20 April 2007

green chana/chickpeas/garbanzo beans

I can't be much of an Asian. I've never had green chickpeas (garbanzo to the Merkins). But I bought them from Trader Joe's anyway. They've sat in the freezer for the last month. The green peas, broad beans (fava beans to the Merkins) and pre-shelled edamame have all been scoffed, leaving behind these green versions of my favourite pulse/legume. Chana masala, made with the more usual yellow version of chickpeas, is a favourite standby in our kitchen. Whipped up with tinned chickpeas, tinned tomatoes and whatever Asian spices I have in the cupboard, every chana masala is an adventure in itself. Especially when I get the chillies out (poor P... his poorly tummy can't take the heat).

So it was with a certain amount of suspicion that I opened the bag of frozen greenies today. We haven't had much luck with American frozen pulses. The broad beans are already too far gone for our preference of firmness. Which means we've been substituting it with edamame, which retains its bite a little better, for our other standby: beans and bacon. Anyhoo, a interweb search pulls up a rather tasty looking recipe for harbhara chaat. Seeing the chickpeas in a cone of newspaper reminded me of my childhood, buying kacang puteh from the little cart outside the cinema. We'd get to choose one cone each. My mother always went for the chickpeas, my father for the cashews, my brother for the sugar-coated peanuts. I *always* wavered between the fried lentils and the boiled chickpeas. Somehow, even though the chickpeas were the "healthier" option, I usually chose them.

Green chana

Back to those greenies. They were a little over-cooked. I swear I only allowed them to warm up in boiling water for 2 minutes. Still. Beats soaking dried beans overnight and boiling for an hour. Not having the best stocked kitchen around, I substituted the onions with shallots and the green chilli with red jalapeno. Amazingly, there was a very old and wrinkled mango and lemon in the fruit drawer, so in they went. As for the spices, I'd be mortified if I didn't at least have cumin, coriander and ginger, so it wasn't too difficult to cobble together some chaat masala, after this recipe. Of course, without the powdered dried mango, it won't be the same.

Spices

Served with our current pseudo-Asian rice fave, fake biryani, consisting of whatever long-grain rice we have (usually Thai, but sometimes basmati), cardamom, random nuts (pumpkin seeds at the moment) and cranberries. (Yes, cranberries. Not a fan of sultanas, me. So I can't even make fake British-Asian biryani.) Don't knock it till you try it: sweet/sour dried fruit in rice works. Ask the Persians, inventors of polo, which inspired biryani, which inspired this:

Biryani-inspired rice

I love pretending I can cook. And at times like these, when everything comes together even though nothing is authentic, I really feel like I can tackle anything. (Don't mention the pizza...)

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