Jane on ‘The Rock’ – Karuna Farm, Western Ghats, Tamil Nadu
Finally, we post something!!!! We have loads of half finished bits typed hurriedly in internet cafes, but have yet had the time and drive to actually finish one off!
We’ve been in Indian now for three months and things have been thick with experience and too many foodie experiences to recollect. Expect many Indian themed post soon, packed full of delicious and authentic recipes…….
Kodai Kanal, Tamil Nadu 21st March 2014
Kodai is a little ex-British Hill Station (somewhere where the Raj used to go and cool off during the summer months). Lots of little Anglo Indian stone cottages with lawns and chimneys, tea rooms and a beautiful lake. We are staying on a farm, on a steep slope, with spectacular views over the plains towards Madurai. It thick jungle, full nature and absolutely beautiful and best of all, we have a small kitchen to play in!!!!!
A random little post here, but we are half way up a hill in the middle of nowhere (Southern India). This recipe came together on our first night in Karuna Farm, in the green and verdant Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu. We have been sweating and meditating, sweating and yoga-ing, sweating and chanting our way through the early part of March in the Sivananda Ashram, outside Madurai. The temperatures soared, so it is magical to be up here in the mountains where the night air is crisp and the sunrises come on like an intergalactic firework show.
This is a spectacular little farm and we are witnessing many positive projects in motion. They are building earth ships, from recyclable car tyres and starting a permaculture project to supply the on-farm restaurant with some proper local produce.
On Sunday, Jane and I ventured up to Kodai Kanala (the main town). We walked through little villages, with many smiles greeting us, for 2 hours and then managed to catch a little rickety van the rest of the way to town (we’re quite remote here!).
Kodai is an old British hill station, with many rock built chalets and a large dollop of Christianity. It is now a popular retreat for Indian honeymooners and surprisingly few gringos on the streets.
Haggling at Kodai Market
Sunday is market day and we spent most of it wandering around and ogling the local produce. Non of it organic, but all of it vibrant and full of potential. Our accommodation, a nice little cottage in a banana plantation, actually has a kitchen! The first time we’ve been able to cook, apart from random cooking classes and making spicy tea with the chai wallas. I was so chuffed to be having a bash at the pots and pans again. We filled our backpacks with veggies and fruits and have not looked back since.
Internet in India is tough and I must apologise for the lack of BHK activity in recent times. We have heads full of recipes and new ways of conjuring up tasty nibbles. We can’t wait to share them with you all from HQ (North Wales, which seems like a million and one miles away).
WHAT IS KALA CHANA?
Kala Chana (also Desi Chana or Bengal Gram) are brown chickpeas, unprocessed and packed with fibre. ‘Kala’ actually means black in Hindi and Urdu. They have more of a robust texture than your average chicker. This type of chana has been enjoyed all over the world for millenia, from ancient Rome, Persia and Greece, to Africa and Latin America. It has been used in British cooking since the middle ages.
Chana is so versatile to a veggie cook, we can boil them, sprout them, roast them in the oven, make them into magic puree’s (like hummus) or even make desserts with them.
We love this rough chana, especially in a dish with full flavoured veggies like cabbage and beetroot. A lovely old lady was selling these bok chois, we couldn’t resist them. I have never seen them cooked in India, but you wouldn’t expect us to be traditional now would you??!!
This is a highly spiced dish, similar to chana masala in many ways. The spices are warming including cinnamon and cloves, making it very much north Indian fare. In the South we have been eating mainly coconuts and white rice, the staple down here. Generally lightly spiced bu heavy on the dried chilli.
This dish, served with a massive salad, made a wonderful change and we actually cooked it ourselves! I have to say our bellies have not felt this good in the 2 month India adventure.
Jane washing up sporting socks and sandals, our new look
Grating the veggies for the sauce (called a masala over here) gives the overall dish a smoother texture and helps to thicken things up. Of course, grating things unlocks the flavours of the veggies and means you don’t need to cook them for so long to get maximum flavour.
I will be volunteering on an organic farm and cooking in a vegan kitchen soon, settling down a little. I imagine they will have internet and should catch up a little with the backlog of recipes and posts that have accumulated on my little computer gadget. There are some crackers!
Namaste and Much Love,
Lee and JaneXXXXXXX
The Bits – For 2
2 tbs coconut oil (or cooking oil)
1 large beetroot (scrubbed and diced)
6 large leaves bok choi (plus their fleshly stumps, chopped)
1 large carrot (scrubbed and grated)
1 small potato (scrubbed and diced)
1 big handful cabbage (grated)
1 onion (peeled and grated)
4-5 cloves garlic (peeled and grated)
1 ½ inch ginger (peeled and grated)
3 tomatoes (grated, skins discarded)
2 teas garam masala (or spice mix of your choice)
1 cinnamon stick
1 tea cumin seeds
1 teas black mustard seeds
2 tbs curry leaves
½ teas chilli powder
½ teas sea salt
½ teas black pepper
¾ cup chana daal (soaked overnight)
Brown Chana Masala with Beetroot and Bok Choi
Drain your chickpeas and rinse. Place in a small saucepan and cover with 3 inches of water, bring to a boil and simmer with a lid on for 1 hour (or until nicely tender).
Whilst they’re cooking, get your masala ready. In a frying pan, warm 1 tbs of oil, add the cumin seeds, cloves and cinnamon stick fry for a 30 seconds then add the onions. Fry all on a med high heat for 5 minutes, until golden.
Add the garlic, ginger and beetroot, fry for 3 minutes, then add the carrots and cabbage. Stir well and warm through. Cook for 5 minutes and add the garam masala, chilli powder and tomato. Bring to a boil and cover. After 10 minutes cooking on a steady simmer, add 100ml water and stir, then recover. Cooking for another 10 minutes. The sauce should be nice and thick.
Now add the masala to the chickpea pan, there should be some liquid left in the pan. Stir in and thin out the sauce with more water if needed. Check seasoning, adding salt and pepper. Be heavy on the pepper, chana masala loves pepper!
In a small frying pan, warm 1 tbs oil and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves on medium heat. Let the splutter for 30 seconds and remove pan from the heat.
Once the chickpeas are warm through, stir in the seasoned oil and serve.
No lights in our cabin, but candles are better anyway.
In these parts we’d be having rice and rice (with a side helping of rice!) but tonight, in our own little cottage, we’re having one of Jane’s bonza raw salads; with grated beetroot, kohlrabi, peanuts, beetroot leaves, carrot, coriander and lots more market fresh bits (when Jane does a salad, the entire veg basket is used!)
Sunrise outside the kitchen window
Kala Chana is very high in dietary fibre, one big bowlful of this curry with give women almost half of their daily intake of fibre (men a little less than that). These brown garbanzos are also high in protein and rich in minerals like iron, copper and manganese.
Kala Chana is one of the earliest cultivated legumes, remains have been discovered dating back 7500 years! India is by far the biggest producer of chana in the world, Australia is the second, which I find surprising.