Monday, August 15, 2011

Easiest Chhole Ever

'Easy' is a relative word, and so I should start off by qualifying that this is the easiest of all the chhole recipes that I have tried.

After having tried several chhole recipes, it also happens to be my most favorite in terms of taste, so with a very high taste to effort ratio, it is also the 'Best Chhole Ever' in my world. There is absolutely no chopping involved. Dried garbanzo beans are soaked and cooked, and then mixed with some flavorful dried spices. Simple and delicious. If anyone remembers the old 'bawarchi' site, that is where I got this recipe. The accompanying description by the contributor said that his mother learned to make it from a street vendor near their house in Delhi. Street, vendor, chhole, delhi, conjured up an image of something truly delicious and authentic in my mind, and the recipe did not disappoint.

The link has changed twice since, but this is where the original resides now. I use a lot less oil than specified, and it still seems fine to me.

Even if you like the usual chhole with onions and tomatoes, I recommend you give this a try, if only to compare and decide.




1 cup dried garbanzo beans
1 tea-bag
1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon red chili powder (cayenne)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon amchoor (dried mango powder)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon chhole masala (or chana masala)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 Tablespoon (or less) oil
pinch of cumin seeds (optional)


Soak the garbanzo beans in a large bowl with plenty of water for 8-10 hours. Rinse and drain them when you are ready to cook. You can cook them in a pressure cooker with the standard three-whistle regulation that you might be using for dal, or you can cook them over a stove-top, which could take 45 minutes to an hour.

I use a pressure cooker, with a small pot inside with the beans. To the garbanzo beans, add one tea-bag (remove label if it has one), one bay leaf, and enough water to cover the beans completely. A little extra water doesn't hurt. Let the pressure drop on its own, and then drain the beans in a large sieve or colander, making sure you save the cooking water.

Measure out all the dry spices in a small bowl, and mix them all with the warm beans to distribute them completely.

Heat the oil in large pan or wok. Add the cumin seeds (if using) and when they start to sizzle, add the beans and stir together. Add the cooking water a little at a time, and keep stirring gently until you have enough to form the gravy (sauce).

Thursday, June 16, 2011

There is 'curry' in my salad

When I refer to my salads on this blog, or while talking to friends, I am asked to write up something about them for ideas and inspirations. While it is not difficult, I am always stumped about what I should write about salads. They are usually just mixed greens with a few substantial things tossed in, and a dressing that I think would go with everything. There are no recipes and no stories to tell. However, I definitely understand the point of these queries. So I am going to try and fit in here some of my favorite salads.

The salad I am going to write about today actually does have a bit of a story attached. It starts with a recurring flashback from a few years ago. It was a hot and sunny summer afternoon in Salzburg. We had just crossed over from the old town to the newer part of town, and after escaping hordes of tourists we started looking for a spot to eat. I had a guidebook, but not enough time to figure out the optimal route to any recommended place. There was a train to catch, and we were getting hungry, and the summer heat was starting to get unbearable. There didn't seem to be any restaurants around, but finally, on a side street, we found a cafe that was open. Anything to eat was welcome at that point. I looked through the German menu and found nothing vegetarian. Zilch. I managed to communicate with the server and ordered a salad without any meat in it. She seemed to understand.

The salad was served in a lovely white bowl. Crisp greens, a lemony creamy dressing, and a topping of cooked potatoes and scallions, that had the classic 'curry powder' flavor that one tends to find in Europe. I wondered a little bit if the addition of curry powder was a concession to the color of my skin. In fact, that is what I seemed to remember long after, more than the salad itself. Since the salad was just something they put together for me, I found myself pondering over whether the 'curry powder' was standard or if it was an improvization, but I wouldn't have known because the menu was barely understandable.

Then one day, as I ran out of ideas and ingredients for my lunch while working from home, I thought about it. I sauteed some thinly sliced potatoes and onions, and added some basic spices, and used it to top lighly dressed greens. I also added some cashews to the mix. The warm topping and crunchy cashews over the salad greens was lovely and satisfying, and this combination soon became part of my regular menu.

To make it more filling, I toss in cooked and shelled edamame if I have them on hand, or cooked garbanzos beans, or add a boiled egg on the side. And every time I eat this salad, I think of the non-descript cafe in Salzburg.

Salad with spicy potatoes

Mixed Green Salad with Warm Spicy Potatoes

Makes 1 main salad, multiplies easily for more servings


For the salad:

2-3 big handfuls of mixed greens (like mesclun or spring mix)
1 small-medium potato (yukon gold, red, or similar type)
2-3 Tablespoons thinly sliced onion or 1 small shallot
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Tablespoon roasted cashews
a handful of shelled and cooked edamame or garbanzo beans (optional)
salt to taste
1/8 teaspoon coriander powder
1/8 teaspoon cumin powder
pinch of turmeric powder
pinch of red chili powder

For the dressing:

1/4 teaspoon mayonaisse (or tahini for a vegan version)
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper


Wash and dry the potato(es). Slice it along the length, and then slice each half along the length again. Slice each resulting quarter thinly along the width.

Slice the onion or shallot thinly.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet, and when it gets fairly hot, add the sliced onions, and potatoes and a pinch of salt. Saute on medium high heat until the potatoes start to turn golden brown. Add the cashews and beans, and the spices, and saute everything further for a few minutes. Turn the heat off and let it cool just a little so that the potatoes are not steaming hot.

In the meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together until they emulsify and form a dressing.

Place the salad greens on a serving plate, spoon just enough dressing to dress them lightly, and toss with a fork. Top with the warm potato mix.


In place of combining various spice powders, use a scant 1/2 teaspoon of a mild spice mix, such as a commercial curry powder or garam masala.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tofu, Vegetable, and Walnut Sandwich Stuffer

Busy Evolving!

From the silence on this space it is probably obvious that I have been too busy with other things to post anything here. It wasn't my choice to ignore my blog completely, but with a new job, much longer commute than before, and more traveling that ever before, it was hard to get a lot of things done, and blogging naturally started to fall lower in the priority list.

One thing that now cuts into my available time even more is that I have to pack my lunch, because food options near the workplace are very limited. When I add my parameters of vegetarian, healthy, low-fat, nutritious, fresh, filling, and preferably organic, the options are practically non-existent. So it means I have to pack a good lunch for myself and it has to be built into the routine.

Sandwich with Tofu and Vegetable spread

My first choice is usually a good salad with add-ins, dressing on the side, and some seasonal fruit. I can happily eat that on a regular basis. but then, every now and then I need a change. So my next favorite packable lunch is a sandwich that uses a tofu based stuffing. The idea originated from Madhur Jaffrey's 'World Vegetarian'. She calls it 'bean curd salad or spread' in the book, but what I make now has morphed so much that one wouldn't know that that was where it started.

The vegetable combination is all different too. I generally use carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, and spinach, but you can use bell peppers, cauliflower, cabbage, greens, or any of your favorite vegetables, or use it as an opportunity to use up odds and ends. This is a very versatile recipe, but what I usually don't change is the use of walnuts, soy sauce, black pepper, and the bit of sugar. That seems to do the flavor magic.

Sandwich with Tofu and Vegetable spread

I use the same recipe two ways. Depending on the type of bread I have, I either chop all ingredients into medium chunks and then quickly pulse the cooked mixture a few times in the food processor, or I finely chop all ingredients to begin with. The roughly processed spread is good to use between slices of hearty bread because it sticks to the bread well and the filling does not fall out while eating. The bhurji-like chunky textured mix is great for filling plump whole wheat pita halves, with the added advantages that you do not have to wash any food processor bowls. Either of the sandwiches are also immensely packable for travel as they don't have any distinctive 'smell'. I have taken them on domestic flights because options at airports or in flight never seem appealing.

Tofu and vegetable spread

Tofu, Vegetable, and Walnut Stuffing for Sandwiches

Makes enough for about 4 sandwiches


Note: All Quantities are approximate

About 8 oz of firm tofu (or enough to yield about 2 cups)
1/2 medium onion (or use scallions)
1-2 small carrots
1-2 cups of broccoli
2-4 mushrooms
a big handful of spinach leaves
handful of walnuts
2 Tablespoons oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sesame seeds or sesame oil (optional)
black pepper to taste (about 50 turns of the pepper mill)
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4-5 Tablespoons chopped cilantro


Press the tofu gently between clean tea towels or paper towels to remove any excess water, and grate it or chop it finely. Chop the onion, and grate the carrots. Chop the other veggies and walnuts small if you want a bhurji, you can keep them large if you are going to whirl it in the food processor at the end.

In a large saute pan, heat the oil. Add the onion, and other veggies, and saute them for a few minutes on medium heat until they start to soften. Add the walnuts and spinach and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the tofu, cilantro, and rest of the ingredients, and stir everything together until the tofu is heated through.

If you want to use it like a spread, wait for the mixture to cool down and then pulse it a few times in a food processor.
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