Thursday, May 27, 2010

Punjabi Chole & no-need for Store bought Chana Masala

This is one of those posts where I don't have any idea how to's Punjabi Chole(chickpeas) or more popularly known as Chana Masala. I prefer to call them chite(white) chole(chickpeas), that's how every Punjabi call it. No matter whatever you call it they are almost on every Indian restaurant's menu and everybody loves it from kids to adult, even the picky eaters won't say anything if chole are on the menu. I was avoiding this post from long time for two reasons 1) it's kind of a regular food in our house so I don't see any need for me to record this recipe 2)  chole brings back so many memories from the childhood, so I knew that it's gonna be one long, time consuming post for me(authentic & famous food can be little difficult to write....don't U think so). But a friend from neighborhood after browsing my blog mentioned that I don't have many authentic Punjabi recipes on my blog & she also wanted recipe for Punjabi chole. Please scroll down if U want to jump to the recipe because I really can't write this post without sharing few of my memories.

If you ever lived in Delhi(India's Capital) even for couple of days, then you must know how important this dish's one of the famous breakfast item in most of the restaurants, goes well with puri / bhaturas / kulchas(my fav.), available in every nook & corner of the city, some very famous others not so much but still selling a lot of this stuff. Chole-chawal(rice) is also one good combination, if you have never tried that combination give it a try, I still remember once a week in our school canteen(that's what our cafeteria's were called) chole-chawal use to be in the menu, though chole has been regular in my mom's house also and she cooks really tasty food, but still I loved to eat those chole chawal served in Dona's(eco-friendly Indian disposable bowls made using dry leaves), I miss that how we all friends use to book(pre-order) our chole-chawal before the recess starts with canteen wale uncle-ji, it was quite high demand item & no matter what, we could never think of missing it. Here comes another story, every thursday evening, trip to the weekly market.....moms looking for fresh vegetables & fruits, we kids waiting to reach that section of the market where U could smell chole from 2 blocks away, as you approach near, you see groups of people standing in line waiting for their "to go" packs of chole-bhatura & on the other side 2 tables jam-packed, no chairs everybody standing & enjoying their share of chole-bhatura, chole topped with lots of imli(tamarind) chutney & spicy onion salad. That was our fast food way better than today's fast food joints. Fresh food(no frozen stuff)....prepared in front of your eyes, no worries of hygine, we ate it almost everyday never got sick.......I miss all that stuff.

Last but not the least "Chacha Di Hatti", literally means "Your Dad's younger brother's shop". It's located in Kamla Nagar, next to North Campus of Delhi University. I use to work in this office which was facing this little tiny chole-bhatura shop. Days when I had to be in the office early in the morning(i'm talking 6:30 in the morning) I use to see this teenager boy sitting in front of big giant patila(cooking pot) full of steaming hot boiled potatoes & peeling them (this shop sells chole with potatoe version.).....and by 9-9:30 a.m this place use to look like as if they are distributing free place to sit hoards of students waiting for their turn.....we were lucky that our peon had good repo with Chacha's workers so we didn't had to get into any lines but we had to make sure that we always order a plate for our peon also.....his name was ram singh but was called bhaiyaji(big brother) with respect.......

Just to give you an idea how much I love and miss the convenience of getting a plate(or may be two for me) of chole-bhatura after moving out of's been a decade since I started living in America even after those many years & the convenience of freezers(where I can store food for my weekend morning cravings) still on lazy weekend mornings when I don't want to get up..... my favorite dialogue( I should better call it a complaint) is......we even don't have any single decent chole-bhatura take out nearby. I only shared few of my memories and I'm getting this craving for chole-bhatura's now, before I start writing the recipe thanks to you guys who took time out to read this, now to the recipe and I'm starting it with notes as I feel these are the few important things u need to know before moving on to the recipe.

Notes : 1) if you are planning to use dry chickpeas U need to soak them for atleast 8 hrs. or so, I usually soak them overnight for next morning brunch.
         2) another important thing is getting the dark blackish /brown color of this dish. One popular way is use black tea leaves.....tie them in a cotton cloth & make a pouch, boil them with chickpeas & after boiling fish the pouch out.
         3) another option for getting dark color is using 3-4 dry amla(Indian gooseberry) pieces while boiling the chickpeas, learned this from my SIL few years back, works well it also gives little tangy flavour. But if u don't have access to dry amla, stick with tea leaves or next option.
        4) Brown your masala to the stage where it's totally brown BUT NOT BURNT, could be little tricky, also if using less oil....kind of difficult to achieve this stage.
       5) I don't use any chana masala(my family & friends love it the way I make, never complains of anything missing in it), actually I don't think there is anything called chana masala in any Punjabi household or for that matter all the ready made masalas are just for our convenience....before the birth of these ready to use masala powders there use to be these various spices only which our moms use to mix up in various proportions according to the dish they are going in. Dhania(coriander) powder is one important spice in punjabi chole alongwith home made punjabi style garam masala, which basically has all the ingredients which U would find in any store bought masala powder.
       6) This dish usually has some kind of sourness added to it. As I mentioned above I boil them with amla pieces, more traditional option is anardana(dry pomegrante seeds) or other common options are dry mango powder(amchur), tamarind(Imli) juice or juice of lime/lemon.

What U need :
  • 1&1/2 cups of dry uncooked chickpeas(white chana), soaked overnight
  • salt
  • 2 Tblsp. finely chopped ginger
  • 2 Tblsp. finely chopped garlic
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium size tomatoes, finely chopped( I prefer to puree them)
  • 1 Tblsp. of tomato paste(use more if u like more redish tone in your final dish)
  • 4-5 green chillies
  • 2 tsp. cumin(jeera) seeds
  • 2-3 dry whole red chillies
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • oil around 4 Tblsp.(use more or less)
Dry Spices :
  • 1 tsp. turmeric(haldi)
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1-2 tsp. red chilli powder as per taste(I use degi mirch)
  • 2 Tblsp.coriander (dhania) powder (preferably coarse kind....I usually grind it at home for this purpose)
  • 1 Tblsp. cumin powder
  • 2 pinchs of freshly grated nutmeg(jaiphal)
  • 2 tsp. punjabi style garam masala or as per your taste (it makes the dish hot)

What U do :
Boil soaked chickpeas(check notes above) with salt & bay leaves, it can take anywhere from 15-20 minutes in pressure cooker or use canned one.
While chickpeas are boiling you can start working on the masala(tarka) part of it.
Heat oil in a wide heavy bottom pan. Add Cumin, dry whole red chillies, stir after around 30 seconds or so add garlic and  saute it...... next add ginger & also sprinkle a pinch of salt on it. Salt will help release water from the ginger which helps ginger not to stick to the pan.
Once ginger garlic is sauteed add onions & cook them on med. gas till they are brown...careful not to burn these. It might take 10-12 minutes.
Now add all the spices listed under dry spices category. If you are using little less oil at this stage spices might get burn so to avoid that add a splash of water along with them & it will be fine. If using amchur/anardana add at this time.
Let spices get mixed up with onion mixture then add a spoonful of tomato paste. After a minute or so add tomatoes & chopped green chillies. Let the whole tarka cook for 10 minute or so. Aroma will tell you it's done or when all the water from tomatoes is cooked up, oil start leaving the sides & tarka is turned into paste like texture, it' s done.
Now add boiled chickpeas to the masala mixture, reserve the water. If using tamarind add it at this time. Only add as much water as much u need for the gravy, if any left can be used in making dough for roti.
Let the whole dish simmer on med. heat for at least 10-15 min. or till u get the desired thickness of the gravy.
Before serving add splash of lime/lemon juice as per your taste. Garnish with some freshly chopped cilantro. Serve it along with your favorite of puri/bhatura/kulcha/roti with the side of some onion salad & I promise you will prefer to skip the dessert part of the meal & instead eat an extra serving of chole/chana masala.

Please do read this......
Finally, my post is done.....before hitting the "Publish Post" I want to share an experience with u guys which happened 2 days back......when this post was still a WIP(work in progress).....half of it was done that is upto the ingredient part & from the procedure/method part, I had only written boil the chickpeas and no pics & my little one came & started playing with the computer I decided to take a break but before I took her away from the computer she clicked few times & out of all the clicks she click was right on the target(though little too early), she clicked on "Publish Post" button. After an hour or so when I came back to write rest of the post then only I realised that my post is not only already published but has got 3 comments also. All of the comments were positive & nice but I believe my fellow bloggers were trying to be nice as no one mentioned that recipe part is missing.....may be they got confused or they were in hurry or may be if you already know some recipe for a dish you don't need to see the whole recipe, u just glance the ingredient list & u r good to go.....but I really think to get a comment like nice recipe one need to have some recipe first which my post was missing at that time, so sorry, but I had to delete those comments......Thanks to all of you who spared so much time for my  not-so interesting story.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pav Bhaji

You don't have to be a mumbalite to love Pav bhaji, for those readers to whom these terms sounds like words from alien language Mumbai is the financial capital of India.The city also houses India's Hindi film and television industry, known as Bollywood.......largest in the world in terms of ticket sales and number of films produced and Pav Bhaji is one of the very famous street food from that city, popular through out India.

I don't think I have ever met any Indian who doesn't like Pav Bhaji. As it's not only tasty but you also get full dose of veggies in one shot (also a multi-day dose of fat/butter if you make it the typical way street vendors make it over there). I use to make bhaji at home & bring burger/buns/pav whatever best I can get my hands on from the grocery store. But if you like pav bhaji, you know how important pav is in this dish. Couple of months back while browsing thru my papers I found a piece of paper with the recipe for home made pav in it......I'm sure I must have noted down this from "Greh Shobha" magazine. It's an Indian magazine and my MIL has a big collection of it, so when ever I visit her, one of my favorite thing to do is read all those magazines and many a times note down few recipes also. So, I gave it a try and they came out good......decided, no more bread buying for bhaji.....I have made few changes in terms of flour. Here goes my version of pav bhaji :

What U need for Pav :
  • 1 cup all purpose flour( i use maida)
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour(regular atta can be used)
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 1 Tblsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1cup luke warm water
  • 3 Tblsp. oil
  • few drops of milk

What U need for Bhaji :
  • 1 large potato
  • 2 green bell peppers(capsicum / shimla mirch)
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup cauliflower
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 -3 medium size tomato, chopped
  • 2-3 green chillies, chopped
  • 2 Tblsp. tomato paste
  • 3-4 tsp. pav bhaji masala (i prefer MDH)
  • salt
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric(haldi)
  • oil / butter

What U need for final dish :
  • handful of chopped red onion
  • handful of chopped cilantro
  • Amul butter lots of it OR as little as you want(or any butter U like)
  • lime/lemon pieces

What u do :
For Pav :
Add yeast & sugar to luke warm water, let it sit for 5-7 min. till it get little foamy. In a big bowl take flours add salt, yeast water & oil. Knead it to a soft dough. Take another clean big bowl grease it & keep the dough in it covered with plastic wrap. Leave it at warm place for 2 hours or so till it gets almost double in size.

Once double in size punch down the dough, knead it again & make around 8-9 same size balls. Arrange them next to each other in greased mould, I used Pyrex dish for that. Let them rest again at warm place for another hour. Heat oven at 350 degree F brush the dough balls with milk & bake for 15-20 minutes. Once the golden brown crust forms on the bread that means pav's are ready. Take out of the oven & mould let it rest & cool.

For Bhaji :
Steam all veggies except onion & tomato with very little water, salt & turmeric. Once done, mash them using potato masher or back side of serving spoon. Now take a big pan/karahi, heat some butter(I use half butter, half oil) & saute onions in it. Later add tomato paste, chopped tomatoes & green chillies. Let everything cook. Add pav bhaji masala, after a minute or so add mashed veggies & let everything simmer for at least 15-20 minutes. If  looks too dry add few spoons of water.

How to serve :
Cut each pav horizontally into two parts, top & bottom. Put some some butter on to the hot griddle/tava & toast pav's on it(cut side down). Now to serve put pav with the butter toasted side up in the plate & next to it put a serving of bhaji, sprinkle some lime juice, chopped red onions, cilantro & lots of utterly butterly delicious Amul butter(India's most famous butter).

Note : Bhaji tastes much better if you make it at least few hours ahead of time. One can easily control the amount  of butter used in this dish & it still tastes good.

I wanted to send it to Champa's "Baking with Book-Breakfast event" but never got a chance to complete it in the month of April. But still it's on it's  way to champa of Bangalore Baker for her weekly baking event.