Monday, November 26, 2012

Breakfast Black Channa (Chick Pea/Bengal gram)

Black Channa aka Bengal Gram is a member of the legume Family and a protein powerhouse. So, no wonder it makes an excellent breakfast. In Southern India, channa is used extensively for many breakfast dishes and main courses. (Of course, since India happens to be the largest producer of Channa) And I yet have to meet someone who actually hates channa!
There are Kabuli Chole or the Garbanzo beans, then the green and brown versions, which are more exclusive to India.
With a little prep, in advance, channa is one of the simplest dishes that can fill you up without weighing you down.
There are only two main downsides to this dish. 1. The cooking time and 2. will be best put in my Aunts words: " Anyone who loves protein, doesn't mind passing gas every now and then."
(We were talking about kids food choices, and her words were not that polished either, but that is another story.)
But both these downsides can be conquered. The time factor can be changed by using a pressure cooker and soaking the channa in water overnight. Though I have not verified, I have some expert sources claiming cooking it with a tea bag or with a teaspoon of turmeric and salt reduces the above-mentioned side effects considerably.
Today, I am going to share with you one of the many delicious ways to enjoy this delicious legume on its own or as an accompaniment. Growing up, my Mom would make it for breakfast and convert the leftovers into a delicious "kadala curry" that had a coconut milk base and lots of fragrant spices to be served with steamed rice cakes (puttu). as we grew there wouldn't be any leftovers. :-)

Breakfast Channa:

2 cups of brown or green dry channa, soaked overnight.
1/2 tsp turmeric powder and salt.

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp Mustard seeds
1 large onion, chopped finely
1 sprig curry leaves
1/4 cup of fresh coconut chunks (first cut into thin wedges, and then chopped up)
Alternatively, you can use fresh grated coconut as a garnish.
Cilantro and ripe, chopped tomatoes for garnish
A few crushed red chili flakes (optional)
Lemon wedge (optional)

In a pressure cooker, add the salt and turmeric to adequate water, and add the soaked channa. Cook for 4-8 whistles or until the channa is cooked. Its done right if it crumbles when prodded with slight pressure. Never overcook, mush isn't an option!
While the cooker is cooling down, heat the coconut oil in a nonstick pan, fry the mustard seeds until they crackle, add the curry leaves, fry until crisp, add the coconut pieces (if using) until lightly golden, then add the chopped onions. Saute till tender.
Drain the channa, but try to use the water you cooked it in to make soups or Rasam (Hot and Sour Consomme) like me. It has a lot of nutrients.
Add the drained channa and chili flakes (if using) into the mix, check salt and adjust, and cover and cook for 5 minutes, so that the flavors develop.
Serve hot, topped with fresh grated coconut (if using), chopped tomatoes and cilantro. And serve with a wedge of lemon on the side.

* If you find, this dish is bland, you are free to use 1/2 tsp chili powder and 1 tsp coriander powder (right into the sauteed onions ) and convert it into a channa Masala, which equally rocks too! 

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