Balti Chana Dhal
The chickpea we are accustomed to using in the West with its large light brown seed is only one of four major types. The first domesticated chickpeas are smaller with a dark brown, tough seed coat. Evidence for their cultivation extends back over 7000 years. These ancient chickpeas are still extensively grown in India, where they are often hulled and split, with the resulting split-pea like pulse being one of the most commonly used for dhals. Called Chana Dhal, this variety has a nuttier and more savory flavor than the standard large variety.
Here Chana Dhal is combined with Green Masala paste to make a dish utterly different from the Balti Lobia. Makes 8 servings.
1 pound split Chana Dhal
1 cup finely diced Onion
¼ cup Green Masala Paste
2 tablespoons Sugar
Aromatic Salt, to taste
Pick through Chana Dhal to remove any stones or other foreign material. Cover generously with cold water and soak for at least 6 hours. Drain and rinse.
Bring two quarts of water to the boil. Add rinsed and drained Chana Dhal. Stir every few minutes to make sure that they do not stick to the pot bottom or to each other. Bring water back to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for roughly 45 minutes. Skim off any scum as it forms. When Chana Dhal is tender, drain.
Place cooked Chana Dhal back into the pot. Add the remaining ingredients, and gently cook for at least 10 minutes.
Look for hulled and split Chana Dhal at a local or online Indian grocier. You can also make this dish using whole chana dhal -- the end product will not look the same and will have a different mouth feel, but will still taste great.
Chana Dal with Gourd
One of the real advantages of cooking with gourds rather than summer squash is that they tends to not cook down into a mush and thus remains separate and identifiable when stewed with other vegetables for extended periods. The following recipe, inspired by one presented in Yamuna Devi’s 1987 Lord Krishna's Cuisine (ISBN 978-0525245643) is an excellent example, with the gourd pieces remaining intact and a wonderful contrast to the surrounding cooked chana dal.
1½ cups chana dal
8 cups water
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon fresh ginger paste
2 pounds gourd, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1½” long x ¾” wide strips
½ tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons canola oil or ghee
½ tablespoon cumin seed
2 whole dry chilies
½ teaspoon asafetida powder
8 curry leaves, fresh
Soak the chana dal in 4 cups of water for 5 hours or overnight. Drain.
Place the soaked chana dal, water, turmeric, coriander, and ginger in a heavy pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, until the dal is tender, about 1½ hours.
Add in the gourd pieces and garam masala. Simmer for another 30-40 minutes until the gourd pieces are tender. Add in the salt and lemon juice.
Heat oil over a medium-high burner. When the oil is hot, add in the cumin, and stir fry until the seeds brown, about 15-30 seconds. Add in the chilies, asafedita, and curry leaves and stir in the hot oil for 10 seconds. Remove from heat and pour the hot oil and seasonings into the dal. Cover the dal and let rest for 2-3 minutes before serving.
Chickpea Dumpling Stew (Yeshimbra Assa)
The following is our adaptation of one of the most famous lenten dishes in the Ethiopian cuisine. In its original form the chickpea dumplings are made from a very dry dough that are made into fish-like shapes before being fried. While a fun way to celebrate the loaves-and-fishes story of Christ, it is also a lot of extra work. So, in this case we simplified the recipe by simply dropping dollops of a wetter batter into hot oil to make small, round fried dumplings reminiscent of falafel. Given the considerable cultural interchange between the peoples of the Levant and Maghreb and Ethiopia, we strongly suspect that these dumplings and falafel in fact do stem from the same culinary origin. The thing that makes Yeshimbra Assa completely different, however, is that after frying the dumplings are stewed in a typically flavored wat sauce made of berbere paste, onions, garlic, and cardamom. The end result is about as far removed from any falafel sandwich as is possible, but every bit as tasty. You’ll never notice that there is no meat in this dish. Makes about 8-10 cups.
3 cups besan (chickpea) flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground white pepper
1 cup water
2 tablespoons grated onions
2 teaspoons pressed garlic
Canola oil for deep frying
Sift besan, salt, and pepper into a bowl. Make a well in the center and add in the grated onion, garlic, and ¾ cup water. Gradually stir the liquids into the flour. When the flour has been completely wetted, stir vigorously until a smooth dough is formed.
Heat oil in a small wok or pan until it reaches 350° F. Drop 1 tablespoon of batter at a time into the hot oil, and cook until the balls float and become golden brown on all sides. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.
2 cups red onion, cut into ½ inch dice
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger paste
2 tablespoons pressed garlic
½ cup spiced butter, melted
4 cups water
½ cup berbere paste
½ teaspoon whole cardamom seed, ground
Salt to taste
In a large pan, sauté onion, garlic and ginger in spiced butter over medium heat until the onions are tender. Add in water, berbere paste, spices, and chickpea dumplings. Simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes until the dumplings become tender. You may need to add in additional water to keep the sauce pourable. Serve hot.
Remember that if you wish to make this dish vegan, simply replace the spiced butter for spiced vegetable oil.
Chickpeas with Greens and Pasta -- Greece
This is another recipe inspired by Susie Jacobs’ cookbook, “Recipes from a Greek Island.” It is very simple to make, and has a quintessentially Greek taste from its use of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and dill, and has been a real hit every time we've made it. The flavors develop over the course of a few days, so can -- and should -- be made in advance. Serves 4
2 cups dry chickpeas
1 lb onion
¼ cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves
¼ cup lemon juice
1 lb mixed greens, preferably both sweet (spinach) and sour (chard)
2 tablespoons dry dill
½ pound orzo pasta
salt and pepper to taste
Soak chickpeas overnight in water. Drain, place in a cooking pot, and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2-3 hours until tender. Drain and let cool.
Thinly slice onions, and coarsely chop the greens. Cook the orzo in salted, boiling water until al dente and drain.
Heat olive oil in a deep pan, and sauté the onions until golden. Add the garlic and cooked chickpeas and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the greens and continue cooking another 5-10 minutes until tender. Add cooked orzo, lemon juice, and dill ad mix well. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper, and serve hot or cold.
Use an assertive storage onion and an artichoke garlic like Acropolis.
Sardinian Chickpea and Fennel Stew (Zuppa di Ceci e Finocchio alla Sarda)
If you are a poor, hungry Sardinian shepherd what sort of food would you make to sustain yourself while tending your sheep in the rural countryside? This soup is one answer, being made from a few easily obtained ingredients and yet making for an imminently satisfying and hearty meal. This recipe, inspired from one shared byJulia Della Croce in her 1994 Italy: The Vegetarian Table is really nothing other than the Sardinian version of the mainland Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Bean Soup) that has found its way into so many North American Italian restaurants. But, this version tastes so much better.
1 cup dry chickpeas
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
3 tablespoons Italian flat leaf parsley, minced
1 large fennel bulb, stalks and fronds removed, halved, cored and thinly sliced crosswise
½ cup minced fennel fronds
1 large potato, peeled and cut into small dice
2 cups tomato, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dry
1 tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups stock
¼ cup ditalini or other small pasta
¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Soak the chickpeas overnight in water. Drain and place into a deep pan with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer until the chickpeas are tender, at least 2 hours. Drain and set aside.
Heat the olive oil over medium in a soup pot. Add in onion, garlic and 2 tablespoons parsley and sauté for about 10 minutes until the mixture begins to brown. Add in the sliced fennel bulb, chopped fennel fronds and potato. Sauté for another 10 minutes. Add in the tomatoes, cooked chickpeas, rosemary, salt, and pepper along with the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are cooked. Add pasta and continue to simmer for another 10-15 minutes until the pasta is al dente. Correct seasonings with additional salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Remove from heat. Stir in remaining parsley. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the Pecarino cheese if you need not keep this a vegan dish.
Curried Carrot-Walnut Burger
We love curry and carrots and walnuts, so what could be better than a curry carrot-walnut burger? These have an addictively complex flavor that plays well off the chickpeas, carrots, and mushrooms, and makes for an excellent addition to an Indian-themed summer meal. In this recipe we’ll make use of two of the spice pastes that we prepared for the Baltistan dinner: the Balti masala and green masala pastes. Don’t be shy in using more besan (chickpea) flour to thicken these burgers, as they will tend to fall apart if you don’t use enough.
1 cup dry garbanzos, cooked until tender and drained
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, minced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon Balti masala paste
1 tablespoon green masala paste
1 teaspoon fennel seed
4 ounces crimini or white button mushrooms, chopped
4 medium carrots, grated
¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup besan (chickpea) flour
½ teaspoon salt or more to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the minced onions and sauté, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add in minced garlic, both masala pastes and fennel seed, and continue cooking another 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté another 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Using a food processor or immersion blender coarsely puree the garbanzos and onion-garlic-mushroom mixture. Mix in the grated carrots, walnuts, besan flour, salt and pepper. If the mixture is not stiff enough to form patties, add in more besan flour. Let mixture rest for at least 30 minutes.
Form into patties and pre-bake as per the general directions (click to follow link).
We suggest serving these curry burgers on a split Anadama Roll topped with tomato, lettuce, and a large dollop of fruit chutney. We particularly enjoyed the Spicy Cranberry Jelly recipe described in Pat Chapman’s cookbook, Taste of the Raj.
Eggplant, Chickpea and Spinach Curry
Eggplant originated in south Asia, and it is not surprising that some of its most intriguing recipes come from this region. The following dish, adapted from one presented by Yamuna Devi in her award-winning 1987 Lord Krishna's Cuisine, (ISBN 978-0525245643) is not only vegan but also typical of ayurvedic cooking which avoids the use of not only onion but also garlic. In this way the following dish is quite different from the British Curry House style which we considered over a year ago in our first set of blog entries. As Yamuna Devi points out, the following recipe is in some ways the ratatouille-equivalent of Northern India, being something that is made in almost every home to use the bounty of the late summer garden, with each cook having his/her own version.
½ cup canola oil, in all
1½ pound eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons fresh ginger paste
2 hot green chilies, deseeded and minced
2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
¼ teaspoon asafoetida resin
2 cups tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seed, ground
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne papper
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ cup water
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 pound fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons salt
¼ cup chopped cilantro leaf
1 teaspoon garam masala
Heat 1/3 cup oil in a large, heavy pan. When hot add in the eggplant cubes and sauté until browned and cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and increase heat to medium-high. When the oil is quite hot add in the ginger, chilies, and cumin and fry until the cumin seeds have turned brown. Add in the asafoetida and stir fry for another 15 seconds. Add in the tomatoes, coriander, paprika, black pepper, cayenne, and turmeric. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the oil separates from the tomato sauce, about 10 minutes.
Add water and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add in the cooked eggplant cubes, chickpeas, chopped spinach and salt. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Before serving remove from heat and stir in the chopped cilantro and garam masala. Serve warm with rice or naan flatbread.
There may be no more iconic vegetarian food from the Middle East than falafel. 'Falafel’ (فلافل in Arabic) appears to trace its origins back to the Aramaic language word “palpēl” which was used to describe round balls. It is generally believed that falafel originated in Egypt, possibly with the Coptic Christian community where these meat-free fritters were eaten during Lenten meals. They were then exported throughout the Middle East and became ubiquitous in the Levant. Falafel are now a common street food throughout Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, and are considered the national dish of not only Egypt, but also Palestine and Israel.
In its original Egyptian formulation, falafel were made with skinned, dry fava beans. As they moved north into the Levant chickpeas were added into the mixture, and became the dominant pulse used in the north. In either case, falafel is made from soaked beans that have been ground into a coarse paste. It is important that fully cooked pulses not be used, though, as the resultant dough would fall apart in the hot oil. To these ground pulses various flavorings have been added, such as garlic, parsley, sesame, and cumin, along with a little additional chickpea flour as a binder. The dough is then fried in hot oil to cook to increase the digestibility of the pulses and give the fritters a wonderfully crunchy crust.
Falafel are very reminiscent of akara, another fritter made from soaked – but not cooked – beans. Akara are characteristic of Nigeria and the west African countries, where they are made with the cowpeas indigenous to the area. This food was exported to Brazil and the Caribbean during the slave trade. We know of no direct connection between these two foods, and they may simply represent independent evolutionary events. However, it also seems possible that the concept behind akara was brought into west Africa through 13th-15th century Arabic slave traders from the Maghreb and Nile basin.
Our version of falafel is inspired by the recipe presented in Jeff Smith’s ‘The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors.’ It is typical of those made in the southern Levant as it uses equal proportions of fava beans and chickpeas. It will taste far better than any store-bought premix (and most restaurant falafel) that you can find, and you should consider making them a part of your normal kitchen activities. Makes about 12 falafel, depending upon the fritter size:
1 cup dried garbanzo beans soaked overnight
1 cup fava beans soaked overnight
½ cup chopped onion
6 cloves garlic
1 cup water
½ cup sesame seeds
½ cup garbanzo (besan) flour
¼ cup of fine bulgur
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 scant tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Canola or corn oil for deep frying
Remove the brown skin from the soaked fava beans. Finely chop or grind garbanzos and favas in a food processor or meat grinder. Blend in all remaining ingredients and let the mixture stand for at least 1 hour. We sometimes make this a day or two ahead, and hold in the refrigerator. Form into balls by pressing the mixture very hard into a mold so that it holds together when immersed in the hot oil. We use a two-inch ice cream scoop and a flat table knife to accomplish this task. Then unmold the pressed ball, flatten slightly with your hands, and drop into 375° F cooking oil in a deep fryer. Turn over the fritters as they float to the top and become nicely browned on one side. Continue cooking until both sides are equally browned. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. These can also be made by pan frying on the stove top.
While these can be eaten on their own as a meze, they are also excellent as a sandwich. To do this, cut a khoubz loaf in half open wide the interior pocket. Into this place one or two cooked falafel balls along with chopped lettuce, diced tomato, and a generous dollop of tarator sauce.
Hummus & Muhammara
One of the favorite ways to enjoy eating khoubz is by dipping torn pieces into various strongly flavored pastes. Many different types of these pastes exist throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Aegean, made from a wide variety of ingredients, including broad beans (byessar), eggplant (baba ganoush), cucumber and yogurt (tzatziki), and even mashed potatoes and fish roe (taramasalata). For our vegetarian iftar, we’ve made two spreads: hummus (above, right) and muhammara (above, left).
Hummus originated in the Levant, an area now comprising Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and parts of southern Turkey and northern Iraq. It uses common (and early-domesticated) crops from the region including chickpeas, sesame, garlic, lemon, and sumac. While pre-packaged hummus is now commonly available throughout the county (we’ve even seen it for sale in the little Hispanic town of Socorro about an hour south of Albuquerque), these – as well as those produced by almost every recipe we’ve encountered – ends up being rather dull and hardly a proper accompaniment to your fresh khoubz. However, we’re going to share with you here the hummus recipe to beat all hummus recipes, closely based on one related in Anna Thomas’ Vegetarian Epicure Book 2. It is worth buying a copy of this classic cookbook for this recipe alone. Unlike the boring pap that passes as most hummus, her recipe makes an addictive spread that energizes your palette with lots of garlic, sesame, and lemon juice. This is a hummus that jumps off the plate. We’ve doubled down on the flavor profile by adding in cilantro, even more fresh garlic, as well by topping the finished spread with sour and spicy ground sumac berries. Makes approximately 5 cups.
1½ cups dried garbanzos cooked until tender
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
1/3 cup of lemon juice
2 teaspoons of salt
¾ cup tarator sauce (see previous entry)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro
Mash the garbanzos until they form a chunky paste. Add in the remaining ingredients, and continue mashing until they have formed a smooth puree. We use an immersion blender to do this; a regular blender would work fine as well. Place finished hummus into a wide serving bowl and smooth flat. Sprinkle over with ground sumac and cover in a thin layer of olive oil.
Please don’t use canned garbanzos unless you have no other choice – the hummus will pick up a metallic taste from the can that will spoil the freshness of the dish. Plus dried beans are always less expensive.
While hummus and baba ganoush have achieved international culinary celebrity status, some of the other meze pastes have remained more obscure. For our second spread in this meal we’re sharing a recipe for one of these lesser known cousins, muhammara (محمرة) meaning “reddened" in Arabic. This is walnut and dry bread-crumb based paste from the Aleppo, Syria region that is generously flavored and colored with the hot peppers so famous from that region. The original inspiration for this dish may lie to the east in the Caucasus Mountains where walnut-based sauces and pastes are a common component of the Georgian, Armenian, and Azerbaijani cuisines. The use of pomegranate is also common to these regions. Makes about 2 cups
½ cup dried bread crumbs
1½ cup roasted walnuts
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon of hot pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses
½ teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons of medium-hot pepper paste
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ cup of water, or more
Combine all ingredients and puree until smooth. We use an immersion blender to do this. Add enough water to make an easily spreadable paste.
Pepper paste and pomegranate molasses are available in any Middle Eastern market.
Until now all of the recipes we’ve shared for this feast have originated in the Levant – the region of the eastern Mediterranean coast between Egypt and Turkey. We’ll now break this pattern for Harira, one of our favorite soups. This stew is the traditional way in which the peoples of the Maghreb, the region along southern Mediterranean coast from Lybia to Morocco, break the daily Ramadan fast. True harira is made with not only a variety of pulses and vegetables but also meat. In this version, we have replaced the traditional lamb with small, dark-brown desi chickpeas, which have a meatier flavor than typical kabuli chickpeas. Both types of chickpeas occur in this recipe.
There is also one rather exotic ingredient that we’re using: ras el hanout. This Arabic name translates to “head of the shop”, referring to the fact that the spice merchant is making it from a mixture of all the best and most expensive spices in the store. There are probably as many ras el hanout recipes as there are spice merchants in Morocco. The number of ingredients often tops two dozen and may contain such exotic fare as saffron, rose petals, alligator pepper, grains of paradise, cubeb, long pepper, and orris root. Because ras el hanout recipes tend to be closely guarded secrets, Paula Wolfert in her classic ‘Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco'had to assemble hers through a chemical analysis of some she purchased in a Fez souq. We combined her recipe with various others to make our own version, and a colleague of Linda’s who lived for a while in Morocco proclaimed it authentic. However, we’ll not share directions here, as it means tracking down all sorts of obscure spices and we doubt there are more than a few of you out there who would be that committed. Rather, until someone contracts us to write our own cookbook, we’ll suggest you buy yours from a reputable dealer like the Spanish Table. You can also substitute a mild curry powder. Even though these two spice mixes are really not that interchangeable, no one other than a Moroccan or someone who has lived there will likely know the difference. This recipe makes at least 8 servings:
1 cup small brown (desi) chickpeas soaked overnight
1 cup yellow (kabuli) chickpeas soaked overnight
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 cup of chopped celery
1 cup of chopped parsley
2 cups diced carrots
2 tablespoons minced garlic
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon of ras el hanout
2 pound can of tomatoes or 4 cups of chopped and peeled tomatoes
¼ cup dry orzo pasta
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup lemon juice or more, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cook the two chickpeas until tender and drain; for convenience we simmer both together in the same pot.
Heat olive oil in a soup kettle and sauté the onion, celery, parsley, and carrot until the onions are translucent. Add in the spices. Sauté another 15 minutes until the vegetables begin to brown. Add the cooked chickpeas, tomatoes and 8 cups of water. Bring to a simmer and cook for an hour and a half until all the vegetables are tender. Add in the orzo and cook until tender, another 15-20 minutes. Add in the chopped cilantro and lemon juice, and correct seasoning with salt and pepper.
If you leave out the orzo pasta, the harira will freeze and reheat beautifully. In this case, you’ll want to cook the orzo separately and then add it in as a topping when serving the reheated soup.