The fantastic trio: rice, chickpeas, and potatoes

It is beginning to bug me that my food photos look quite bad. I was sifting through the photos of some fantastic food that I made, and most of it looks like… puke. Even though I have a very good camera, I either do not have the eye or I do not have the abilities to shoot mouth-watering recipes. (Or both. Probably both.)

I suppose the opposite of this is what Donna Hay is doing. The photos in her book are fantastic. Even if you are not a cookbook fanatic such as myself, you would buy the book because the food looks so inviting. Have a look inside this book: The New Classics. The composition, the light, the colour balance, the props… But having tried to make a few recipes, all I can say is that they should pay good money to their food stylist(s).

This time, I will not even try with the photos. I can say that the Boyfriend said this was the best Indian meal I made so far, and that is good enough for me.

I am making a conscious effort to eat more vegetarian food, and there is no better source for this than Indian recipes. I am slowly starting to get the hang of things: it no longer takes me thirty minutes just to get my act together before starting to cook, I do not obsess anymore over every gram of ingredients, and I can hold more than one step of the recipe in my head.

For this dinner, I went for a winning trio: potatoes, chickpeas, and rice, with three dishes that turned out very well.

I will start with the easiest “recipe,” rice. Because the other two dishes were very rich in flavour, I opted for the simplest possible preparation of rice. Before, I would measure out the rice, divide, multiply, curse, get some number for the milliliters of water I need to add, and then cook the rice. This time, I followed the pragmatic approach that the ingenious Boyfriend found online: put as much water, as needed to cover the rice by about one centimeter. There we go, cooking time—or rather, preparation time—shortened by ten minutes.

Before cooking the rice, it is important to soak it in water for at least half an hour to wash out the starch. That way, the rice will be nice and fluffy. After soaking, rince, put in a pot, add water as per instructions above, some salt, bring to boil, and let simmer on a very low heat for about 10 to 12 minutes. Job’s done.

I found the remaining two recipe in a wonderful cookbook I mentioned before, How to cook Indian.

The one modification in the potato dish I made is that I used a bit of water when the potatoes started to stick to the bottom. I let all of the water evaporate before the potatoes were done, so that the dish remains dry. I could not find fresh curry leaves, so I used dry. Oh, and of course, I removed the seeds from the chillis. Otherwise both of us would have died.

What follows are the unadulterated recipes from the book.

Batatya Cha Kachrya

Ingredients

5 small potatoes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/8 teaspoon asafetida
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
8 to 10 fresh curry leaves
2 green chiles, stemmed and broken in half
½ teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon red chile powder
¼ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Procedure

1. Peel the potatoes, halve them lengthwise, and cut into thin semicircular slices. Soak them in 3 cups (600 ml) water in a large bowl.
2. Place a nonstick sauté pan over medium heat and add the oil. When small bubbles appear at the bottom of the pan, add the mustard seeds, asafetida, turmeric, curry leaves, and chiles, and sauté for 1 minute.
3. Drain and add the potatoes, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the salt and stir. Cover and cook for 7 to 8 minutes.
4. Add the chile powder and sugar, and stir. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
5. Garnish with the cilantro and serve hot as a side dish.

Masaledar Chholay

Ingredients

2 (1-inch/2½-cm) pieces fresh ginger
8 to 10 cloves garlic
2 green chiles, stemmed
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 large red onions, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon red chile powder
1 tablespoon coarsely ground anardana (dried pomegranate seeds)
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
1½ teaspoons table salt
2½ cups (560 grams) cooked chickpeas (canned is fine)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Procedure

1. Put the ginger, garlic, and chiles in a spice grinder, and grind to a paste.
2. Place a small nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Add the cumin and dry-roast for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Cool and grind to a powder in a spice grinder.
3. Place a nonstick saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. When small bubbles appear at the bottom of the pan, add the onions and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes or until browned. Add the ginger–garlic– green chile paste and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, chile powder, and anardana, and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes or until the oil comes to the top.
4. Add the tomatoes and salt. Cook for about 8 minutes or until the oil comes to the top.
5. Add the chickpeas and sauté for 2 minutes. Add 1 quart (800 ml) water and simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Garnish with the cilantro and serve hot.

 

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