This week on Good Food Evan interviews Abby Maharaj about what it was like learning to cook Trinidadian food when she married her Trinidad-born husband.
A native of Tennessee, Maharaj adapted quickly to the fiery flavors of Trinidad. Like most great home cooks, she doesn’t rely on recipes; but, she was happy to share this version of Curried Channa and Aloo which she says is very close to the version she makes at home. This recipe comes from Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbook World Vegetarian; and in the book she writes that she got it from Khadija Ali of Tiffin’s, in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Curried Channa and Aloo
Serves 4 to 6
1 ½ cups dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked according to the directions below with skins removed, if you wish, and the cooking liquid drained and reserved
2 tablespoons finely chopped culantro or cilantro
1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
2 scallions, white parts only, cut into very fine rounds
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried
¼ finely shopped Scotch bonnet or other fresh hot chile
2 teaspoons salt
¼ cup peanut or canola oil
1 good-sized onion (6 ounces), peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed to a pulp
4 teaspoons hot curry powder, such as Madras
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 X ¾ inch chunks
2 teaspoons amchar masala (a Trinidadian spice mix) Note: If you do not have access to a West Indian market, you may substitute cumin seeds lightly dry toasted in a pot, then ground with a mortar and pestle. Trinidadians call this geera.
Pick over the dried chickpeas and wash them in several changes of water. Drain. Cover with 5 cups of water and leave overnight. Drain. In a medium pot, add 6 cups of water to the soaked and drained chickpeas and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook gently for 1 to 3 hours, or until the chickpeas are very tender. Drain and reserve their cooking liquid.
Put the drained chickpeas in a bowl. Add the culantro, chives, scallions, parsley, thyme, Scotch bonnet, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Mix gently and set aside.
In a large, wide pot of deep frying pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and stir and fry for about 4 minutes, or until the onion pieces turn brown at the edges. Put in the garlic; stir and fry for another minute. Now add the curry powder and stir once or twice. Quickly add the potatoes, the chickpeas, their reserved cooking liquid, the remaining teaspoon of salt, and enough water to barely cover the potatoes and chickpeas, about 1 ¼ cups. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Stir in the amchar masala or geera and cook another 5 minutes. Serve hot.