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 arils, called Anardana, and being 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 smacked of 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 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 ⅓ cup
Chaat Masala
Chaat Masala

1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
5 whole cloves
2½ teaspoons dried mango powder (amchur)
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon dried ground chili powder
¼ teaspoon asafoetida
¼ 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

½ pound dry chickpeas (1 cup + 2 tablespoons), soaked overnight
3 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
2 pieces Stone Flower Lichen (Dagad Phool), optional
2 pieces dried Indian Gooseberry (Amla), optional 
½ 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
½ cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon black salt, or regular salt, if needed
½ teaspoon Chaat Masala, above, optional
Juice of ½ 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 1¼ to 1½ 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 teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

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 (while endeavoring to keep the ingredients authentic), 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 Lichen 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
½ teaspoon whole cloves
½ teaspoon black cardamom seeds
3-inches of true cinnamon
1 or 2 Indian bay leaf (tej patta), crumbled
¼ teaspoon Carom / Ajwain seeds
1 star anise, broken
1¼ teaspoons dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
1 teaspoon dried mango powder (amchur)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon powdered dried red chili
1½ 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.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.