Friday, August 26, 2016

Punjabi Chole a New Flavor Sensation

In my last blog, started yesterday but just published, I wrote about the spices I ordered to use in this new (for me) Indian dish of Punjabi Chole. Finding that something like lichen might be used as a "spice" just totally blew me away. The spice mixture called Chole Masala Powder is outlined in the last blog post, and itself uses dried pomegranate seeds (actually arils), another "spice" I didn't own.

But as I have stated before, hearing about something new that is used as a spice or other flavoring agent always urges me to see if I can find it, and that's what happened with this dish. The dish called Punjabi Chole, or Pindi Chole is just "chickpeas / garbanzos made in the Punjab style". The fact that it called for three spices or flavoring agents more than I owned was just a call to hunt them down, and so I did. Some of them arrived directly from India!
Punjabi Chole
Punjabi Chole
The chickpeas in this dish are cooked (from dry chickpeas, soaked overnight) with this lichen called Dagad Phool (Stone Flower) and with dried Indian gooseberries called Amla. Between these two things, the water the
chickpeas cook in turns very deeply dark brown, and the chickpeas themselves are in turn a darker color instead of the light yellowish of regular chickpeas. This effect can also be accomplished by cooking the chickpeas with a couple of teabags. For me, that is cheating! I shared a photo of the Dagad Phool in my last blog. Here is a photo of the dried Indian Gooseberries.

Amla or Indian Gooseberries
Amla or Dried Indian Gooseberries

Seriously though, I just like to find the spices to make a dish as authentically as possible, so I went the route of ordering the spices, waiting for their delivery and only then making the dish. And yesterday was the long-awaited day.

Once the chickpeas are cooked and drained (water is reserved), the sauce is made. This dish is fairly dry, in that there is not a lot of liquid to it. But for cooking purposes, the reserved cooking water is added in small amounts, just to keep things from burning. I saw recipes for this dish made in various ways, and my choice was to add onion in two ways. One way is pureed with some tomatoes. Another is just to fry the onions. I did both instead of either/or. I fried one chopped onion, and also pureed another one with the tomatoes. This resulted in a very surprisingly bright pink mixture! It doesn't stay that way for long.
Cooked Chickpeas, Onion & Tomato in Blender, Onion Tomato Puree
Cooked Chickpeas, Onion & Tomato in Blender, Onion Tomato Puree
Other things that are added to the sauce are the ubiquitous garlic and ginger paste, along with some of the Chole Masala and Garam Masala. 

Ultimately I cannot say if there is any particular flavor that jumps out in this dish despite the unusual spices added. It makes no difference to me, it was a very delicious dish and it went exceedingly well with the Grilled Pork with Indian Spices for dinner.  

Another spice if you will, is dried pomegranate arils, which I mentioned in my last blog. These go into both the Chole Masala Powder as well as the dish while cooking. I could not find dried pomegranate powder, so with the whole, dried pomegranate arils, I toasted them in a dry skillet, then ground them in a spice blender. These impart a sour note to the dish, and it is recommended that if the dried pomegranate powder is not available, one should add more dried mango powder (amchur) in its place. 
Dried Pomegranate Arils
Dried Pomegranate Arils

All well and fine, but the average cook will not have dried mango powder on hand either. Lime juice is the next best thing. While lime juice is also added in this dish as a part of the recipe, more juice would be needed if either the pomegranate or mango powder is not available. 

And yet one more spice mixture that is sometimes called for, generally a finishing spice mixture, sprinkled on a food at the end of cooking, is Chaat (or just Chat) Masala. I have this spice mixture already made, so I added a little bit. It does have salt in it, so use it sparingly.

Chaat Masala

Makes about 1/3 cup
Chaat Masala
Chaat Masala

1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
5 whole cloves
2 1/2 teaspoons dried mango powder (amchur)
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon dried ground chili powder
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1/4 teaspoon citric acid
2 teaspoons black salt

In a very hot, dry skillet, lightly toast the cumin seeds, peppercorns and cloves. Once very fragrant, add the asafoetida, to counter the strong odor. Pour out onto a plate to cool. Once cooled, place the cooled spices into a spice grinder and process to powder. Turn out to a bowl and add in the remaining ingredients and stir well. Store the mixture in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark place.

Punjabi Chole (Chickpeas Punjab Style)

Punjabi Chole
Punjabi Chole
makes 4 to 6 servings

1/2 pound dry chickpeas (1 cup + 2 tablespoons), soaked overnight
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 pieces Stone Flower Lichen (Dagad Phool), optional
2 pieces dried Indian Gooseberry (Amla), optional 

1/2 teaspoon asafoetida, optional
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 medium/small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced finely
1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced finely 
1 medium/small onion, in chunks
2 medium/small tomatoes, in chunks
2 tablespoons Chole Masala Powder
2 teaspoons Garam Masala Powder
2 teaspoons dry pomegranate aril powder, optional
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 fresh green chile
8 to 10 fresh mint leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon black salt, or regular salt, if needed
1/2 teaspoon Chaat Masala, above, optional
Juice of 1/2 lime, or more if needed

Set the soaked chickpeas in a saucepan with the water and next 3 ingredients if available. If the lichen and gooseberries are not available, add in 2 black tea teabags. Cook the chickpeas for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, until tender. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking water aside.

Wipe out the saucepan and heat over medium low. Add the asafoetida powder and toast lightly, then add the oil and the chopped onion, frying until the onion is nicely golden brown. While the onion is cooking, place the second onion and the tomatoes into a blender and puree. Now add the minced ginger and garlic into the pot and cook for 2 - 3 minutes. Add in the onion & tomato puree and stir, then add in the Chole Masala, Garam Masala, dried pomegranate powder and turmeric.  Stir in well. Poke little slits in the green chili with the tip of a knife and add in the whole chili. Now return the cooked chickpeas to the pan and cook for 8 to 10 minutes over low heat, to meld flavors. 

Tomato puree added, dry spices to add, then added to the pot, finished mixture
Tomato puree added, dry spices to add, then added to the pot, finished mixture
Add in the mint leaves and cilantro, the salt and Chaat Masala if using, and squeeze in the lime juice. Remove the chili and discard. Stir and serve.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.