Nepalese Spicy Chickpeas – Quick and Easy!

Those Europeans who trek the high paths through Nepal get used to simple daily meals of Daal and Rice. But such are the talents of a good Nepali cook that you can prepare yourself for differences of taste and texture such as would test the talents of any Asian Escoffier.

This quick and simple meal claims no such merits, but……….. Friends who have tried it [even confirmed carnivores] often say [in a casual, but entirely unconvincing manner] “Oh, if we’re having a curry evening next week is there any chance you could do that Gurkha Chickpea thing…………………”

Ingredients:

2 ‘banana’ Shallots, chopped in fine rings; a sweet, ripe, Tomato, chopped fine; 3 fat Garlic Cloves chopped fine; 1 tsp Chana powder [see my previous post];  1 Green Chilli, cut a slit down lengthwise; 2 x 400 g  cans of Organic Chickpeas, drained [or about 1 lb of dried chickpeas soaked overnight].

Have to hand: Lemon juice; Black pepper; Sea or Black salt; 1 tsp of Ghee [clarified butter] or if unavailable [tut, tut, you really should have some!] 2 tsp Rice Oil

Heat your ghee or oil in a raised side frying pan, and saute the shallots til golden.  Then add the garlic, chilli and chana powder, and stir well in.  Grind over a good amount of fresh black pepper, and stir in, allow to simmer.

After a few minutes add the chickpeas, and tomato and a splash of lemon juice.  Stir and simmer for about 10/15 mins. Check for taste and add a little salt if needed.   Serve piping hot with a simple Jeera [cumin] Rice or plain Roti.

Ayo Gurkhali!

Nepalese Chana Masala Powder

Chana powder is an essential ingredient in many Nepalese dishes.  But not yet, thank goodness, found in the dusty spice archives of your local supermarket!

It is however simple to prepare, using many ingredients you probably have to hand already, and perhaps one ‘secret’ ingredient.  This you may have to search a little for but, like any quest, when found it becomes a treasure indeed.  It is Anardana, or dried pomegranate seed.  My source is http://www.theasiancookshop.co.uk a wonderful source of all things spicy with a superb delivery service too!

I’m assuming you have a mortar and pestle to hand, plus a suitable airtight container to store the mixture in.

Ingredients:

Pomegranate seeds [Anardana] 1 tbsp; Coriander seeds, 3 tbsp; Cumin seeds, 1 tbsp; Black Cardamoms broken open for the seeds inside, 2 tsp; Black peppercorns, 2 tsp; Cloves 1/2 tsp; Cinnamon stick, about 4″ [chop up small with poultry scissors to start]; Dried red chillies, 8; Sea or black salt, 1 tsp.

First gently roast the Anardana, Coriander and Cumin seeds together in a dry pan.  Do not overheat  Then allow them to cool.  Put all your spices in a mortar and grind them well with a pestle until finely ground and melded together.  I generally resist using grinders for this task as I feel it smashes all the aromatics out of spices.  Just offer up the effort put into your handiwork as a blessing for those who will share and compliment you on your delicious meals in the future!

Finally use a  sieve [not too fine mesh] to take out some of the chaff, which will undoubtedly remain from the Cinnamon sticks.  Then store in a clean, dry, screw top container.  Try to find one which will just about be filled with the mix, leaving little airspace, and top up with freshly made Chana when you run out.

I will follow with a quick and simple Nepali Chick Pea recipe which your Chana mix will transform into a favourite recipe, which your guests will love, vegetarian or otherwise!

Sometimes

Sometimes all seems broken
An unbridgeable void to you
Distant words no longer clear
The melancholy echo of a loving time

Sometimes I brave a lonely smile
Not sharing how I feel
Why should others want to know
The emptiness inside me

Sometimes it’s easier to carry
Another sorrow than my own
To be the shield for other pain
A guardian ‘gainst their fears

Sometimes I think I am beloved
And cannot reason why
Why would you love a lone poor soul
Or hold me when I cry

Sometimes I ache to see your face
And long to have you near
To hear your voice read me to life
And banish my despair

The Gurkha Oven – Spalding’s Superb Nepalese Restaurant

Imagine my surprise when this great eaterie appeared, not in London, or Cambridge, or any other of my usual haunts, but right on my doorstep in Spalding at 12b Sheep Market, near the centre of town.   What’s more, before I’d had a chance to try them, they had shot up the ratings to appear as our No.1 local restaurant.   I guess you will find it no surprise however that my next foray out was to sample the delights promised in their menu!

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The staff are, again, polite, friendly and courteous, but without the obsequiousness that so grates in many Indian restaurants.   Again the ‘British Staple Curries’ featured strongly, as commerce presently dictates, but my aim was to try the Nepali range and compare them with my Edinburgh experience.

Well, I need not have worried.  There were a few alternatives that I hadn’t found in Edinburgh, such as a slowly cooked Goat Curry, on the bone, which was superbly, meltingly, delicious. Chicken Bhutuwa, another Nepalese traditional dish, was finely prepared with dried red chillies and crushed garlic.  Mouth and eye wateringly fine!

Starters included the classic Mo:Mo, this time with minced chicken filling and a light sauce, and spicy lamb kidneys, lightly fried with herbs.  Allo Bodi Tama, my favourite Nepali veg side dish, is available too.  Checha’pruk, the Gurkha version, I suppose, of chicken tikka, but marinated in a cheese and spiced sauce, remains to be tried as do their Duck dishes.

Plus I must next time try their version of the spicy lamb curry – just to compare notes with Edinburgh you understand!

It would be invidious to choose which restaurant was the better of the two – even if it were possible – I would only say that I unhesitatingly recommend both.  So if you are lucky enough to be in either locale, and puzzling over where to find a great meal, well cooked and served, you now have somewhere to go!

Namaste Kathmandu : A Favourite Nepalese Restaurant

Well, I promised a review, or two, when I posted my Alloo Bodi Tama recipe a while ago so here we go!

Many miles apart, Edinburgh and Spalding, but very close in the winning qualities that make for a good restaurant you want to visit time and again.  Super food, all at very reasonable prices, and a cheerful and helpful staff are the factors I prize in any establishment, and these two are at the top of my list. I have found all the Nepalis I have met over the years to be unfailingly courteous, and the staff at both restaurants are no exception.

Namaste Kathmandu

The first, Namaste Kathmandu in Forrest Road, is located a short distance uphill [everywhere in Edinburgh is uphill or seems to be!] from the famous ‘Greyfriar’s Bobby’ statue.  I visited it first on a Saturday evening, which, as you might imagine, meant it was busy!  Nevertheless a table for two was found, menus appeared, and then……we were allowed plenty of time to mull over the delights contained within.  Unlike so many other restaurants on a Saturday night when you feel you’ve stepped on a conveyor belt!

The menu, in deference to ‘British tastes’, does show a number of the standard dishes that can be expected in any Indian restaurant.  However but a little searching will reveal a number of unfamiliar Nepalese dishes, and, as you might expect, it was these we concentrated on.

Starters range from Kukhura Ko Sekuwa, a sort of Nepali chicken satay, marinated in herbs and barbecued, through Haku Choila,  a traditional grilled lamb starter, and the staple of all Nepalese homes, Mo:Mo.  Vegetable filled dumplings steamed or fried and garnished with fresh coriander. Kwati Ko Suruwa is a delicious nine bean and green vegetable broth simmered in Himalayan spices and herbs.  They list several others, all sounding equally delicious, but even I can only attempt so much!

Of the main courses Kukhura Ko Johl was a superb, chicken on the bone,  dish containing onion, tomatoes and timur, better known perhaps as Sichuan Pepper, topped with sliced green chillies.  Khasi Ko Masu, lamb marinated in Himalayan herbs was superb and spicy, only just topped by Bheda Tona, lamb on the bone marinated in yoghurt and herbs.  As an accompanying side dish you would find it hard to beat their Kaakra Ko Achar, a fresh tasting Nepalese cucumber pickle.  Jeera Rice, with cumin seeds, soaked up all the sauces so nothing was wasted!

How did two of us manage to eat all that?  Well, the food was so wonderful that we had no hesitation in eating there on Sunday night too!!

Just Daisies

I thought, I know!  I’ll cut the grass!
Tried to start the trusty mower
It seemed reluctant, coughed and spluttered
Didn’t want to go today

I paused and thought and looked about
A million Daisies smiled and nodded
Clean joyous faces, bright and wide
For whom my youngest child was named

Small honey bees paid courtly visits
Bowing, dipping all around
Then flying home their breeches laden
With all the booty they had found

I quietly put the mower back
I sat and paused with old Earl Grey
I watched the cycle of the flowers
The grass can wait another day

Alloo Bodi Tama – Nepalese Potato and Black Bean Curry

For those Curry aficionados, and I count myself blessed to be one, there is a growing number of Nepalese Restaurants  in the UK offering something different from the [ I think boring as hell!] usual fare of ‘Tikka Masala’ or ‘Bangalore Phal’ – hot as possible, cos I’m a REAL MAN!

To those who enjoy such bastardised dishes, fine.  But they are a world away from the subtle spiced delights of the Asian Sub-Continent.  This is a staple Nepali dish, fine as a main course for vegetarians, or as an accompaniment to Lamb or Goat dishes.

Ingredients:

200 ml of organic Sheep or Goat’s Yoghurt; 400 g Bamboo Shoots [if you have a choice select those broader thick shoots, similar to thin leeks], cut to thin slices then cross-cut smaller if necessary;  400 g tin of Black-eyed peas or beans rinsed [or overnight soaked if dried];  400 g tin of organic tomatoes, chopped;  1 lb potatoes [waxy new varieties if poss.] peeled and cut to about 1/2″ pieces;   1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thinly;  2 fresh red chillies sliced into rounds, seeds and all!;  2 cloves garlic finely chopped;  1/2″ fresh ginger finely chopped; 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper;  1 tsp cumin powder;  1/2 tsp turmeric [or better still one short piece of fresh turmeric finely chopped]; 200 g thick yoghurt;  1/2 pint organic veg stock;  handful of fresh, roughly chopped Coriander as garnish;  2 tbsp Rice oil.

Heat the oil in a deep fry pan, with a lid if possible.  Throw in the red chillies and stir ’til darkened, then add the onion, garlic and ginger and stir fry ’til soft on a low heat.  Turn the heat up slightly and add the spices stirring ’til incorporated into the mixture.  Turn back down and then add the potatoes and saute for about 10 minutes covered, just checking that they don’t start to burn.  Add the beans, bamboo shoots and tomatoes, stir and allow a few minutes to heat through.

Mix the yoghurt with about half of the warm veg stock.  Add carefully as it will have a tendency to curdle if the stock is too hot.  If it does use a fork and…..beat it within an inch of it’s life!   Add to the curry and stir in well.  Turn up the heat ’til you see it just beginning to boil then turn down and allow to low-simmer for about 20-25 mins.  If the sauce gets too dry add a little at a time of your remaining stock.  Then when the potatoes and beans are tender and ready, garnish with the coriander, and enjoy.

Naan bread or similar Roti are all you need to go with this.

Ayo Gurkhali!

I shall be following with reviews of two of my favourite Nepali restaurants, one in Edinburgh, and one in Spalding, Lincs. !!!!