Street Food Cravings: Kaala Chana Chaat

Kaala Chana Chaat (A warm, mildly sweet, tangy, spicy, herby street food of black chickpeas and potatoes)

Today, I shall take you on a nostalgic trip to my country of birth, India.

Where birds sing on roof tops, children joyfully play a game of hop scotch, a street vendor calls out from a distant corner, there is life all around and conversations abundant.

As I prepare myself for my trip to Asia in summer, I cannot help but imagine how things are back in my country of birth. I am also super excited about all the food that I am going to savour.

On this chilly spring evening, this warm chaat and a cup of tea is all I need in my life! The mild tang and sweetness of the dried pomegranates, some heat from the chili powder and fresh green chili peppers, freshly chopped onions, cilantro and the mildly pungent asafetida, the crunch from the sev, instantly takes me back to wander in the streets of India. My sweet neighbourhood. My childhood.

We love our street food and sometimes we try to recreate it at home!

Here’s one that R made one of the weekend afternoons when I was on my downtime! I came drawn to the kitchen with the aroma of all the warm spices he was using.

This is his creation but the only contribution I made was to suggest adding the Anardana powder because I really liked how my friend Dee had used Anardana in one of her Mom’s recipes of Dried Chhole and I’d loved it! So, thank you Dee!:)

For the longest time, R & I just couldn’t be together in the kitchen at the same time. I’ve had fights over how the onions were cut or which variety of okra R picked up from the grocery store! After moving here, he cooks over the weekend and I get fed!

Now, we give each other ideas when we try to create or recreate something. I must add that he has a very well developed and a sensitive palate, and that is a huge help in terms of feedback when trying out new recipes or food! He gives me critical and honest feedback so every recipe that comes to the blog has passed his test, for sure!

This is a great starter for a party, an afternoon snack or a street food themed party, as one can do most of the prep earlier. It’s perfect to serve in the slightly cooler months. However, you can cook this ahead and keep it in the fridge to serve it as a cold for summer.

Recipe for this warm Kaala Chana Chaat (A warm, mildly sweet & tangy, and spicy, herby salad with black chickpeas and potatoes)

Makes: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

Mustard Oil: 2 tsp
Asafetida (Hing): ¼ tsp
Ground Dried Pomegranate Powder (Anardana Powder): 2 tsp
Cumin Powder: 2 tsp
Red Chilli Powder: ½ tsp
Salt: To Taste
Ground Pepper: ½ tsp (or to taste)
Boiled Black chickpeas (Boiled Kaala Chana): 2 cups
Diced Boiled Potatoes: 1 cup
Chaat Masala: 1 tsp
Mustard Oil: 2 tsp to add on top

Garnish (Totally customized):

Onions: Chopped, fine (a tbsp per serving or as per your liking)
Green chilli peppers, finely chopped (as you prefer)
Cilantro – a handful, roughly chopped
Lime – a squeeze, or more if you like
Crispy Sev (Chickpea flour) – a tsp or as much as you like

Method:

  1. Heat 2 tsp of mustard oil.
  2. While the oil is still getting warm, add Asafetida powder, Ground Anardana, Cumin powder, chilli powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Stir well, in the oil but ensure they don’t burn (adjust the heat as necessary).
  4. Add 2 cups of boiled Kala Chana making sure to add very little of the boiling liquid.
  5. Mix well.
  6. Continue cooking on medium heat until the spices are uniformly coated and stick to the Black Chickpeas & there’s no liquid left.
  7. Add the diced, boiled potatoes (1 cup)
  8. Mix well until it is well coated in all the spices.
  9. Now add 1 tsp of chaat masala.
  10. Stir for another min, add 1/2 tbsp of mustard oil and turn off heat.

Serve warm, loading it with garnish as you like!

To Serve:

Scoop a portion of the cooked Chickpeas and Potatoes in a bowl.

Add a tbsp or two of the chopped onions, green chillies (as per taste) and some freshly chopped cilantro. Squeeze a bit of lime. Enjoy!

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Aaloo Gobhi, Just like Mom’s!

When I was in my late teens, I used to hangout a lot with a good friend. Late afternoons were spent at her home, just chatting and giggling about great nothings. And when her Mom (Aunty) would come back home from work, she would often head straight to the kitchen to prepare a meal for us. I would stand by the door of the kitchen, making sure not to come in her way, yet be close enough to have my eyes following her as she operated in that sacred space.

I have always been very fascinated by the art of cooking and as a natural extension of it, watching people cook. I can stand for hours mesmerized by how people cook their food, no matter which part of the world I am in. Every cook (whether at home or a professional chef) has a unique way in which they function. It is a childlike fascination I have to watch them do what they lovingly put together. This goes way beyond the recipe. . . It is meditative. . . It is like a glimpse into another’s soul.

Aunty was like the composer and conductor of her orchestra, knowing every nuance and operating with effortless precision. Like a Master, putting the various little bits together harmoniously to produce a symphony each and every time she was in that space. She moved around with confidence as she collected the ingredients, washed, chopped, stirred, cleaned and chatted, while I watched, blissfully, as we shared a bit of our lives, little knowing that we were making memories of a lifetime.

The memory of how Aunty used to cook in her kitchen is so vivid and has stayed with me all these years. Amongst the many glorious things she cooked for me, aaloo gobhi was one of the highlights. I do not remember her recipe exactly, and I could ask her for it, but I would rather watch her cook before my eyes and relive that memory when I meet her.

Is there a higher form of praise than cooking something and being told that it reminds them of their Mom’s food? In my world, NOT. That is the best compliment. And one that truly melts my heart. . So, the decision to spread the good food becomes instantaneous! I cooked this aaloo gobhi recently for a dear friend. She immediately said that it tasted (& looked) like her Mom’s food!  I just knew I had to share the recipe here!

Aaloo Gobhi [Cauliflower and Potatoes in a onion and tomato masala]:

Serves: 4-6

I divide the preparation of this dish in two steps. Step one is to Roast and prepare the cauliflower. Step 2 is to Prepare the masala and get the flavours mixed together.

Roasting the Cauliflower:

Many people do not roast the cauliflower and that’s completely fine. However, I find that every time I have roasted the cauliflower this way, it has helped to preserve the texture of the cauliflower and while I absolutely love a slightly mushy cauliflower curry, the one with the texture preserved has its own deserving place.

Ingredients:

  • Cauliflower : 1 big head of a cauliflower
  • Turmeric Powder 1/2 tsp
  • Kashmiri Chilli Powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Salt: to taste
  • Mustard Oil 1 Tbsp (Or equal amount of any other oil)

Method:

  1. Remove the green leaves/stem of the cauliflower. Take out the florets and cut them if needed into half. The idea is to make sure the florets are even sized (as far as possible), not too small, or they’ll end up being a mash and not too big or the cauliflower will not absorb any flavors of the masala.
  2. Wash the florets. Pat them to remove any extra moisture using a paper towel or a clean kitchen cloth.
  3. In a big dry mixing bowl, add the cauliflower and the rest of the ingredients. Mix it uniformly.
  4. Line a Flat Baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Place the cauliflower on it making sure they are in a single layer. Discard any liquid / water that is left at the bottom of the mixing bowl.
  5. Set the oven to Broil setting or the highest setting available on your oven. Put the cauliflower to bake for about 18-20 mins. After around 10-12 mins, move the florets around. But monitor closely to make sure they do not burn. The timing may vary depending on what kind of oven you have and the size of the cauliflower as well as the moisture it has.
  6. The idea is to make it dry-ish and slightly browned.

    Alternatively, you can fry the cauliflower in a heavy bottom pan in batches. However, I try to avoid that method as it takes more oil and more time. I put this to Broil and work on my Masala.

While the cauliflower is roasting in the oven, let us get started with the Masala.

Preparing the Masala:

Ingredients:

  • Cumin Powder: 1/2 Tbsp
  • Coriander Powder: 1 Tbsp
  • Turmeric Powder: 1/4 tsp
  • Kashmiri Chilli Powder: 1 tsp
  • Deghi Chilli Powder: 1/2 tsp (optional)
  • Water: 3-4 Tbsp
  • Mustard Oil: 1 Tbsp (Or any other oil)
  • Dried Bay leaf: 1
  • Cumin Seeds: 1 tsp
  • Garlic: 1/2 Tbsp, minced
  • Onions: 1 Cup, finely chopped (I used a chopper to chop it fine. Can be done by a knife too, it just saves me time).
  • Ginger: 1 Tbsp, Finely chopped
  • Salt: to taste
  • Small-Medium sized Potatoes: 6 pcs (reduce it if you don’t like potatoes too much!). Boiled firm, Peeled, and Halved. (Quartered, if the potatoes are big. The idea is to have it similar in size to the Cauliflower florets)
  • Tomatoes – Use well ripe, Roma tomatoes or the bigger, round cherry tomatoes which are slightly sweetish. Chopped into big dice – 1 Cup
  • Fresh Cilantro (or fresh coriander leaves), roughly chopped: 1/2 cup
  • Garam Masala Powder: 1/2 tsp (optional)
  • Kasoori Methi leaves (Dried Fenugreek leaves, Roasted for a couple of mins until the aroma comes, then crushed in your palm by hand) (optional)
  • Fresh cream: 1 tbsp (optional)
  • Kasoori Methi leaves (Dried Fenugreek leaves: 1 tsp, Roasted for a 1-2 of mins until the aroma comes, then crushed in your palm by hand) (optional)
  • Green chillies, a couple, chopped, as a garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. In a small bowl, add the cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and Kashmiri + Deghi chilli powders. Add enough water to cover the ground spices and stir it well to make a thick paste of it. Set aside.
  2. In a Heavy bottomed pan or Kadhai (Wok), Heat Mustard Oil. Let it reach smoking point, then lower the flame. I like the traditional flavor mustard oil adds to this dish. You can easily substitute any non flavored oil like avocado oil or grapeseed oil. If using any other oil, you do not need to heat it to smoking point.
  3. Once the oil is hot, add the Dried Bay leaf and cumin seeds and reduce heat. Cumin starts burning very quickly so, I reduce the heat to prevent that. Stir quickly for around 20-30 seconds making sure the cumin doesn’t burn.
  4. Next add the minced garlic. And increase the heat to medium-low. Stir it around continuously making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Once the garlic starts turning brown, add the finely chopped onions, ginger and 1/2 tsp of salt. Mix it until the onion turns translucent and slightly brown at the edges.
  5. At this point, add the dry masala paste which we prepared in step 1. Continue to stir and mix for another 2-3 mins until the rawness of the spices is gone.
  6. Add the boiled, peeled & halved Potatoes. Mix it well coating the spices. Once the spices are coated, add the tomatoes as well as the roasted cauliflower. Cook this uncovered for  a couple of mins on medium heat.
  7. Cover the pan, put the heat now on medium and let it cook for around 10 mins, stirring every 3-4 mins. Once the tomatoes have integrated fully in the masala and cauliflower has absorbed the flavors, turn off the heat.
  8. Add Chopped fresh cilantro leaves (coriander leaves) immediately after turning the heat off. Mix well and serve with Naan, Roti, Rice or any other way you fancy! Prepare this dish an hour or two before serving time as it allows enough time for the flavors to marry.
  9. Garnish with chopped green chillies (optional)
  10. Optional step: When the vegetables are done, Add a spoon of fresh cream and mix it well to take this dish to another level. Turn off the heat within 1-2 mins after mixing. Add 1/2 tsp of garam masala powder and the crushed, roasted kasoori methi as well as the cilantro from step 8 above.