroom caps with salt,
then stuff with pea and cheese mixture

Stuffed mushrooms
Repeat until all mushroom caps are stuffed 
Saute over medium heat until bottom is golden 
Bake at 350 degrees F for ten minutes until
mushroom caps are fully cooked 

Stuffed mushrooms with paneer cheese and peas
Enjoy!

The stuffing is also delicious inside hollowed out tomatoes or mini potatoes. To make this recipe vegan, simply substitute medium firm tofu for the paneer cheese. 

Stuffed Mushrooms with Paneer Cheese and Peas 
Yields: 24 stuffed white mushrooms 
Ingredients 
  • 24 white button mushrooms 
  • 1 tbsp oil, divided 
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced 
  • 1/2 cup paneer cheese, crumbled 
  • 1/2 cup green peas, fresh or frozen 
  • 1 tsp salt, divided 
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
Method 
  1. Wipe clean mushrooms with a damp cloth, pull out the stems and chop roughly 
  2. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, add 1/2 tbsp oil, when oil is hot, add in mustard seeds and ginger. Put a lid on the skillet immediately to prevent mustard seeds from jumping out 
  3. When the mustard seeds stop popping, add in the paneer cheese, cook for a few minutes 
  4. Add in the mushroom stems and green peas, cook until vegetables have softened, season with 1/2 tsp salt and the garam masala. 
  5. Remove filling from skillet and process in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs 
  6. Toss mushroom caps with 1/2 tbsp oil and 1/2 tsp salt, stuff with cheese mixture 
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F 
  8. Lightly brown the bottoms of the mushroom caps in a skillet before transferring into a baking sheet and baking in the oven for 10 minutes 

Sweet and Sour Vegetables

Continuing cooking from my vegetarian Indian cookbook, I made this dish with what feels like a million ingredients. The book described this dish as the highlight of a feast. What it neglected to mention was that it also made enough to feed a party. So although I followed the recipe when I made the dish, I have reduced the quantities in the recipe I provide here. If you are tired of the same old vegetable dishes, I highly recommend that you give this a try. It is very delicious and has a unique flavour from the tamarind and cumin. 

Indian Sweet and Sour Vegetables
Indian Sweet and Sour Vegetables
Like many other Indian dishes, this one starts out with quickly sauteing ginger, chilies, spices (whole cumin seeds, ground coriander, and ground black pepper) in oil. Cooking the spices releases their fragrance and flavours the dish, so this is a crucial step. The final mixture is called a masala. When preparing a masala, it is important to add the spices according to their cooking time so everything finishes releasing their fragrance at the same time. 
Once the masala is ready, time to add in the tamarind pulp, brown sugar, water and cubed pineapple. 
Aside: What is tamarind? (And the recipe for tamarind pulp)

Tamarind is a fruit found in tropical regions. The brown outer layer is hard and inedible. The inner brown flesh is edible. Its flesh surrounds a small dark brown inedible seed. It is often used to provide a sour and tangy taste to South Asian dishes and desserts. In North America, tamarind paste is often found in supermarkets. 

To prepare tamarind pulp, simmer 1 part tamarind paste in 2 parts boiling water for 15 minutes, breaking it up with a spoon. The water should turn brown and the pulp should get softer. Strain the water-tamarind mixture and push through as much of the tamarind pulp with the back of a spoon as you can. When you’re done straining, only stringy bits and the seeds of the tamarind should be in the strainer, and the contents of the strainer should be dry-looking. Discard the tamarind left in the strainer, and use the strained tamarind pulp for this recipe and many others. 
Ginger, chilies, spices, tamarind, brown sugar, water and pineapple
Phew, that was a long explanation! Anyway, once you have all of the above in the pan over medium-low heat, it’s time to start frying your cheese. The cheese used here is paneer, a fresh Indian cheese made with cow’s milk. It has a very mild flavour, does not melt very well, and looks like tofu. It’s found in South Asian grocery stores, and it is a common ingredient in Indian dishes. 
Frying paneer
Frying paneer 
In the original recipe, the paneer is deep fried, but in the interest of health, I’m pan frying it in a few tablespoons of oil over medium heat. They’re done when all sides are (more or less) golden brown. 
While the paneer is frying, add sliced carrots, celery and plantain to the pineapple, cook for a few minutes. Then add in the browned cheese, tomato wedges, and zucchini. 
Vegetables simmering in the pan
Cook until everything is tender. Season with salt and serve with rice or an Indian bread. 
This is a pretty elaborate dish and took me quite some time to prepare. I think the most time-consuming part was chopping all those vegetables. The recipe here is a scaled down version, which should be less labour intensive. When I made this dish, I accidentally used too much tamarind, so it was quite sour. I corrected this by adding more brown sugar. So if you find it too sour or too sweet for your liking, feel free to adjust with tamarind and sugar. Balance is the key here! 
Indian Sweet and Sour Vegetables
Indian Sweet and Sour Vegetables 
Indian Sweet and Sour Vegetables 
Adapted from: The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking 
Serves: 4- 6 
Ingredients 
  • 3 oz (85g) tamarind pulp (see Aside for instructions)  
  • 2 tbsp oil 
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 green chilies, sliced 
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper 
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar 
  • 1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored and cubed 
  • 1 tsp paprika 
  • 1 tsp ground coriander 
  • 2 tbsp oil 
  • 5 oz (150 g) pressed paneer, cubed 
  • 2 carrots, sliced 
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced 
  • 1 green plantain, sliced, or 1 potato, peeled and diced small 
  • 1 zucchini, cubed 
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 tsp salt 
Method 
  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the cumin seeds, ginger, and green chili; after 30 seconds, add the ground black pepper 
  2. To the pan, add water, brown sugar, tamarind pulp, pineapple, paprika, and ground coriander, allow to simmer and thicken for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning 
  3. Meanwhile, fry the paneer in a 2 tablespoons of oil until golden brown on all sides, set aside 
  4. To the pan with pineapples, add carrots, celery, and plantain (or potato), cook for 5 minutes 
  5. Add the fried paneer, zucchini, tomatoes, and salt, simmer until all vegetables are tender 

Rajma (Spiced Red Kidney Beans)

Today I went on an Indian cooking spree. For dinner, I made rajma and saag. This post is about rajma, which is an Indian red kidney bean stew (For saag, see the next post).  I really like this recipe since it is super healthy, high in fibre and a source of iron. That’s not bad for these little beans! Feel free to enjoy it with some rice or whole wheat chapattis.

Rajma (red kidney beans)
Rajma: kidney beans cooked with onion and spices 
This recipe starts out the night before with soaking the kidney beans overnight in the fridge. The water to bean ratio should be 3:1. If you’re preparing this for dinner, soaking can be done in the morning and simply left out in room temperature.

Once the beans have been soaked, boil them in unsalted water for about 1 hour until they are soft. Drain and reserve.

In the meanwhile, dice two tomatoes, one onion, mince three cloves of garlic, half an inch of ginger, and one green chili.

Rajma ingredients: tomatoes, green chili, ginger, garlic and onion
Top: diced tomatoes, bottom left to right: minced green chilies, ginger, garlic, and diced onion
In a pan, heat oil and add ginger, garlic and chilies and fry for 1-2 minutes, watch the garlic closely so it doesn’t burn. Then, add the onion and tomatoes and cook for 5 more minutes. Add a pinch of turmeric at this point. The turmeric will turn everything a lovely shade of yellow and impart its characteristic aromatic fragrance. Add the boiled red kidney beans, cayenne pepper, coriander powder.

At this point, the recipe told me to “simmer until a thick gravy is formed” but the mixture was pretty dry to begin with, so I added some of the liquid that the beans were cooked in for the gravy.

After about 20 minutes, the flavours from the tomatoes, chilies, spices will have infused the kidney beans. Add a pinch of garam marsala. Taste them at this point and add salt to taste. Garnish with some minced fresh coriander leaves and ring the dinner bell.

Rajma (red kidney bean)
Rajma for dinner anyone? 

Taste test: 3.5/5
Slightly spicy from the green chilies and cayenne, this left a pleasant heat  in my mouth. I don’t think I cooked the kidney beans for long enough, they were a little too chewy for my liking. Otherwise a lively and brightly coloured dish. This would make a lovely filling for an Indian-style burrito, and I’ve also read about using it as a pizza topping, or simply eaten with plain rice.

Rajma

1 cup dried red kidney beans, soaked overnight
1 tbsp vegetable oil/ butter/ ghee
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 inch piece of ginger, minced
1 green chili, minced
1 small onion, fine dice
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 pinch ground turmeric, about 1/4 tsp
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp ground coriander powder
1/2 tsp garam marsala
salt to taste
2 tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro), minced

  1. Boil red kidney beans until they are soft, about 1 hour, drain and reserve the cooking liquid 
  2. Heat vegetable oil/ butter/ ghee in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add minced garlic, ginger, and chilies and cook for 1 minute 
  3. Add the onion and tomatoes, cook for a few minutes until the onions are translucent and tomatoes are softened 
  4. Add turmeric, cayenne pepper, ground coriander, and cooked kidney beans 
  5. Add enough of the cooking liquid from the kidney beans to form a sauce, about 1 cup; simmer until the sauce is thickened and coats the beans 
  6. Sprinkle with garam marsala, do a taste test, salt accordingly 
  7. Garnish with minced coriander and serve