Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Pulse of Health!

There are two varieties of Bengal gram. The one developed in the Indian subcontinent is smaller in size with wrinkled black skin. The other, larger with pale brown skin, is developed in the Mediterranean and known as chickpea or garbanzo bean. In India, this variety is popularly called kabuli channa.

The name "Bengal gram" was given by the British because they first made its acquaintance in Bengal. But this pulse is of far greater antiquity. It has been found in several archaeological sites, two of the oldest being Çayonu, a Neolithic settlement in southern Turkey which existed from 7200 to 6600 BC, and Hacilar in south-western Turkey, dating back to 7040 BC. In India, it has been found in excavations at the Harappan site of Kalibangan in Rajasthan (3500 BC).

Like the rest of the family of pulses to which it belongs, the Bengal gram is an excellent source of both carbohydrate and protein, which are respectively the fuel and building blocks of the human body. But it is also packed with so many other healthful goodies that it can almost be a complete meal by itself. Moreover, the Bengal gram is the highest source of dietary fibre amongst all the commonly eaten foods in India, including cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables, with one cup of boiled Bengal gram providing as much as 60 per cent of the daily requirement.

(Read more about this nutritious pulse in my book "How the Banana Went to Heaven)

My mum makes a very simple but very delicious dish with this channa (the firangis call it chickpeas or garbanzo peas)
Recipe -
1. Soak 2 cups kabuli channa overnight in water
2. Boil till cooked to a beautiful buttery softness.
3. Add juice from marble-sized ball of tamarind soaked in warm water for about 10-15 minutes
3. Add about a cup of water (adjust depending on how much "soup" you want, salt, 2-3 chopped, green chilies, 4-5 cloves of garlic
4. Simmer for about 2-3 mintues
5. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil, add 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds, 1/2 broken red chili. When mustard starts to splutter, add pinch of hing (asefoetida) and 5-7 curry leaves.
6. After a few seconds, remove from heat and add to the kabuli channa soup. Add a tablespoon or so finely chopped fresh coriander, simmer for another few seconds

Serve piping hot with plain steamed rice or chappati or hot buttered toast

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Goddess Gourd

You wouldn’t think that a food that is more than 96 per cent water (another one of the white pumpkin’s Sanskrit names is kumbhaphala, meaning ‘waterpot fruit’!) would be able to pack in much in the way of nutrition. But like many other members of the gourd family (cucumber, watermelon, bottle gourd, etcetera) to which it belongs, the white pumpkin is loaded with nutrients. It is an excellent source of thiamine (vitamin B1) and a good source of niacin (B3) and Vitamin C. It also has good amounts of many minerals like calcium and potassium. And the fact that it has almost no calories makes it both the nutritionist’s and the dietician’s dream.

(For more detials, see my book )

This is simple, delicious curry that goes well both with plain steamed rice, roti or even bread.

White Pumpkin Curry

1/2 kg white pumpkin, deseeded, peeled and cut into 1/2 in cubes

For the masala

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon urad dal (black gram)

1 teaspoon cumin (jeera)

3 dried red chilies

3/4 cup fresh coconut

1/2 inch piece of tamarind

1/2 tablespoon of grated jaggery (adjust to taste or skip altogether)

salt to taste

For seasoning

1 tablespoon oil

3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 dried red chilli, broken into pieces

Pinch of asafoetida

7-8 curry leaves


Boil the pumpkin pieces in about half a cup of water till cooked. Roast the coriander seeds, urad dal, cumin and red chillies till you get a roasted smell and the coriander seeds and urad dal darken in colour. Grind into chutney consistency with the coconut and tamarind.

Add to the cooked pumpkin pieces along with salt, grated jaggery and a little water to make a curry and simmer over a low heat for about 5 minutes. Heat the oil, add the red chilli pieces and mustard. When the seeds start to splutter, add the asafoetida. When the stop spluttering, add the curry leaves. Remove from heat after a few seconds and add to the curry.

Remove from heat and serve with plain steamed rice