I started dabbling with food and all things related when I was in Grade School. Always keen to stir, bake, mix and blend I would often develop my own recipes and concoctions. Some turned out scrumptious and some, well…let’s just say we all learn from experience.
My ever supporting family always encouraged me and would even chow down the not-so great creations (with lots of water).
My interest in food came from no particular influence or tutelage. Dubai, in 1980’s was a city of very limited grocery and speciality stores. There were no culinary adventures on TV, no Food Network and minimal social media outlets.
Instead, our home had a weekend ritual when the kitchen was off limits to everyone except me. I was in charge of lunch. No one was allowed to enter or lend a hand and there was absolutely no room for tips or advice.
I wanted to do it my way.
Doing it my way entailed using herbs and spices that were outside the realm of my mother’s pantry. I would venture into book stores and gape at recipe books with tantalizing pictures of savoury and sweet pies, casseroles, quiches, roasts. It was through those books that I entered the world of rosemary, marjoram, basil, lemon-grass, tarragon. Not only were these spices and herbs new to me, they were rare finds in the regular grocery stores of Dubai. My side of the pantry was slowly invading my mother’s traditional space and cook books and food magazines were filling up shelf space.
When I left home for University, I never anticipated my cooking obsessions would earn me a huge following. My roommates appointed me kitchen in-charge and very soon it was Indian night almost every night. Soon, the word spread and by the end of my first year in University, our tiny apartment would be bustling every weekend with 20 guys and girls studying for exams while feasting on Channa Masala and Biryani.
Here’s a taste of that Channa Masala recipe that was so popular. Minimal ingredients bring out the most flavour. As students, we were on tight budgets but always managed to bring out the best flavours with the least amount of ingredients.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
4 tbs canola oil
1 can of chick peas or garbanzo beans (16 oz can)
1 medium white onion, finely sliced
1 small potato chopped in chunks
1 small plum tomato roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp pomegranate powder (optional)
A pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teabag (the tea adds an earthy color and taste to the channa masala)
1 small lime
A handful of coriander leaves for garnishing
1. Drain the chickpeas and wash thoroughly till there is no soapy residue left.
2. Heat the canola oil in a large saucepan on medium heat.
3. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion and stir for about 2 minutes or till the onion turns golden brown.
4. Next, add in the minced garlic and all the powdered spices. Add a splash of water and mix well.
5. Once the onions are coated with the spices, stir in the chopped tomatoes.
Add another splash of water, stir well and cover and cook till the tomatoes break down (about 10 minutes)
6. Turn the heat down and let the mixture cool enough to use an immersion blender. Blitz the mixture with the blender till you get a semi chunky paste
7. Now add the potatoes. Stir and cover till the potatoes are semi cooked (about 5 minutes)
8. Next add in the chickpeas and stir well to coat them with the masala.
9. Add salt to taste and drop in the tea bag
10. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the teabag.
11. Squeeze fresh lime and garnish with fresh coriander.
Serve with warm naan and enjoy!