One such connection landed me a lot of goodies only a few weeks ago. While I was in Mumbai, I got a warm invitation to visit the home of the Saffron Trail. Nandita cooked a wonderful dinner for V and me and we enjoyed several hours of engaging gup-shup even though we had never set eyes on each other before that evening. Before I left, Nandita generously gave me some fantastic gifts, one of which was a nondescript packet of masala powder called "Goldiee chhole ka masala". With a gleam in her eye, she promised me that this is a fantastic spice blend and you need nothing other than the basic onion and tomato gravy to make a authentic mouth-watering chana masala with this stuff.
She wasn't kidding! These Goldiee people know the formula, for sure. I made what tastes like a complex restaurant-style curry using basic pantry staples like black chickpeas, frozen spinach, garlic, tomatoes and onions. If you don't have this brand, use your own favorite brand of chana masala powder, or perhaps a home-made mix.
1 C black chickpeas, soaked for 8 hours, then cooked until tender
½ bag frozen leaf spinach
½ large onion, sliced thinly
½ t turmeric powder
1 t chana masala powder (or more/less to taste)
salt to taste
2 t oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ large onions, coarsely chopped
3 C canned whole tomatoes (with juice)
1. Make the gravy: Saute onions in oil until golden brown, add garlic and saute for couple of minutes, add tomatoes and saute for 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool for a bit, then grind together into a thick paste.
2. To make the curry, heat the oil and saute the sliced onion until golden.
3. Add the salt, turmeric and chana masala powder. Saute for a minute.
4. Add the spinach, cooked chickpeas and tomato-onion gravy. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
Make this curry a day ahead of serving if possible- the taste improves overnight!
To go with the rich chana masala, I used Shilpa's recipe for a fragrant pulao studded with whole spices. My only tweak was to use blanched almonds instead of cashews because that is what I had on hand. On a whim, I skipped the usual golden raisins and added some dried mixed berries (cherries, strawberries, blueberries) instead.
If I survive another day of this ongoing heat wave in St. Louis, I'll be back with a recipe for a summer drink.