I love Punjabi Food. Its robust, spicy and utterly delicious. To be fair living in Calcutta the options for real Punjabi food was scarce. There was of course this wonderful Dhaba in the middle of the city which churned out amazing dishes. The beauty of Calcutta is its diversity of food. Of course the diversity is best seen in and around Central Calcutta but nevertheless it is still there. You see each cuisine has an essence and after researching enough about Punjab's dishes and having had the good fortune of tasting some real Punjab da khana in a Punjabi home near Delhi I have come to the conclusion that original Punjabi food tastes its best when cooked in some desi ghee. I mean sure there are millions of recipes out there and you can always use health as an excuse but having used both the options I can definitely tell you that cooked in pure desi ghee the beauty of these dishes are simply at their best when they are cooked in that silky creamy ingredient.
If this cuisine were to be personified I would call it a beautiful voluptuous lady with glowing skin and dressed in a riot of colours.
If you have had the good luck to taste some delectable dishes in Punjab you would know that the use of spices is a bit more than in other cuisines of India. I like mine exactly that way and so here is my recipe for Chole collected from a dear old woman staying in the NCR region. Chickpeas are a store house of nutrition and cooked with all that spice it simply becomes divine.
Serves 4 to 6 people
2 cups of dried chickpea
2 medium sized red onions which are finely sliced
2.5 tsp finely minced garlic
2 tsp finely minced ginger
2 chopped tomatoes
3 to 4 green chilies finely chopped
Cinnamon (3/4th size of your little finger) crushed
3 black cardamom crushed
2 tsp cumin powder
3 tsp coriander
2 tsp chili powder
Pinch of turmeric
Salt as per taste
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
1 tsp Punjabi garam masala made at home for which you use (1 bay leaf, 2 to 3 green cardamom, 4 black cardamom, 1.5 inch cinnamon , 5 to 6 cloves and about 7 to 8 peppercorn , 1 tsp cumin seeds, 2 tsp coriander seeds , pinch of nutmeg and 2 blades of mace) . Dry roast and grind this
2.5 tbsp ghee
2 bay leaves
Juice of Half a lemon
Soak the chickpeas overnight and then boil it with 5 cups of water and 1 tsp ginger. Heat 2 tbsp ghee and saute the garlic and ginger taking care not to burn them. Now add the onions and fry till translucent. Add the bay leaf and crushed spices. Saute for a minute and add the tomatoes and Half the chopped chilies and stir continuously , mashing it from time to time to form a thick spicy paste and add the ground spices except the garam masala. Mix well stirring for a minute and add the boiled chole with the remaining water. Bring to a boil and salt, turmeric, chili powder and half the garam masala. Simmer till it reaches a thick gravy like consistency. Add the rest of the garam masala, the rest of the chopped chilies and coriander leaves and the juice of lemon. Serve hot with soft chapatis or paraunthes with onion rings and a wedge of lemon.