Thursday, January 24, 2013

Heat through spices

We've been having painfully cold weather lately and that has made me crave Indian food. I know some people turn to hearty, meaty stews and roasts. I see the benefit of having the oven cranked on if just to open the door occasionally to check on what's inside and enjoy the blast of heat that surrounds your face, but I find that the warming spices in many Indian dishes do a great job of thawing me out.

Tonight I made my lastest favorite Indian dish: chana masala with mushrooms. I also made my stand-by (and possibly the easiest Indian dish ever) spinach simmered in yogurt (into which I also chucked a little cubed tofu aka cheater's paneer), rice and raita. The chana masala is pungent from three types of whole seeds that are toasted in oil at the very beginning of cooking. Unlike ground spices, which flavor a dish more uniformly, the whole spices keep each bite interesting with little kapows of flavor when you bite into a few fennel seeds, then a contrasting intensity when the next bite contains a cluster of mustard seeds. It's my way to stay toasty warm in winter.

Chana Masala with Mushrooms
adapted from this recipe on Herbivoracious

  • 1.5 C cooked chickpeas (home cooked will be firmer, which I like, but use canned and rinse them if you're short on time)
  • 2 T canola oil
  • 2 t black mustard seeds
  • 1 t fennel seeds
  • 1 t cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced fine
  • 1 small onion, diced small
  • 1 medium tomato, diced (or use about 1/2 c canned diced tomato)
  • 1 C button mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 t dried tumeric
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • pinch ground cloves
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • 2 T lemon juice (or maybe a little more depending on how juicy/acidic your tomato is)
  • 1 t salt
  • cilantro (optional)
In a saucepan, heat the vegetable oil and chuck in your whole seeds. Cook until the mustard seeds start to pop (watch out, they can fly high!) Then add the onion, garlic and tomato and cook down until the liquid is gone and maybe the contents are browning a bit.

Add the mushrooms, chickpeas, tumeric, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne, lemon juice, salt and about a cup of water so it is a little soupy.

Simmer for at least 15-20 minutes so the chickpeas soak up a little of the spices and the mushrooms are cooked through. Honestly, you can probably turn the heat off once it is cooked and then re-heat the whole thing hours later and no one will be able to tell the difference.

If you have some cilantro on hand, chop up a little and sprinkle on top for a garnish, though the dish is fine without it.


Sarah said...

Did the kids eat it?

Kate said...

Oh god no! Didn't even try.