Amma’s Kitchen: By Professor Jill Eggers
I talked with Raj Mataji on the phone and she gave me a couple of the recipes we craved: the Chole, the Allu Ghobi, and her rice recipe. Like most good family cooks, she doesn’t measure much but goes with her experience and intuition, so on amounts she was a little fast and loose. We negotiated some general agreement about amounts, though, so each recipe comes out fairly specific. But as Mataji pointed out, “if we are a little short on something, we put in something else.” I told her we would do our best and let her know the results!
Raj Mataji’s Chole
2 cups garbanzo beans
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil, or ghee
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 onions, chopped
1-2 green chilies
small piece ginger, chopped
1 t salt (optional)
2 tomatoes, blended in blender, or 2 T tomato paste
1 T Allspice
Cilantro, lemon, and red pepper or paprika for garnish
Soak garbanzo beans in water with a little baking soda overnight. In the morning, wash the beans, put in fresh water, and cook until tender but not mushy. (Cooking garbanzo beans: cook 1 cup of beans in 4 cups of water for about 3 hours. Add extra water during cooking if necessary.)
In a saucepan, heat oil or ghee. Add mustard seeds and cumin seeds, and cook until mustard seeds have begun to pop. When mustard seeds have finished popping, add salt, chopped chilies, ginger, and onion, and saute for about 5- 10 minutes, until onion is translucent. Add tomatoes or tomato paste and cook a few minutes more. Add cooked garbanzo beans, and simmer for a little while. Add allspice towards the end of cooking time for flavor and color.
Serve with rice or chappatis. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro, lemon, and paprika or red pepper
2 cups basmati rice4 1/2 cups water
2-3 T vegetable oil, olive oil, or ghee
1 T cumin seeds
2 cinnamon sticks,
or 1 t cinnamon powder
2 green cardamon pods
(black will work, too)
2 t salt
2 T milk
1 t saffron
Soak the rice 2-3 hours ideally, before cooking. If you don’t have the time, you can get away with 1/2 hour. Wash the rice very well.
In a saucepan, heat the oil or ghee. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamon, and salt. Stir the spices a couple minutes until fragrant. (Be careful not to burn the spices.) Add the rice, and stir for just a minute or two; then add the milk and saffron. (You can let the saffron soak in the milk for a little while before adding, if you want, to bring out the flavors more.) Add water. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes. Stir once or twice during cooking to prevent sticking.
The next recipe comes to us without specific amounts. Mataji was not sure what amounts she used and tends to just follow her own knowledge on this one. So we will have to figure out what works. A small working knowledge of similar dishes will help–about a teaspoon on each of the spices is probably about right, and one head of cauliflower.
1-2 T Olive oil, vegetable oil, or ghee
1 t black mustard seeds
1 t salt
1-2 green chilies
1 cauliflower, broken or cut up into medium-size pieces
1 potato cut up (optional) or peas–maybe a cup
Saute the mustard seeds in oil or ghee. When mustard seeds have finished popping, add the turmeric, coriander, salt, ginger, and garlic. Saute a minute or two, stirring. (Be careful not to burn the spices.) Add the onions and chilies, and saute a few minutes more. Add the cauliflower and potato, if using, and stir well, covering with the spices. Cover and simmer until tender, stirring once or twice during cooking. If using peas, add towards the end of cooking, a few minutes before cauliflower is tender. You can add 1 T of water if needed, but not more, as it will make the dish mushy.
Garnish with cilantro and chopped onion, if desired. Serve over rice or with chappatis.
Raj Mataji with granddaughter Neha