Monday, June 21, 2010

Sustainable Cooking: Curried Chickpeas with Tomato


I've made very little progress towards my goal of using our rocket stove and solar oven more frequently this year.  Of course I have excuses, and they're semi-legitimate, but they boil down to the universal excuses for everything that's wrong with our culture: I'm busy, and it's not convenient.  I'm working on making it more convenient to use either the rocket stove or the solar oven, but in the meantime, I need to just suck it up and cook out there anyway.

It helps that the heat has been infernal lately.  Who wants to cook inside with such weather?  So on Saturday evening I soaked a bunch of chickpeas.  On Sunday morning, I cleaned up the solar oven, and added a bunch of seasoning ingredients to the chickpeas.  The day was blazing hot and sunny almost all the time.  The dish didn't come out perfectly: I'd left a lot more liquid in with the beans than was really needed.  But they cooked through quite well and were tasty.

I wasn't working with a recipe, but here's what I did.  First I drained the soaking liquid the chickpeas were in and then recovered them with fresh water.  I chopped up about five cloves of garlic, and minced about an inch of a fat section of fresh ginger.  These were added to the soaking liquid along with a palmful of dried minced onion, and some spices, roughly in descending order of quantity: cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, cayenne, and amchoor.  I also added a good drizzle of oil and a coarsely diced fresh tomato.  This left my cooking pot for the solar oven absolutely brimming.  It went into the solar oven around 9am, and as I checked the temperature in the oven throughout the day it varied from 150-255 F (66-124 C) as the outdoor temperature climbed to 94 F (34 C) and clouds occasionally scudded across the sky.  I only added salt when the chickpeas were done cooking.

Towards the end of the day I put some basmati rice to cook in the steamer out on the porch.  I also went out to the garden to rustle up a quicky relish to go with what is essentially a beans and rice dish: roughly equal parts fresh cilantro (including soft stems) and spearmint (leaves only) along with a whole scallion, a pinch of salt, and a bit of lime juice.  Everything whizzed together in the food processor, with the sides scraped down a few times between bouts of whizzing.  This crude relish isn't shown in the picture but it added a lovely bit of green both visually and taste-wise.  Very refreshing it was too, on a hot evening.  I think adding a zucchini or two to the chickpeas for the last hour or so of cooking would have added a nicer balance of veg too.

I'd make this again but definitely reduce the amount of liquid that goes in the cooking pot.  It worked as a somewhat soupy dish because the rice could soak everything up.  But more concentrated flavor would be better.  Cooking in a solar oven is definitely an experimental endeavor for me.  It's a bit like baking in that you have to set things up and then relinquish the possibility of intervention once the actual cooking begins.  Because the cooking containers are very nearly airtight, I'm having to learn how much liquid to add.  And this is an iterative process.  Also it seems to me that flavors in solar-cooked dishes are more mellow and more diffuse than I would expect from conventionally cooked food.  The flavors in this dish reminded me of leftover curry that had been cooked a few days previously - all the seasonings had spread themselves out and reached a point of equilibrium among all ingredients.  So I might also learn to be a little heavy handed with the seasonings as I continue with the solar cooking goal for this year.

Oh, and by the way, Happy Solstice!

10 comments:

nutty professor said...

I think this is a good dish and very tweak-able. Did you grow the chickpeas? i wonder how those would work out in a garden, they are so versatile and full of protein, the perfect staple. I like this!

queen of string said...

I'm so excited I have to share! We have had our offer on 2.2 acres and house accepted. Time to read your entire blog and plot :-)

eatclosetohome said...

Do you generally find dishes need less water when cooked by sun? i usually use 2c water for 1 c rice, but that made it come out pretty mushy...

Kate said...

Mmmm the ginger and cinnamon sound awesome with the chickpeas! I've never tried that before, and it kind of reminds me of the Indian dish Chana Masala (although I think its with some other spices instead, I'm not quite sure)
I usually go the spicy route with my chickpeas (chili powder) or curry flavoring, but this will definitely be added to my must-try list.

Anonymous said...

That does sound delicious! I love chickpeas. A possible meal for your rocket stove (it can't really be called a recipe) is cooked chickpeas tossed in seasoned flour, fried until crispy with some garlic and then stuffed in pittas with natural yogurt, sliced tomatoes and sliced raw onions. It's one of those combinations that tastes much better than it sounds!

But I was reassured by your comment that lack of time and convenience are an issue for you too. I've been thinking a lot about that recently. I don't want to be part of the mad rush, so how do I keep out of it? 'Simplify, simplify' is a very appealing idea, but I seem to be struggling with the execution! Hence my looong list of things to get round to, and the pile of boxes waiting to be made into a solar cooker with my children! One day...
Hazel

Kate said...

np, I grow other beans for drying and am trying favas this year. But no, the chickpeas are not homegrown. If they had been, this would have been a Harvest Meal post rather than a Sustainable Cooking post. I do think the basic dish is eminently tweakable as you say. I almost always see Indian bean recipes as mere suggestions, and free style it based on what comes to hand.

queen of string, that's awesome! 2.2 acres seems huge to me compared to our 2/3 acre. But its a great size nonetheless: not too big, not too small.

Emily, it seems that way, yes, but as of yet my experience with solar cooking is rather limited. I tried rice in the solar cooker last year and had very disappointing results. I'm going to try some more and if I nail it, I'll definitely let you know. I'm thinking pre-soaking the rice might be the way to go. Maybe.

Kate, the cinnamon was a very minor not in this dish, but it was in the mix. I think you could go almost any direction as far as spicing chickpeas. Very versatile they are.

Hazel, oh heck yeah! Time and convenience are issues for me just like everyone else. I hope I never gave the impression that they weren't. I've written before about how the "simple" label doesn't really fit my life, nor do I really want it to. I think every modern convenience under the sun would be simpler in many ways. I guess what I'm aiming for is different, but it's also harder in many ways, not simpler. But I do have projects on the list to make it more convenient to do certain things, like use the solar oven, or clean our plastic kitchen bags. You'll get there too, I have no doubt.

You fried chickpea sandwich sounds divine! I may have to try that with some of the grilled naan we make.

Anonymous said...

I would certainly eat chickpeas if I were starving. But what other reason is there? Why would anyone store chickpeas? I would prefer a double serving of rice or maybe a hotdog anything but chickpeas.

Kate said...

My, what a little ray of sunshine you are, Anon.

Sam said...

Great, Great blog. love it. Keri a.k.a. Sam

Kate said...

Keri/Sam, thanks, and welcome!