Tuesday, May 8, 2018

My favorite at a Trini Wedding; who doesn't love Curry Channa and Aloo


Curried Channa and Aloo

Curry channa and aloo is probably the most popular form of channa in Trinidad. Channa is also called gram, chickpea or garbanzo beans and there are several varieties according to Wikipedia. Both channa and gram are what these pulses are called in india. Being that my ancestors were from india, this curry channa dish is a staple of hindu and muslim prayers as well as weddings in Trinidad and usually eaten with paratha also called buss-up-shot or dhalpourie.

Channa is a pulse and has a lot of health benefits; they are a good source of protein and are low in fat and high in fibre. I read somewhere that they are the most popular pulse in the Indian subcontinent. Makes sense, channa is pretty popular in Trinidad, where if it is not eaten in a channa or chicken roti, it is eaten in a very popular street food called “doubles”.
And if you are a non-trini (a person who does not come from Trinidad), you may be wondering; “What is doubles?”. Well as the legend goes, a street vendor outside of a high school in south Trinidad was selling a street food which was basically curried channa poured over a fried bread called ‘bara’. It was basically an open-faced sandwich. One of the vendor’s customers asked him to put two ‘bara’ instead of one and consequently after that would order a ‘doubles’ meaning two pieces of fried bara with the curried channa. And so, the most popular street food in Trinidad was born. 

Anthony Boudain remarked on his ‘Parts Unknown’ series episode where he visited Trinidad, that the first thing people asked him was “Did you try the doubles?”. He did try doubles in north Trinidad but to be fair, if you really want to get a good doubles it’s better to go to south Trinidad; places like Debe or Princes Town.

Sorry but I divulged quite a bit from my curry channa post. Another way channa is eaten in Trindad is deep fried and seasoned with garlic and chadon beni also called bandania (a relative of cilantro). It’s an addictive snack and very popular. My great grandfather made a living selling channa in cinemas in brown paper cones. 

So, the curried channa recipe I have below is fairly easy to make. Soaking the channa is preferable but not absolutely necessary as I always forget to soak my beans the night before. You can use any mild curry powder you have available but if you can find Chief or Chatak curry powder from Trinidad, that would make it more authentic in flavour.

Cuisine:        Trinidadian Indian 
Good for:      Dinner, Breakfast, Lunch
Category:      Protein     
Time:            6-8 hrs soaking time + 2 hours prep and cooking time
Serves:         10
Skill:              Medium
Suitable:        Vegetarian, Low fat
Heat: mild


Ingredients
31/2 c                           dried channa (also called garbanzo beans, chickpea or gram)
3 tb                             vegetable or coconut oil
1 1/2 tsp                      or more salt to taste
¼ tsp                          black pepper (optional)
3 tb                             chadon beni or bandania (or cilantro) chopped
3tb                               parsley chopped
5                                  pimentoes chopped
1                                  hot congo pepper chopped fine (optional)
1                                  head garlic minced
2 tsp                           fresh ginger minced
3                                  medium onions chopped
1 tsp                           roasted cumin (geera)
2 tb                              curry powder (preferably a Trinidadian brand)
5                                  medium potatoes cut in large chunks.
                                    Water and hot water as needed

Procedure
1.    If you are using dried channa, first pick through them for any stones etc. and then wash them to remove any dirt.
2.    Soak dried channa for 6-8 hours or overnight. If you don’t have time to soak beans see note in step 4.
3.    Rinse channa after soaking and place in a pressure cooker and fill with water till it reaches at least 2 inches above beans. Bring to pressure and cook for 30 mins until beans are tender.
4.    If you do not have time to soak beans, place then in pressure cooker with at least 3 inches of water covering, bring to pressure and cook for 1 hour.
5.     If after following either steps 3 or 4, your beans are not soft when mashed with back of the spoon then place back on the heat, bring to pressure and cook for an additional 15 mins. Before you pressure you may need to add extra water if there is not enough in the pressure cooker.
6.    Once the beans have been cooked, reserve.
7.    Heat a heavy bottomed pot with high sides  to medium heat and add the oil.
8.    Mix the 2tb curry powder with 3tb of water and add to hot oil, being careful not to splash on yourself.
9.    Cook this curry mixture until it has deepened in color. Add the cumin and stir.
10. Once the curry has been cooked, add the onions and pimentos and cook for several minutes.
11. Once onions have cooked till translucent add the garlic, ginger and hot pepper and cook till ginger and garlic have been cooked. (not long)
12. Make sure you have at least a few cups of hot water ready for later.
13. Add 1tb of the bandania (cilantro) and parsley and stir and then add the potatoes and boiled cooked channa.
14. Stir this for a few minutes making sure everything is coated.
15. Add hot water to cover everything.
16. Add the salt.
17. Leave to cook till the potatoes and done.
18. Just before taking off the stove add the rest of the parsley and bandania (cilantro).
19. This can be served with paratha or dhalpourie. It can also be eaten with normal baked bread.


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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Who wants Kachorie?

Kachorie, Trini-Indian Fried Street Food

So you stop in Debe for doubles but then the kachorie (or kachowrie) winking at you . It saying "Buy meh nah". Truth be told I am not a usual fan of kachorie as the ones that you normally get are huge for one and they need more flavor. They just seem to have salt and that's about it.

These are packed with flavor and so delicious. They smelt like fried fish when they were done and were perfect dipped into a really sweet and hot tamarind chutney. I added lots of garlic and onion and plenty bandania (cilantro) but you could substitute any green seasoning you like. They were sooo good I could have eaten it without the chutney. I also added some curry powder and lots of geera. In some ways it was just like making a falafel.

The first time I had a falafel, I really thought it was a better tasting kachorie. It had the same texture and the same crunchy exterior. Falafels are made with chick peas or as we say in Trinidad, channa.

So do give my recipe a try and let me know what you think.


 
Recipe

Cuisine:        Trinidadian Indian
Good for:      Lunch, Dinner, Snack
Category:      Side Dish, Protein
Time:            8 hour Soaking time,  1 hour prep and cooking time.
Serves:         Makes 26 kachorie of 2 in" diameter
Skill:              Medium
Suitable:        Vegetarian, vegan
Heat:             Mild

 
Ingredients

1 lb         dried slit peas or dhal
1 head    garlic rough chopped
½ tsp      ginger powder 
½-¼ tsp  grind hot congo pepper (to taste)
1             large onion rough chopped
1½ tb      curry powder
1 tsp       whole cumin (geera)
1 tsp       grind cumin (geera)
¼ tsp      cayenne pepper powder
7             leaves bandania (chadon beni or cilantro)
2 tb         flour
Salt         to taste



Procedure
  1. Pick through the dried split (dhal) for stones. This is important. You definitely do not want to be biting on a stone while eating.
  2. Wash split peas (dhal) and let soak in water overnight. You cannot skip this step as the split peas will be too hard.
  3. After the split peas or dhal have soaked, drain, rinse and drain again thoroughly. 
  4. Put the drained split peas in a food processor with the rough chopped garlic, onion, hot pepper and bandania and pulse till it reduces to small almost 1mm size pieces. Try to ensure that all the split peas have been processed as they need to be small to cook properly.
  5. Heat a cast iron frying pan and add 1½ in of vegetable oil. Leave on medium heat. 
  6. Pour the processed split peas into a bowl and add the curry powder, cayenne, ginger, cumin (geera) seeds and grind cumin (geera), salt and flour.
  7. Use your hands to combine properly.
  8. Take a handful of the above mixture and compress with the palms of your hands to make a 2" flat disk of about an inch in thickness.
  9. Test the oil with a tiny bit of the mixture. If it bubbles the oil is ready.
  10. Fry your first kachorie until its brown of both sides. When it is done taste to check the seasoning and adjust the seasoning of the mixture before forming more kachorie.
  11. Fry in batches and do not overcrowd the pan.
  12. If the kachowrie browns too fast, lower the heat. The dhal (slit peas) needs time to cook.
  13. When done enjoy on its own or with your favourite chutney, like this Coconut Chutney.



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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Savory and Comforting Stewed Lentils, A taste of Trinidad



Stewed Lentils, A Classic Trinidadian dish

This is one of my favorite ways to eat lentils and is a traditional protein. It's African in origin, food made by the descendants of the African slaves who were brought to the Caribbean to work on the sugar plantations. Trinidad's population is a kaleidoscope, or as we say in Trinidad a callaloo of peoples who have been brought here through history.

In addition to lentils, red beans, chicken and other meats are stewed. I have even seen stewed soya and stewed black eye beans. The method is unique; I saw a Trinidadian lady on the Food Network Show 'Diners Drive Ins and Dives' showing Guy Fieri how to stew chicken and he was rather confused, saying he has never seen sugar being burned like that before.

The 'Stewing' process involves heating a small quantity of sugar in some oil over a low to medium heat. It's not something that you leave the kitchen and come back, you have to keep an eye on the sugar so that it does not burn. The picture below shows the sugar almost halfway there, but the process is closer to completion when the bubbles are much bigger in size.

Stewing Process, Sugar being Caramelized
Almost to the Point of Burning
 
It's cooking on the edge as you take that sugar almost to the point of burning, any more and it will be burnt, any less and you will not get that rich taste and golden dark brown color. If the sugar turns black you have taken the process too far and it's better you restart the process; the burnt sugar will make the food too bitter to eat. Another issue with this process is ensuring that your pot is dry, any residual water will spit out, potentially damaging anyone in the vicinity.

Have a pot cover at the ready and a cup of water. As soon as you get the sugar to the desired stage, you will need to quickly cover the pot and add some water to stop the sugar cooking further. The pot will protect you from the water sizzling and splattering. If done correctly, stewing is a great way to cook any bean or meat dish. Remarkably, the dish will not be sweet, but savory. It's a delicious taste of the Caribbean and easy to replicate; the most important ingredient is sugar!

Not only that but this dish being made with dried lentils is economical and healthy. It's high in protein and low in fat. You can make this as soupy or thick as you want. I prefer mines soupy to soak up the rice I eat it with. I sometimes if I am lazy to cook rice, eat this with bread. The usually pairing for this is plain rice or fried rice. I actually also pair this with mashed potatoes, potato salad or even macaroni pie, another of my favorite Trinidadian classics.

I hop you like this recipe, and comments are welcome! :)


Recipe

Cuisine:        Trinidadian African
Good for:      Lunch, Dinner
Category:      Side Dish, Protein
Time:            1½ hours (not counting soaking lentils)
Serves:         8
Skill:             Medium
Suitable: Vegetarian
Heat: medium if not use hot pepper

 
Ingredients

2 c          dried lentils.
2 tb         sugar
3 tb         vegetable oil
3             onions sliced
8             garlic cloves
3 tb         ketchup
1 tsp       soy sauce
1             hot pepper whole
¼ c         chive chopped
¼ c         celery stem and leaves chopped
2             tomatoes chopped
½ c         coconut milk (optional)
2 tb         parsley
2             leaves bandania or chadon beni chopped (cilantro can be substituted)
¼ tsp      black pepper
               salt to taste
                 hot water as needed.


Utensils:  Ensure the pot you use to caramelize the sugar has a suitable cover.


Procedure

  1. Pick through the dried lentils for stones. This is important. You definitely do not want to be biting on a stone while eating.
  2. Wash lentils and let soak in water overnight. If you don't have the time, don't worry, the lentils will just take a bit longer to cook.
  3. Put lentils with fresh cold water in a pot and cook on a medium flame for about 40min to 1 hour.
  4. In meantime, cut up tomatoes, herbs, garlic and onions.
  5. Take out a few lentils out of the put and check if cooked.
  6. When the lentils are done, heat oil in a pot on medium to low heat.
  7. Have a pot cover that will sufficiently cover the pot nearby and also a cup of water.
  8. Add sugar to the oil. Let sugar dissolve and make big bubbles, but do not let it get black.
  9. As soon as you get to that stage, cover the pot leaving a small opening for you to pour water through. Cover the pot once water has been poured.
  10. Once the sizzling has gone, uncover pot and add onions and garlic and sautee for a few minutes.
  11. Add ketchup and tomatoes and cook down.
  12. Add cooked lentils, celery and enough hot water to cover.
  13. Salt can be added at this point as well as soy sauce and a whole hot pepper if using.
  14. Let cook for about 15-20mins till flavors combine.
  15. Take off heat, add parsley, bandania and chives.
  16. Coconut milk can be added now if using.
  17. Test for seasoning and add black pepper.

Do's and Don'ts
  • Do check for stones. You don't want to break your teeth or your guest's teeth with a stone.
  • Don't raise heat on high to hasten stewing process, the sugar can burn in a few seconds.
  • Do cover the pan once the water has been added to the hot sugar.
  • Don't salt the lentils when you are cooking them the first time. 

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Get a 'Cheat Sheet for Dining at a French Restaurant' and Impress Your Friends; An Article I wrote for Languages.Guru


A French Dessert *

I recently wrote two French languages articles for the website Languages.Guru. The second article has been published on the website and it is entitled "Cheat Sheet for Dining at a French Restaurant" This article is in English, and it is written as a summary of the French terms and phrases that would help in all aspects of dining at a French restaurant. It starts with how to find a great place to eat in France, asking for directions, ordering food and the French words for basic staples such as chicken and fish. It ends with asking for the bill, hence it gives you a comprehensive list of phrases to draw from on your next trip to that hip new French Restaurant or on your next romantic trip to Paris.


A French Candy Store+


My recommendation would be to read the first article about pronunciation and grammar i.e "Sexy Sophisticated French Decoded" so that you can understand how French words are pronounced and then move on to the second article "Cheat Sheet for Dining at a French Restaurant".

So impress your friends the next time you dine at a fine French establishment and do let me know what you think via a comment on Languages.Guru or on Chillibibi.

 
* Picture from Pixabay/ By La Fontaine 
+Picture from Pixabay/kytrangho
 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Addictive Potato Chips or French Fries that are Baked not Fried

Crispy Potato Cubes, baked not fried


I don't know about you but I absolutely love French fries. In Trinidad, no doubt due to our history of being a British colony, we call French fries 'chips', although with the advent of so many KFC outlets in Trinidad, the term fries has gained more popularity. A quick search online to find the origin of 'French fries' which seems to be obviously French led me actually to Belgium. According to Wikipedia, 'French fries' may have been mistakenly named by British and American soldiers because the Belgians spoke French, the soldiers assumed that they were in france and eating a French dish.

Whether it really was supposed to be 'Belgian Fries' and not ;French Fries', I know you will agree with me that fries are morsels of crunchy deliciousness. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. There is a catch to all this exquisite yumminess, ah yes, the fact that these are usually deep fried.

That's what really great about this recipe, you get all the crunchy caramelized potato exterior and soft fluffy interior that you love in a traditional fried potato, but without all of the fat. What I love about this recipe as well is that there is no sitting and babysitting the pot, you leave for 15 to 20 minutes, and comes back, give it a turn. I don't even bother to peel the potatoes, I just scrub them really good with soap.

One thing though to remember is to wash the potatoes slices to take out the starch and dry them thoroughly afterwards. Otherwise you will be getting soggy potatoes not divinely crispy ones. Also lay them out in only one layer on your pan, don't overcrowd. If you follow the above tips, you will be on your way to crispy 'baked' fries that look and taste like they have been dunked in hot oil though all they have done was hung out in the oven.

I did potatoes cubes, but this recipe works for normal French fries and wedges, the only difference being the cooking time involved. If you want wedges but don't have the time to cook them in the oven, I recommend cooking them partially in boiling water and then slicing them in wedges and letting them finish cooking in oven.

I dipped my 'fries' in a mixture of ketchup, soy sauce and pepper sauce. Gosh so good! This is one of my favorite recipes, and if you give it a try, I guarantee you will not miss that deep fried French fry.


  
Cuisine:        Belgium or France 
Good for:      Lunch, Dinner, Snack
Category:      Side Dish     
Time:            1½ hours
Serves:         3
Skill:             Medium
Suitable: Vegetarian, Low fat
Heat: mild

 
Ingredients

6           Potatoes scrubbed clean.
5 tb       vegetable or coconut oil
             salt to taste
¼ tsp    black pepper (optional)
½ tsp    chilli powder (optional)
2 tb       parsley (optional)

Procedure 
  1. Slice potatoes either as French fries or as we say in Trinidad; chips, larger for wedges or if you want as cubes like I did.
  2. There is no need to peel potatoes if you have washed them properly.
  3. Soak slices in water and wash out as much starch from potatoes.
  4. Drain and place on a clean dry kitchen towel to dry.
  5. Once the potato slices are dried toss them with oil, salt and black pepper and chilli powder.
  6. Preheat oven to 400ยบ.
  7. Grease two baking sheets and add potatoes in an even flat layer. Ensure that there is space between potato and use an extra pan if necessary.
  8. Place in oven and bake for 40mins for french fries, 50-60mins for cubes and 1 hour 15mins for wedges.
  9. If you are making wedges, you can partially cook the potatoes by boiling before cutting into wedges to save on cooking time.
  10. Turn potato every 15 to 20 minutes so all sides can brown.
  11. Take out of oven when done and add more salt if necessary.
  12. Toss with parley and Enjoy!


Do's and Don'ts
  • Do dry potatoes thoroughly. If you don't your fries will not be crispy.
  • Don't overcrowd the pan, as your fries will steam.
  • Do turn occasionally as if you don't your potatoes will stick to the pan.

 

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