It seems the key to cooking in India is based on forward planning. You buy the vegetables when you need them as they don’t keep in the scorching heat, and the milk or paneer when you need it before it sours. Likewise with dried beans you have to plan when to cook them so you can soak them as required over night or when you are work.
I have also discovered the secret to Indian recipes is a pressure cooker. Both energy and time saving – especially when cooking chick peas which can take hours on the hob – cooking curries in a pressure cooker also creates the unique texture and holds onto those exquisite spices.
After much debating (how will I get a pressure cooker back to the UK?), I opted for a little 3 litre version to begin my adventures with. I have been studying the manual for days. I am a total novice pressure cooker and stories of my mother’s exploding jam made me a little nervous about using it for the first time to say the least.
I planned to spend today doing some cooking – perfecting some recipes in anticipation of visiting family – so remembered to soak some chickpeas overnight. Plump and ready for cooking, I researched online the amount of water and time needed to cook them in a pressure cooker. I stumbled upon this great site with a huge table of cooking times – invaluable for a novice like me.
Armed with quantities and timings I set about cooking the beans, only to have water spurting out of the spout, even before the weight was put on top. After much stressing, huffing and online researching (google-ing “why is my pressure cooker spouting water?) I let the pan cool down and went in for a second attempt.
Making sure this time there was a constant stream of steam coming out of the spout before I clicked the weight into place (as per the instructions please note) and had the same issue again. Argh! So I gave up. I let the pressure subside – in my own head and in the kitchen – and wrote it off as experience.
Returning later to clear up the mess, I took out a chick pea to see if I could rescue it as I hate to waste my time and food. They were cooked. All of them! Don’t know how, but the great thing was it meant I could continue to make the channa pindi I had planned which turned out to be a triumph.
Granted this is not the nicest picture, but channa pindi is the most delicious dish and even better the day after when the flavours have had a chance to come together
No doubt there will be many more adventures in pressure cooking. I am determined to master this way of cooking, if not just to cook all the beans I have bought.
This is a pretty quick to cook dish so long as you have the chick peas cooked. Personally I think tinned chick peas pick up a metallic flavour (which is why I have been battling with my pressure cooker) but for convenience you can't beat them.
2 tbsp oil or ghee, plus extra for tempering at the end
250g cooked chick peas
1tsp cumin seeds
1tsp mustard seeds
1 onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1" ginger peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 ripe tomatoes diced
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4tsp ground cloves
1 sliced green chili
Heat 2 tbsp oil or ghee and crackle the cumin seeds and mustard seeds.
Add the garlic, onion and ginger and cook on a low heat until brown
Add the ground coriander, red chili powder, garam masala, turmeric and stir well to combine
Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until the oil separates (be patient)
Add the chick peas and cook until fairly dry
Heat the remaining oil in a small pan and fry the cinnamon powder, clove powder and fresh chili until fragrant (you just want to release their flavours). This should take just a few moments otherwise they burn.
Add to the dish and serve with rice or roti and devour.