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!

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. !!!!