Simple Chana Masala


Chana masala is a very popular dish in Indian restaurants in the US and its popularity is not a mystery. It is also one of the rare dishes made in North Indian restaurants in the US in a manner not unlike that of home kitchens. This is not to suggest that there is only one proper way to make chana masala. Like most Indian dishes, it is subject to a wide variety of variations—of texture and flavour—depending on what part of the country you are in. And dishes that may seem obviously to be in the chana masala family may have different names in different parts of the country—see ghugni in Bengal, for example.

The recipe I have today is my lazy, short-cut method for making chana masala in a North Indian style. Well, it’s not so much of a short-cut, I guess, as it involves first cooking Rancho Gordo garbanzo beans on the stove-top. But that’s the only bit that requires time—everything else is quick and easy!  Continue reading

Black Beans with Cracked Spices


I posted a picture of this black bean dish on Twitter yesterday and said I’d rustle up a recipe if there was interest. Among those who said they were interested was Mollie Katzen. Well, even though I was not planning to post a recipe this week, and even though our town was hit by a tornado last evening, I cannot say no to Mollie Katzen. Here therefore is the recipe. I made it with Rancho Gordo’s Midnight black beans, which are my absolute favourite black bean. They cook up fast, have a wonderful creamy texture and yield a delicious pot liquor that matches up well with whatever you throw at it. In this case, I did not throw very much at it. I cooked the beans on their own with a stick of cinnamon and tez patta (dried cassia/Indian bay leaf) and when done added to the pot a “tadka” of onion, tomato and garlic with a simple spice hit from cumin seeds split in hot oil, cracked coriander seed and a few dry red chillies. Not much to it, very easy to make, and extremely delicious. I had a big bowl for lunch, garnished with a bit of cilantro and with a squeeze of lime on top. Simple is good.  Continue reading

Simple Bean Curry


Every time I post a recipe for a curry I hear from friends who wish I would post recipes for Indian dishes that didn’t require too many ingredients they don’t have on hand. I don’t quite understand this complaint. Most Indian spices can be used in a wide range of dishes, it’s possible to get them in small quantities, and in the era of the internet it’s possible to get them easily even if you don’t have a good South Asian store within easy reach. And if you have more than you need just cook more Indian food. Problem solved. All that being said, here is a recipe for the whingers and moaners: it’s for a curry of dried beans cooked a la rajma, but made with very few spices indeed—and with ones that even those who don’t cook Indian food very often are likely to have on hand.  As with all my bean cooking, this was made with my friend Steve’s Rancho Gordo beans. This particular batch was made with the excellent but elusive Snowcap bean. I don’t think they have it available right now but the good news is that you’ll achieve excellent results with beans such as Domingo Rojo, Ayocote Morado, the almighty Royal Corona, and even the cassoulet bean. If you don’t have any of those on hand either, use whatever you have.  Continue reading

White Bean Curry with Green Peppers


It’s been a while since I last posted a recipe. I don’t know how you’ve all coped: you’ve probably been on bread and water, praying. Your prayers have been answered. Especially if you are a vegetarian. In fact, not only is this recipe vegetarian, it’s also vegan and gluten free. Alas, it is probably not paleo (though I’m not entirely sure what a paleo diet forbids) and nor is it nightshade free (I’m not making this one up). Nor is it made in an Instant Pot; though I don’t doubt that the more enterprising among you will be able to figure out how to make it in an Instant Pot—I assume you will use the time you save in some activity that will better your mind and character.

I kid, I kid: I make fun of the Instant Pot in order to bug friends who are high up in its cult; the truth is most Indians do cook dried beans in pressure cookers (though we were doing so long before the Instant Pot came along). This recipe, however, uses my friend Steve Sando’s excellent Rancho Gordo beans and those cook implausibly fast on the stovetop. If you’re using beans from some other source, a pressure cooker may be the prudent choice. If you’re using canned beans then I will pray for you.  Continue reading

Black Bean Curry with Potatoes

Black Bean Curry with Potatoes
It has been a while since I last posted a recipe for beans. It’s been almost a year, in fact; I don’t know how you’ve all coped. That recipe was for North Indian style rajma or red beans, cooked, in a bit of a twist, with cauliflower. Cauliflower aside, that was a simpler variation on the very first recipe I posted on the blog, for a more classic rajma preparation. This one is simpler still: there are no esoteric ingredients here (depending on how often you use powdered turmeric) and it’s not a very fussy prep. The result, however, is very tasty. It would probably be less tasty if you were to use beans from a source other than Rancho Gordo (full disclosure: the proprietor, Steve Sando, is one of my proteges). Their vaquero bean is what I used here—the colour and markings make for a striking presentation. And its texture and ability to hold its shape makes it perfect for the pressure cooker (which I deployed here as I was a bit pressed for time). You’re probably more modern than I am and have an Instant Pot; it should be easy enough for you to figure out how to adapt this recipe for it. But if you have time, the results will be even better if you just cook it long and slow on the stove. Continue reading

Rajma with Cauliflower

Yellow Indian Woman Beans w. Cauliflower
Between being in Delhi (and briefly, Hong Kong) and being back and reporting on meals in Delhi and Hong Kong it’s been a while since I posted a recipe. Here is one that is a riff on how I normally make rajma, or North Indian style red beans.

I don’t usually go about making rajma with cauliflower (though I have been known to make it with kale). This just sort of happened because I had some cauliflower in the fridge that was just beginning to brown and it needed to be used up. But the result was very good and so, like the kind and generous person I am, I am willing to share the recipe with you.

As always with my bean cooking this is made with my friend Steve Sando’s Rancho Gordo beans, Yellow Indian Woman beans, to be exact. Not sure what’s going on with the name of that bean but it’s an excellent bean and very well suited for rajma style preps as it holds its shape well and the pot liquor does well with spices.   Continue reading

White Bean Stew with Pork and Squash

White Bean Stew with Pork and Squash
I’m a little fuzzy on where the line between soup and stew is or on what basis it is drawn. I do know that it’s hard to go wrong cooking pork and beans together. Here they are joined by sweet cubes of butternut squash and only a few other ingredients to create a hearty and heartwarming bowl that’s perfect for cold Minnesota winters or pretty much any other day of the year, anywhere. In terms of flavours I would say that it’s Mexican-inspired and I’d hazard that if you were served this in a contemporary Mexican restaurant you wouldn’t think it was out of place.

As with all my bean cooking, this employs my friend Steve Sando’s Rancho Gordo beans. I made this with Alubia Blanca, a small white bean from his Xoxoc Project, a very worthy endeavour. I think the white beans give the dish a nice range of colours but you can make it with any other bean with similar texture: for example, Yellow Indian WomanContinue reading

Chickpea-Potato “Chaat”

Chickpea-Potato Chaat
On Thursday I posted a recipe for a simple tamarind chutney. Here now is a recipe that it plays a central role in. You can make the chutney while the components of this one cook and it’s very easy to pull the final dish together. This has all the flavours of chaat—I put the word in quotes because it’s not a classic chaat; you might just as easily think of it as a chickpea-potato salad with Indian flavours. It will feed two as a main dish and 4-6 as a first course or snack. As always, I use Rancho Gordo garbanzo beans which require no soaking, cook incredibly quickly anyway and have a wonderful sweet taste and great texture. If you’re using chickpeas from some other source you will have to adjust the cooking time to their reality; if you are using canned chickpeas please don’t tell me about it. Continue reading

Red Bean Curry with Coconut Milk

Red Bean Curry with Coconut Milk
I buy a lot of different kinds of beans from Rancho Gordo* but when it comes to Indian preparations I’ve been sort of stuck in variations on this rajma theme; and I generally end up using the same subset of beans in them. This time around I wanted to break out of my bean-profiling ways and make something Indian with a bean I hadn’t used for that purpose before; and I wanted to make it in a way in which I hadn’t cooked beans before. When I looked into the pantry I saw a packet of Rancho Gordo Scarlet Runner beans making eyes at me. It’s a gorgeous bean and I wanted to make it in a way that would show off its dramatic size and colour. Right next to the beans was a box of coconut milk, and inspiration struck: I’d make a vaguely Kerala-style curry/stew with coconut milk and curry leaves. It turned out rather well, Herewith the recipe.  Continue reading

Pork and Beans, Indian Style

Pork and Beans
Here’s a bonus recipe that is probably also the easiest recipe I will ever post. This is because it assumes that you have already made this pork. All you then have to do is cook some beans and at the very end add 3-4 ladles of the pork to the bean pot and simmer it all together till the beans are done. What you are basically doing here is adding the spiced pork as a “tadka” to the almost-cooked beans. As always, I use heirloom beans from my friend Steve’s company, Rancho Gordo but, obviously, any good beans will do—and you want to be cooking good beans because you want good pot liquor to add the dry pork to. And frankly there are no beans in the US better than Rancho Gordo beans.

In this recipe I used Rancho Gordo’s monstrously large Royal Corona beans—when fully cooked each bean is almost as large as a tablespoon—but this will work just as well with any beans that are good for pork and beans (such as Rancho Gordo’s Red Nightfall or Sangre de Toro). That said, I prefer a milder bean like the Royal Corona because its pot liquor/broth allows the flavour of the spiced pork to come through clearly (their Cassoulet or Alubia Criollos would be great too). But see what works for you. Continue reading

Ghugni: Chickpeas in a Bengali Style

Ghugni
Following my “Indian Home Cooking Week“, just a one-off recipe this week. [And see here for the second edition of “Indian Home Cooking Week”; and here for all my cooking posts so far.]

This one is for a take on a classic Bengali dish with chickpeas/garbanzo beans called ghugni. Ghugni is one of those rare dishes that is both a popular street food and made at home. It can be found year round but is often made in homes on the last day of Durga Pujo—the week-long celebration that is the Bengali religious/cultural festival (imagine Christmas, Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, the Oscars and the Super Bowl all rolled into one but communal, public, louder and with more food). This has always been a popular dish with everyone I’ve made it for and it’s supremely adaptable.

As with almost all my bean cooking I don’t really bother with anything but Rancho Gordo’s garbanzo beans (disclosure: Rancho Gordo proprietor Steve Sando is a pal). They cook implausibly fast, are incredibly sweet and the pot liquor is great. Continue reading

Rajma: Beans in a North Indian Style

[Update, 12/9/2015: As I got a big kick out of posting this recipe, and the one that followed for turkey koftas, I’ve decided to make Indian home cooking a regular part of this blog. In fact, next week (starting December 15) will be Indian home cooking week with recipes every day for everything from breads and pickles to dals, vegetable dishes, fish and chicken.]

Rajma with Rancho Gordo San Franciscano Beans

Rajma with Rancho Gordo San Franciscano Beans

If it weren’t bad enough that this whisky blog now features weekly restaurant reviews here’s my first foray into cooking posts. Soon I’ll expand to regular reports featuring my vegetable garden (I’ll have updated pictures of the foot of snow it’ll be under for the next five months); parenting advice (Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom is not a family film); and my crucial fashion insights (the Nehru jacket is coming back, y’all!). It’s going to be so much fun!

Anyway, I’ve been an annoying food person for much longer than I’ve been an annoying whisky person. I’ve been discussing food online far longer than I’ve been discussing whisky (before the rise of food blogs, back when food forum wars were a serious thing—I was part of the second eGullet purge; “eGullet what?”, you say; exactly.) I’m also a prolific cook—other than a meal or two out on the weekend all our meals are home-cooked, and as my wife has a much longer commute than I do most of it is cooked by me. I have a pretty wide repertoire cuisine-wise but let’s face it nobody wants anything but Indian recipes from an Indian. And so here is yet another axis along which I can inflict myself on the world (though my old food forum friends will see this only as a return). Continue reading