Punjabi Beans, Rice, Potatoes, Yogurt and Flatbread

As Hermeet Kohli, from Delhi, India, taught Lindsay Sterling in Falmouth, Maine, February 2014. 

Serves: 8
Cooking Time: :45 to 2:30 depending on how much you do from scratch.

Find Indian markets by state here.
In Maine, I go to Masala Mahal, 798 Main St., South Portland, ME, 207-699-5555

Rajma (or kidney bean) Curry (5 min)

2 cups cooked Kidney beans (32 oz if canned or 1 1/4 cup dried beans)
1-2 cups water
1/2 cup homemade or store bought Indian curry paste*
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro
(1 tsp powdered garam masala)
(1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves)
(1 Tbsp salt)

Just cover cooked kidney beans with water in sauce pot. Add curry paste. Bring to boil. Simmer for five minutes. If using Hermeet's homemade curry paste, please add to the beans 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves, and 1-2 Tbsp salt. If you are using store bought curry paste, it will likely have those and/or other spices already in it. Mix in cilantro (coriander) leaves.

*Hermeet's Homemade Punjabi Curry Paste (1 hour)
(makes enough for 12 meals for 4 people)

2 red onions, peeled and blended until smooth in a blender
4 Tbsp ginger-garlic paste (2 inches ginger root, 4 cloves garlic, blended with a little water)
2 Tbsp olive oil (her mother uses ghee instead)
1  tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp hot Indian chili powder*
18 oz. tomato paste
1/2 cup water

In medium nonstick saute pan on low heat, saute the pureed raw onion until the juices evaporate, about 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so. Add ginger paste, garlic paste, oil, turmeric, chili powder, and salt, and cook for about 30 minutes more, until contents of the pan are about as thick as tomato paste, and they can pull together into a single mass with the rest of the pan clean. Mix in the tomato paste and 1/2 cup water. Stir and cook again for about 10 minutes more to incorporate all the flavors, stirring every so often so it doesn't burn. Freeze portions (1/4 cup for 4 people, 1/2 cup for 8 people) in freezer on a sheet tray or in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, transfer to a Zipock. Use this curry paste for making various Punjabi curries: chicken, prawn, bean, or potato and pea.

Cumin-scented rice (20 min)

3 cups basmati rice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp whole cumin
2 Tbsp sliced red onion
1 cup frozen peas
6 cups water
1/2 tsp salt

Rinse basmati rice until water runs clear, not cloudy. Saute cumin in oil. Add onions. Stir and let sizzle for a minute. Add rice and stir, coating rice with flavored oil. Add peas, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Punjabi Potatoes (20 min)

8 small yellow potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch sticks
1 cup olive oil (1/4 inch deep in large saute pan or wok)
1 tsp whole coriander
1 tsp whole cumin
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt
1/4-1 tsp Indian chili powder, depending on how hot it is
1 Tbsp dried mint

Heat oil in large fry pan or wok. Add coriander and cumin. Let spices sizzle for 30 seconds, then add potatoes. Stir potatoes enough so that they don't stick, and that all of them get a chance to be in the oil, but not so much that, as they cook, they break and turn mushy. Once they become half cooked, add turmeric, salt, chili powder and mint. If mint is leafy, rub it between your palms so more finely ground pieces fall into the pan. Stir just enough so spices are incorporated and potatoes evenly cook.When potatoes loose their crunch, they're done.

Yogurt Sauce (5 min)
Boondi in Yogurt

1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 tsp roasted, ground cumin*
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup Boondi*
fresh or dried mint (optional)

*Boondi are fried balls (smaller than peas) of chickpea flour  They are available in what look like potato chip bags at Indian markets. I haven't been able to find rock salt powder here. Just use salt until we find out what this is and where to get it. To make roasted, ground cumin: roast whole cumin seeds in a hot, dry saute pan until they turn dark brown. Blend in a spice grinder (aka coffee grinder).

Rinse Boondi. Mix all ingredients together. If yogurt is thick, add water so the consistency is liquid.

Flatbread (roti)

4 cups chapati or roti flour (it is super finely ground durham semolina wheat)
some water
3 Tbsp olive oil

Put flour in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil. Add water a little bit at a time, mixing, squeezing, then kneading with hands until all dry flour disappears and you have a smooth dough and a clean bowl, about 5 minutes by hand. Add another 1 1/2 Tbsp oil, knead to incorporate, and let rest for an hour.

Break off a piece (about the diameter of a quarter). Squeeze the piece in between the palms of your hand. Do this four or five times, turning your hands so they get a slightly different angle on the dough in your palms. When you have what looks like a smooth flat river stone, then use a rolling pin and roll it out on a counter into a a circle, about 1/8th inch thick. (Indians use a special round board (ahdni) and rolling stick (vhelan) to roll out the roti. You can do without it, but it's nice to have the tool. They can be found at Indian markets.)

Place raw roti in a hot dry pan, about 1 minute each side. Then use tongs to hold it directly over the gas flame. Roti will likely puff up like a pufferfish. Flip so other side gets a little spots of toasted tan color. Repeat process to make many roti out of all the dough.

Copyright Lindsay Sterling 2014