Friday, 7 March 2014

2-Tone Taste Test

Ceci Miste con Spezie Aromatiche, Riso & Cocco
Aromatically Spiced Mixed Chickpeas with Coconut & Rice

I love chick peas and although I usually tend to buy them in a can, occasionally do like to soak them overnight- especially if they are the split and peeled "chana dal" variety. But that was only half of the story when it came to this dish! Because I also had some lovely, dark brown chickpeas too- and decided that a mix would be a fine thing :-)

The nice thing about chana dal- the yellow chickpeas, is that the peel is removed, which is a wonderful thing, because it means that there will not be a whole layer of peel floating on top by the time they are cooked. And the nice thing about the brown chickpeas is their lovely chewy consistency and their wonderful nutty flavor.

I began this morning, before work, by popping a good handful each of both the brown and the yellow chickpeas into a bowl of water to soak for the day. They do not need to soak for the whole day or even overnight of course- a couple of hours is plenty of time. The other ingredients I used to make this were a Spring onion, a half of a carrot, half a stick of celery, 4-5 cherry tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of yogurt, 2 tablespoons of dessicated coconut and some fresh parsley or cilantro. The spices I used were cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, cloves and some ground chili flakes.

I put the soaked and re-hydrated chick peas into the a small saucepan and brought them to the boil, then reduced the temperature to low simmer and let them bubble away for 5-10 minutes. After this time, a good layer of "scum" had risen to the surface, which I was able to easily scoop away with a slotted spoon.

In the meantime, I grated about 1 1/2" of ginger and added it to the chick peas, along with a half-stick of celery cut into slices and let these bubble away together for the next 25-30 minutes. In the meantime, I cut the carrot into thin sticks, cut the Spring onion into thin slices and cut the cherry tomatoes into a fine dice.

The most important aspect of this dish was of course the spice mix, which brought everything together and took the flavors and textures above and beyond. For 2 hearty helpings, I used 3 cardamom pods, a half teaspoon of cumin, and 2 cloves. I ground these up with my mortar and pestle and popped them into a hot frying pan with a teaspoon of ghee (clarified butter) until they began to sizzle and pop!

I then added the rice to the spices and butter, stirred it in and once it was nicely coated, added it to the chickpeas, stirring it in well and adding a little water if necessary- there should be just an inch or so covering the ingredients.

Once the rice was stirred-in thoroughly, I laid the carrot strips, the coconut and the Spring onion on top, before returning the lid and letting the rice and chickpeas continue boiling for a further 10 minutes. After that time, I added the diced tomato, stirred everything up well, added a pat of ghee, the 2 tablespoons of yoghurt, salt and pepper as required for seasoning and a nice pinch of chili flakes to taste.

At this point, I turned off the heat and returned the lid, allowing the rice to finish steaming in the residual heat and 5 minutes later, everything was nice and steaming and fluffy and perfect! And the smell was just divine!

I added a sprinkle of finely chopped parsley and a scattering of coconut before serving and got started on it whilst it was hot, hot, hot! It was a simple supper, but filled with great flavors and just mildly aromatic enough to make it a real treat. The chickpeas were filling and delicious, especially the brown ones, which were so chewy and nutty and great in combination with the spices and rice. So, yes- another star is born in the kitchen!

Have fun experimenting with chick peas- you really can't go far wrong with them and if you give them a hint of spice and flavor as I did here, you can be pretty sure of doing everything right! So have at it and have a good supper everyone- you deserve it!

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