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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chole (Cholay/Chana) - Delicious Curried Garbanzo Beans

Chole/ Cholay or Masala Chana is a very tasty dish where chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) plays the main role. It is very popular in Indian restaurants and if you can't find it under the curries section, you will definitely find it paired with the puffed, deep fried bread called "Batura/Bature". It is an easy to scale up dish too and generally finds a permanent spot in buffets, in almost all Indian restaurants (especially restaurants outside India).  Hence, it is a fantastic dish to make for a large crowd at home. When I was in college, curried garbanzo was a staple and made at least once a week. However, that was a far cry from what chole should be. It is definitely not something to be cooked in a hurry by throwing various spices in it. And I would highly recommend not using canned beans (unless it is an emergency), especially if you want the end product to be impressive. The following recipe is one that you will be proud to serve to your guests, who will be left smacking their fingers and asking for more (or even the recipe).

1 cup raw/dry garbanzo beans/chickpeas/chana/chole
water to soak the chickpeas completely
1 tea bag
3 tbsp oil
1 black cardamom/badi elaichi
3 bayleaves
1 inch cinnamon piece
10 black peppercorns
4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, finely chopped
1 cup red onion/ 1 large onion
2 tsp corriander-cumin/dhania jeera powder
1 tsp amchur powder/ dry raw mango powder
1 tomato, diced
2 tsp garam masala
red chilli powder to taste
salt to taste
1/2 cup water (for the gravy - if needed)

In a deep bowl, soak garbanzo beans. Make sure that you are covering the beans with sufficient water and have at least an inch of water above the top layer of the beans. Soak for at least 6 hours (best if done overnight). The beans will absorb the water and swell and the volume will double. Then take these in a deep pan and add a tea bag to it and cover with water and cook. You need to boil the chickpeas till they are softened. There should still be some bite or firmness to the chickpea and it should not get mushy. You can alternately use the pressure cooker (which is a faster method). Once cooked, take the tea bag out and keep this aside.

In another large and deep pan, heat oil. To this add the black cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon and pepper corns. Let them roast in the oil for a minute till fragrant and then add the ginger and garlic and
fry for another minute. Then add the onions. Now, cook the onions till well browned. It is very important to brown the onions, to get the authentic taste. This should be done on medium heat so that the onions don't burn.

Once the onions are well browned, add the dhania-jeera powder and amchur powder and stir well and fry for a minute. Then add the red chilli powder and then the cooked chickpeas. Retain the water in which the chickpeas have been cooked. Do not add water at this stage. Mix the chickpeas well so that they get coated by the spices. Then add the tomato and about a half a cup of the retained water in which the chickpeas were cooked. Let this cook till the tomato gets cooked and softens. At this stage, add the garam masala.  If the gravy has become very thick, then add a little water and let the gravy boil for a few minutes. Add salt to taste. Serve hot with white rice or bature or naan.

You need to plan ahead when making chole as the beans need to be soaked at least for 6-8 hours before they can be cooked. The fastest method to cook chickpeas is to cook them in the pressure cooker. It takes about 8 whistles in my cooker to cook the chickpeas or I cook them in the beans mode in my Instant Pot.
I have read many recipes in which a pinch of baking soda is added to the water when it is being soaked. From what I have read, this helps the chickpeas cook faster. However, it is not necessary to do so.
Add a little salt while cooking the beans, and it will get absorbed into the chickpeas making them tasty.
If you noticed, this recipe doesn't call for any chole masala. This is an easy to make recipe which uses whole spices and only garam masala. If you want the chole to be yellow in color, then do not add the tea bag while cooking the chickpeas.
If you do use canned chickpeas, do not use the tea bag. The canned chickpeas are already pre cooked and rather soft, and if you cook them for an additional time with the teabag, they will disintegrate.
If you do happen to burn the onions a little, it will impart a slightly bitter flavor to the gravy. If you detect this, add a tsp of sugar to the gravy and mix well. This will nullify the bitterness.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Cooking Tips Blog from Recipes for all Occasions

Dear Blog Readers,

I always provide tips at the end of each recipe. I am always looking for ways to improve or simplify recipes and try to provide tips that have helped me. Many of these tips apply across many recipes.

I refer to my blog often while cooking (it is my recipe notebook). During this process I realised that it would be great to have tips related to a specific method of cooking or a type of food, all in one spot. After contemplating about it for a while, I have started a new blog. I will consolidate tips, and categorise them appropriately, and post them ever so often. I will also try to incorporate pictures to demonstrate techniques and this will provide a go to site for helpful cooking tips.

Your feedback is welcome and highly appreciated. 

The link to the site is


It can also be found on the right side of our home page under the "My Blog List" section.

Thank you,

P. S. Gokhale

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Upma - A Farina/Semolina Dish

Upma is a popular snack found almost everywhere in India (well at least the places that I have visited). It is a snack which is as popular as "Poha" and is just as widespread in availability. It is called many names like Uppit, Uppitu, Rava Upma, Sooji Upma, Sanja and so on (just the various names I know it by). It is made out of semolina, which is a wheat product.  It can be made using just onions for seasoning or with a lot of vegetables. It is a very flexible dish, u can use fine or coarse semolina, add as many vegetables as you want and totally make it your own. However, there are some basic principles that must be followed when making it, else the end product becomes dense and lumpy and is not appetizing at all.

Though this is a relatively easy dish, that I have made several times, I had never gotten results that would make me take a picture of the dish and I was never been happy with it. In fact it is one dish I try to avoid cooking, if possible. However, three weeks ago I finally had the bright idea to ask my Mom for her recipe (you would think that I would have the good sense to ask earlier, no??).  After talking to her I realized where I made an error and was able to satisfactorily correct it. Within the past two weeks I have already made this recipe twice with fantastic results and a lot of compliments. I  am quite sure that I will now be making it as frequently as I make my other go to snack - "Pohe". So for all of you out there that see upma as a challenge, this recipe will help you get great results.

1/4 cup oil/ghee (clarified butter)
1 cup semolina/sooji/rava/farina
2-2.5 cups water
1/8 tsp mustard seeds
1  tsp urad dal
a pinch of asafoetida
8-10 curry leaves
a couple of green/red chillies, to taste, sliced into a couple of pieces
1 tsp ginger and green chilli paste
1/4 cup onion, diced finely
1/2 tomato, diced finely
1/4 cup cauliflower florets, diced/separated into small florets
1/4 cup potato, diced
1/8 cup peas
1/8 cup green beans, diced finely
1/8 cup carrots, diced finely
3-4 black pepper pods
1/8 tsp cumin seeds

In a pan, take the rava and roast it on medium heat. You  need to roast it till you start smelling the cooked aroma of the semolina and it no longer has the raw smell. It will be lightly browned. Keep aside.
Start heating the water. The water must be boiling when it is used, so it is important to start heating it in parallel while starting to work on the seasoning. Crush the cumin seeds and peppercorns to a coarse powder and keep aside
In a deep pan, heat the oil/ghee. To it add the mustard seeds and once they crackle, add the urad dal, curry leaves, green/red chillies. Once the urad dal turns slightly brown, add the onions and the ginger-chilli paste. Cook the onions till transparent, then add the rest of the vegetables. Cook the vegetables completely. Then add the salt and add the sugar. Then, add the roasted rava and stir till the rava is well coated with oil. Cook it for a couple of minutes.
At this phase add the crushed cumin and peppercorn to the boiling water. Then pour the water to the rava and stir well. Cover the pan and let it cook. Cook this covered for about five to seven minutes, stirring it occassionally, so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
The rava will fluff up and the volume will double. Add cilantro and turn off the heat. Then when it has cooled for a couple of minutes, squeeze the lemon juice and mix. Also, at this phase you can add a tsp of ghee/clarified butter. If you have cooked it in ghee, then it is not necessary to add ghee to at the end.

You can also roast the rava in the microwave. Stir after every minute and after the first couple of minutes, roast it in 30 second intervals. Do this till the rava loses its raw smell. You can then store it as well.  Store it once it has cooled down.
Do not skimp on the oil. The main reason why my upma turned out not so good was because I was using about 1 tbsp oil and that is very less and will make the rava sticky. Also fry the rava for a few minutes in oil, so that it gets coated with the oil, so it will not stick to each other that much when you add water. You can also use ghee/clarified butter instead of oil to make the upma. This will make it very rich and tasty.
The water that is added in at the end must be at a rolling boil and not just hot. It is convenient if you start heating the water in a pan at the same time that you start heating the oil or even a couple of minutes before that.
You can use a combination of any of the vegetables listed above. For one cup rava, you can use a maximum of about 1 cup of vegetables (upto 1/4 cup less or more). Try and cut all the vegetables to about the same size.
You can also skip all the additional vegetables and use only onion to season it. It even tastes great with just onions and a little tomato.
To make ginger and chilli paste, grind together 1 inch ginger along with 1-2 green chillies and some salt. Then use the required amount.