Friday, April 1, 2011

Rainy Day Cooking...

Thursday was the perfect day to spend in the kitchen. It was cold and raining, so Little Miss and I couldn't go to the park; the car was at the mechanic all day so we couldn't go shopping, and quite frankly, neither one of us really felt like getting out of our jammies.

So, while she settled in for an afternoon of play with her toys, and Husband settled into an afternoon of work, I donned my best fuzzy slippers and went into my "happy zone" (a.k.a. the kitchen).

I was craving something warm, spicy, zesty and comforting for dinner - and it had to fit in ONE pot (because by the time I decided I wanted it, I'd already used just about every other pot, pan and container I already owned, and I wasn't about to stop to wash and reload). That's usually the trigger for me to pull out the slow cooker.

Chana Masala is my all-time favourite Indian dish. Chick peas, tomatoes, onions and spices slowly simmered together until all the flavours blend into a hearty, satisfying "I-don't-even-miss-the-meat" vegetarian dish. What I like even more about it is that it's one of those slow-cooker dishes that DOESN'T have to start cooking at 9am in order to be ready for dinner. 4 hours is more than enough, so even if it takes me half a day to decide I want it, I can still be eating it by 6pm. (Of course, the 8 hour setting works well too if you've got the time.)

At the heart of Chana Masala is a vibrant, fragrant mix of ground spices - known as a Garam Masala. It's a staple in Indian and other South Asian dishes, and it's worth keeping in your pantry. I like to make my own Garam Masala (see recipe below), but you can just as easily buy it pre-made in most grocery stores now - just check the International section. In fact, you can even pick up pre-made Chana Masala mixes there too - they'll last a long time and taste just as authentic.

If you are going to grind your own though (which by the way, will last for up to 3 months in an airtight container), use a different grinder from the one you grind your coffee beans in. While Garam Masala is fragrant and wonderful, it doesn't mix all that well with coffee.

So, back to that rainy Thursday: Little Miss played. Husband worked. I prepped, chopped, diced, sauteed, roasted and baked. It was actually a pretty good day.


Chana Masala (Indian Chick Pea Stew)


Garam Masala (spice mix)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon curry powder

(you will need 2 tablespoons for this recipe)

Chana Masala

2 591 ml cans of Chick peas, drained
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp minced garlic from a jar)
1-inch (2.5-cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (or 1/2 tsp minced jarred ginger)
1 can (28 oz/875 g) diced tomatoes - DO NOT DRAIN
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup water


In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and sauté until the mixture just begins to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of garam masala and sauté until the spices are fragrant and thoroughly blended with the onion mixture, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, the sugar, salt, and 1/2 cup of water. Stir and bring to a boil.

Transfer the tomato-spice mixture to a slow cooker and stir in the chickpeas. Cover and cook until the chickpeas are very tender, 4 hours on the high-heat setting.

About 15 minutes before the chickpeas are done, sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of garam masala and lime juice evenly over the chickpeas and stir, breaking up some of the chickpeas with the back of the spoon to thicken the mixture slightly. I like the sauce to be a bit thicker so I also mix in 1 teaspoon of corn starch dissolved in cold water and stir for 2 minutes to thicken. This step isn't necessary though, it's just personal preference.

Serve immediately over basmati rice and/or naan.

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