Monday, February 23, 2009


Once when I was unemployed and bored during the day I signed up for a community cooking class on Indian food. It was held in the kitchen at a high school. I had half expected the class to be boring, but you got to bring the food home at the end, so I figured I might as well try it. The class, however, ended up being awesome. It was run by this woman, Prithra Mehra, who does cooking classes for a ton of places, including Whole Foods and William Sonoma. Aside from teaching me how to cook some awesome Indian food, the class also made me less afraid of pressure cookers (although I still hesitate to stand directly behind the pot lest it explode). It also taught me how to use fresh ginger. My whole kitchen laughed at me when I took the piece of ginger and dropped it in the pot without peeling or dicing. I now use fresh ginger as much as I can.

Eat Rating:
Difficulty: Easy to Medium.

Prithra Mehra, The Mystic Kitchen

1 cup dried chickpeas
4 cups water
4 tbsp dried lentils
2 tsp salt
2 pods, cardamom
1 cinnamon stick
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 onions, chopped
1 tomato chopped (LN: you can also you a can of diced tomato, drained)
3 tbsp oil or butter
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp red chili powder
1/4 cup coriander leaves, chopped (Most often this is labelled "cilantro" at the store)
1 tsp channa masala*
2 green chilis (optional)
1/4 tsp mango powder (optional)

Wash chickpeas and soak overnight in 4 cups water and 1 tsp salt. Soak lentils in water for 30 minutes before you begin cooking.

Peel and chop the ginger and the onion. Put chickpeas, water, lentils, salt, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, ginger and 1/2 onion in pressure cooker. Bring to full pressure on high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10-12 minutes. (LN: This almost always takes me longer, more like 20-30 minutes. You want almost all the water to have been steamed out.)

Heat oil or butter in a frying pan. Add onion and cook until onion begins to brown. Add tomato, coriander, cumin, chili powder and coriander leaves. Cook till the oil begins to separate and the mixture becomes shiny around the oustide of the pan. Add chana masala and simmer 1 minute.
Add mixture to the chickpeas (make sure to remove the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods first) and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Garnish with remaining spices if desired. Serve with rice (basmati if you have it) and top with yogurt or raita.**

* When I first tried to find chana masala, it took me forever. You'll need to look at an Indian grocery or try World Market if there's one close by. You can also make it yourself by combining: 1 tbsp coriander, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp black pepper, 1 tbsp ginger, 1 tbsp cardamom, 1 tbsp cinnamon and 1 tbsp nutmeg.
** We made some make-shift raita by combining yogurt-cheese and cucumber. To make the yogurt-cheese, find a large bowl and place a colander in it so the colander rests on the edge. Line the colander with several layers of cheese cloth and place 1 cup yogurt in middle. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 12 hours or overnight. Discard liquid in bowl. You will have a thick cheese, the consistency of cream cheese, but with a slight yogurty taste. Peel, seed and dice cucumber, then mix with cheese.

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