an old favorite made new

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Kabli chana baigan tarkari, made with callaloo, scotch bonnet peppers, and local spices. The culinary qualities of ingredients here are vastly superior to what was available in Seattle. Even the packaged garam masala available here is more flavorful.

Here’s the recipe:

This recipe was adapted from the original found on pp. 203-4 of Yamuna Devi’s “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking.” I substituted fresh callaloo from the market for the pound of spinach called for in the original recipe. My next riff on this recipe will involve ochroes (okra).

For those of you scratching your heads after reading the ingredients list, asafoetida is a culinary resin derived from plants grown in India, Pakistan, and Iran. The powder has a strange, not entirely pleasant odor when raw. However, when added to hot oil it releases a strong, florid scent of fried garlic or shallots. Available wherever East Indians purchase their staple foodstuffs, it is an indispensible ingredient in Indian cooking. Some highly pure preparations of asafoetida powder require double-jar storage lest they permeate your cupboard with their pungent aroma.


Gingered Chickpeas with Eggplant, Callaloo & Tomato

(Kabli Chana Baigan Tarkari)

  • 8T ghee, or 6T olive oil & 2T vegetable oil
  • 1 medium-sized eggplant (1-1 1/4lbs/455-570g), cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 1/2T scraped, fresh ginger root
  • 2 hot green chilies, stemmed, seeded and finely minced
  • 1/2T cumin seeds
  • 1/4t yellow asafoetida powder (hing)
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes (about 1lb/455g)
  • 1T ground coriander
  • 1t paprika
  • 1/8t each cayenne and black pepper
  • 1t turmeric
  • 1/2c water
  • 2c cooked chickpeas
  • 1lb fresh callaloo, washed, patted dry, trimmed, and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2T salt
  • 4T chopped fresh coriander (shadow beni) or parsley
  • 1t garam masala

Heat 6T of the ghee or olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan or wok over moderate heat. When it is hot but not smoking, add the eggplant and fry, stirring frequently, until it is browned and offers no resistance to the point of a knife. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the remaining 2T of ghee or vegetable oil and raise the heat to moderately high. When it is hot but not smoking, add the ginger, chilies, and cumin seeds and fry until the seeds turn dark brown. Drop in the asafoetida and seconds later the tomatoes. Stir well, then add the ground coriander, paprika, cayenne, black pepper and turmeric. Cook until the tomatoes are reduced to a sauce that separates from the oil (up to 10 minues depending on the intensity of your heat).

Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and add the eggplant, chickpeas, callaloo, salt and half of the fresh herb. Cover and gently simmer or bake in a preheated 325-degree (160C) oven for about 30 minutes. The dish is now cooked, but you could cook it for another 1 1/2 hours if you want a less cohesive consistency. Before serving, stir in the remaining fresh herb and the garam masala.

Serve with rice.

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