Michigan is going through its classic undecided weather spell. After a chilly overcast week, we were rewarded with warm sunny weekend. It reminded me of spring back home in India, albeit temperatures there would be soaring 10 to 20 degrees higher than this part of the world. I guess its the blooming trees that mark the advent of spring in my mind, irrespective of where I am. So to celebrate it, I decided to prepare a Marathi favorite- ‘vaatali daal’ i.e. a salad of split chickpeas. A typical snack of the spring, it makes an opportune use of seasonal raw green mangoes. While, its texture is like hummus, its tangy spicy flavors are likely to remind you of salsa.
Vaatali daal is often made during the ‘Haladi-Kunku’ occasions in Chaitra, the first month of traditional Marathi calendar. Haladi-Kunku is a social gathering, where you invite your women friends and neighbors, and treat them with snacks and some little pretty gifts. I guess, it was an old way to give women much-needed respite from their limited domestic routines. While not so common nowadays, the custom still continues because… well, it is hard to say no to an evening of food and gossip. Maybe that’s why I felt like sharing this recipe. After all, culinary blogosphere is much like an ongoing virtual haladi-kunku, that surpasses the boundaries of culture and gender to unite food lovers across the globe.
So here it is…
VAATALI DAAL OR SPLIT CHICKPEA HUMMUS
Yields about a full big bowl
1 cup of dried split chickpea/ chana daal
2 small green mangoes (if you cannot find these, substitute it with lemon juice)
1-2 garlic cloves
2-3 green chili peppers (based on the pungency of peppers you are using)
Salt to taste
A pinch of two of unrefined sugar (optional, but it complements the dominant tang of mangoes and hotness of green peppers)
Water to grind
3 tablespoons of oil
1 dried red chili
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
5-6 curry leaves (optional)
2-3 pinches of turmeric powder
- Wash and soak split chickpeas/ chana daal in water overnight (or at least 3-4 hours).
- Thoroughly rinse the soaked daal, drain, and grind it (with some water) to form a rough and coarse paste. Keep it aside in a bowl.
- Peel outer thick, dark green skin of raw mangoes. Remove the pit. Chop the light green-white flesh into small bits.
- In grinder, make a chutney of mango bits along with green chili peppers, garlic, salt, and sugar.
- Add the chutney to daal and mix properly.
- Adjust the spice and salt/ sugar per your taste.
- In a separate saucepan, heat oil and temper mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, and dried red chili in it, till fragrant.
- Take it off the heat, and pour over daal. Mix.
It is ready to be eaten. If you want to use it later, cover and refrigerate. It will keep refrigerated till 2-3 days. As you can see in the photographs, I used it as a side for my lunch of tomato curry-rice and dinner of stir-fried mustard greens and flatbread. It can be easily served as a dip for your pita or tortilla chips. The traditional way serves it as a salad, along with a refreshing drink of green mango. Try it and you might love to have it as it is, without any accompaniment!
Am I a fussy eater? Goodness, I can almost see my entire family here, nodding in affirmation of said doubt… But no, today is not the day when I agree to that. Although, black bean spaghetti has made me wonder about it. Unlike buckwheat or rice noodles, I did not warm up to black bean noodles immediately. First few of my stir-fry attempts with it always seemed to miss something. As a result, its box soon slipped into an overlooked corner of my pantry.
The other day however, after a long overseas call, I realized that I had only about 20 minutes to fix a lunch. As fate would have it, I was out of my usual favorite flat noodles. So, I decided to try black bean noodles once again. For a moment, I froze… but then found two perfectly ripened avocados in my fridge. I thought to go for a noddle salad using those. If black bean and avocados wouldn’t go together, the world would just make a little less sense. This ought to work…
It did. So much so, that by the time it occurred to me to take a snap for this blog post, I was almost halfway through my bowl. Here is what I now fondly call as Guacamole Black Bean Pasta.
GUACAMOLE BLACK BEAN PASTA
2 portions of black bean spaghetti (about 4 cups)
2 ripe avocados
1 small onion, or better, 3-4 sprigs of spring onion
1 medium tomato
Lemon juice and salt to taste
3 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic
2 green chili peppers
- Cook black bean noodles per instruction. Drain and keep aside.
- In a saucepan, heat olive oil and fry thinly chopped garlic and green chili peppers in it till fragrant. Remove from heat. Pour over cooked noodles and mix.
- In a bowl, mash avocado flesh to pulp. Add chopped tomato and onion. Season with salt and lemon juice.
- Mix this guacamole with tempered noodles.
- That’s it. Serve and Tuck in.
You can also mash raw garlic and chillis with guacamole, if you like. But I just thought that using a tempering to season black bean noodles would add that perk 🙂
As a child, I was predominantly a rice eater and would try my best to avoid chapati/ roti bread made of wheat. My usual rant used to be- “see, how easily one can take a morsel of rice and gulp it down. Whereas with chapati, you have to break it, take some sabzi in it, then chew it a lot before you eat it… So much work”. 🙂 However, this argument would be forgotten whenever I was offered flatbreads or pancakes made from flours other than wheat, such as rice, sorghum, or millet. Ironically, these are much harder than the soft wheat flour and require more chewing. But I just have liked those flavors much more than that of wheat.
That’s why, making a successful bhakari, a form of unleavened flatbread that is specialty of Western regions of India (from where I come) was one of the major culinary ambitions of mine. At first, when I tried it, the result was ok but not too great. Since sorghum does not have gluten like wheat, it is difficult to knead its dough into a pliable ball like that of wheat flour. More often than not, these breads are rolled not by the bread roller but by hands. That’s why some people mix wheat flour along with sorghum. But I was rather keen on mastering sorghum bhakari as it should be- gluten-free. So the second time I made it, I tweaked my recipe a bit and added some sesame oil. The resulting dough was much easier to handle and to make into bhakaris. Here is how I make it now.
JWARICHI BHAKARI / SORGHUM FLATBREAD
Gluten-free & Unleavened
Makes 4 flatbreads
2 cups Sorghum flour, plus some more for shaping the flatbread
1 cup water, plus some more for shaping the flatbread
2 tbspoon oil (I used sesame, though olive/ sunflower/ groundnut oil can also be used. Avoid oils with strong aroma such as mustard)
Salt to taste
2-3 tbspoons of dried fenugreek leaves (Optional; you can use any herb of your choice)
- Heat a cup of water, roughly to the temperature of tea. Boiling hot water would make it too difficult to work with the dough.
- Mix the flour, fenugreek leaves, and salt in a large bowl. Add oil to it.
- Add the warm water bit by bit to the flour and knead to form a soft but pliable dough ball.
- Make four portions of the dough.
- Make each portion into a ball. Sprinkle with some more flour over it and on the counter.
- Now, dip your fingers in water, and with those wet fingers, flatten the dough ball into a round disk.
- You would see that, unlike the regular wheat dough, the sorghum dough would crack at the edges as you go on flattening it. With some waters, try to seal those as much as possible as you go on. Though, it would never be as smooth as the wheat flatbreads. That is a characteristic of sorghum flatbreads, so do not worry too much about it.
- Once the disk is about 1/8 inches of thickness, transfer it onto the hot pan.
- Coat the upper side of flatbread with water, using a basting brush.
- Once the water evaporates, turn the flatbread to bake it from the other side.
- Transfer onto the cooling rack once it is properly baked from both the sides.
I really like the flavor of sorghum bhakari flatbreads. It goes well with anything. Vegetable or meat stews, stir-fries sides, or chutneys. This time, we had it with Black peas gravy and a side of garlicky kale, the recipes of which I would post some time soon.