Bharathi Shares Her Kitchen

My first attempt at Indian cooking included cholae and fried rice.

Indian food is one of my favorites, but the spices are a mystery to me. On Friday, AJ and I were invited to our friend Bharathi’s kitchen for an Indian cooking lesson. Bharathi is eager to learn some American recipes and suggested that we exchange some native recipes and cooking tips. She taught us fried rice with mint, cloves and cumin; cholae — a dish with garbanzo beans, tomatoes and about a dozen wonderful spices; and toor dal, again made with 6 or 8 lovely spices.

I love how Bharathi’s kitchen is filled with containers of legumes and, of course, spice after spice. She taught me the names of the spices, and let me hold them and smell their fragrance. Although her ingredients are somewhat different then mine, her cooking style is very much like mine. She does not measure, nor does she follow a prescribed recipe. Her cooking is a work of art, dappled with exotic spices with names like hing, amchur and chana masala.

My hand-scrawled notes with the names and procedures are a bit ragged and I was anxious to give some the recipes a try while the instructions were clear in my head, and the memory of the taste was vivid. So today, Doug and I visited the Indian grocery store and bought the ingredients, and then I made up a batch of cholae and fried rice for dinner. The spices and flavors are so complex — I’m quite beside myself that I’m learning to create with a new palette of flavors!

Do you want to learn a new cuisine? Is there someone you know who cooks something that you admire? Invite them to participate in a cooking exchange with you. Next week I plan on teaching Bharathi my brownie recipe, from scratch.

Fried Rice (Indian Style)

  • 3 c. basmati rice
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. ginger, minced
  • 2-3 c. mixed vegetables, frozen or finely chopped fresh
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 6 c. water

Heat butter and oil, add onion and saute until soft. Add garlic, ginger, cloves, and cumin seeds. Stir for one minute, then add rice and stir 2-3 minutes. Add salt, vegetable and water, and cook as you normally do for rice, for about 45-50 minutes.

Cholae (a spicy, flavorful, garbanzo bean and tomato stew)

  • 1 Tbs. oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 5 c. cooked garbanzo beans
  • 1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes (use the juice as well)
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbs. amchoor powder (dried mango powder)
  • 2-3 tsp. channa masala (cholae masala) seasoning
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 whole bay leaves

Heat oil, add onion and saute until soft. Add garlic, ginger, cholae masala, turmeric, bay leaves, tomatoes and tomato sauce. Heat over medium heat for a few minutes and then stir in garbanzo beans, amchoor, salt and a little water (to adjust consistency). Heat over low heat for 30 minutes or more.

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