Friday, August 26, 2016

New Spices and a New Indian Dish

New spices and new dish for me, that is. 

Caveat on this blog. Most people will never make either this spice mixture or this dish (probably in a blog tomorrow), just because of the unusual ingredients called for. Still, I find all these new ingredients fascinating, though I might exist in a small minority.

I have been watching an Indian TV series through Netflix which delves into the foods of different areas in India, how they came to be, why they are as they are and the history behind them. There are no recipes, but sometimes the name of a dish is given. I have a lot of foods to look up, eventually. I have been watching this show every few days, so it is keeping me very attuned to Indian food and culture. Not like I need more inspiration. I love Indian food!

So somewhere along the way, I found a mention of a dish called either Punjabi Chole or Pindi Chole. The word "Chole," or alternatively "Channa" means garbanzo beans. Punjab is the area this dish is from. Once I find something new, I research as much as possible, looking at many different takes on a given recipe, seeing what people do differently, and how it is Americanized in many instances. 

Dagad Phool or Stone Flower Lichen
Dagad Phool or Stone Flower Lichen
Once I have a variety of recipes, I take a look at them and decide what sounds good to me, out of all the myriad ingredients possible. And of course, I love spices. The more, the merrier. I may have mentioned this a few times. (Maybe 50 or so?!) As a matter of fact, I have a very hugely healthy spice collection, which expanded by 3 in the past few weeks. This was due to the ingredients listed in some of the Punjabi Chole recipes I perused.

The garbanzo beans, apparently, are cooked with some dried lichen called Stone Flower or "Dagad Phool," and also with dried Indian Gooseberries called "Amla." These two things give a particular flavor and also darken the beans as they cook, giving the traditional deep dark color of this dish. The Americanized version calls for tea bags to be cooked with the garbanzos, to give the darker color that would result from the lichen and gooseberries. Also, a certain tannic quality. But teabags are just too easy! I wanted more authentic.

Postage Stamps from India
Postage Stamps from India
Then after the garbanzos are cooked, a sauce is made, using various other spice mixtures, Garam Masala, Chaat Masala and Chole Masala. This last I had to create from scratch also. I always make my own mixtures where possible. This way I know what's in them. A part of the Chole Masala powder is dried pomegranate arils. I suppose I could have attempted drying my own, but I ordered them instead. Two of these spices came directly from India! I saved the postage stamps, quite an exciting thing all on their own!

In preparation for the Punjabi Chole dish, first I had to make the Chole Masala powder, so here is that recipe, with the actual Punjabi Chole dish in my next blog:

Chole Masala Powder

makes 10 tablespoons (enough for 5 recipes of the Punjabi Chole) 

3 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons dried pomegranate arils, optional
2 teaspoons green cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves

1/2 teaspoon black cardamom seeds
3-inches of true cinnamon
1 or 2 Indian bay leaf (tej patta), crumbled
1/4 teaspoon Carom / Ajwain seeds

1 star anise, broken
1 1/4 teaspoons dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
1 teaspoon dried mango powder (amchur)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon powdered dried red chili 
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon black salt, if available

Combine the first 12 whole spices in a dry skillet and set over medium high heat. Toss the seeds and spices continuously until they become lightly browned. Pour them out onto a plate to cool. 
Making Chole Masala Powder
Making Chole Masala Powder: spices in skillet left; finished powder right.

Place the dried fenugreek leaves into a spice grinder and set aside. Once the toasted spices have cooled, add them to the spice grinder and grind to a fine powder.

In a small bowl mix together the final 5 spices and add to them the mixture from the spice grinder. Mix well and store in a glass jar with tight fitting lid in a cool, dark place.