The first time I tasted the Stir-Fried Chickpeas dish from the ashram recipe book, I was excited. It was a tasty new dish to look forward to in an ashram diet that could often be bland and boring.
Plus, it was about as protein-rich as you can find in a vegetarian dish. But, after the first couple of times it was served, it never showed up again on the meal line in the community dining hall. I waited, hoping someone would prepare it. But I waited in vain.
So I decided to revive it myself during one of my weekly cooking times — and, as usual, put my own twist on this dish.
It wasn’t just Stir-Fried Chickpeas either. There were many dishes that were delicious, but would be served a few times and then never again. Meanwhile, there were several dishes (many of them bland) that were prepared and served over and over — ad nauseum.
To put it nicely, the devotee cooks tended to get in ruts, apathetically cooking the same few meals over and over. To state it a bit more bluntly, from my perspective, they were lazy.
Many of them seemed to find that repeating the same dishes was quicker and easier than trying something new. As a result, they apparently could get out of the kitchen sooner.
But apathy leaves a bad taste in the mouth. As a result, devotees often avoided the meals that were dull and uninspiring. Literally. Often times, they would walk into the dining hall, see the meal, and leave — off to either their own kitchens or a drive into town for Taco Bell, I guess.
I never devolved into indifference in my meal preps. I approached every one as sacred. As a chance to cook a meal that would both nourish and delight the devotees. I wanted people to enjoy the meal, so they could leave the dining hall happy.
Over the years, I tried my best to revive many excellent, but forgotten, recipes, like Sir-Fried Chickpeas.
There was no reason not to re-create this dish. It was simple to cook. However, it did require one extra step: soaking and cooking the dry chickpeas. In fact, this extra step was likely one of the reasons that other cooks ignored the dish.
Another strike against this recipe was that it was a rather dry dish. Most cooks relied on their bean dishes to provide the “soupy” item required with every meal, as per the “Guru’s Rules.” Because the chickpeas were simply stir-fried in spices, it had to be served with something else that was “soupy.”
I didn’t find this to be a limitation, because there were plenty of simple soupy dishes that could be prepared easily, like Zucchini in Orange Sauce or Carrot-Celery Soup. Really any vegetable soup would do. In fact, often there was a leftover soup from the previous meal to serve with it.
The chickpea dish has just six Indian spices. Yet, they combined beautifully to give the otherwise bland beans a delightful flavor.
This dish was so delicious — and such a hit with the devotees — that I started cooking it on a semi-regular basis.
Try it yourself and let me know what you think.
STIR-FRIED CHICKPEAS RECIPE
1 cup chickpeas
4 cups water
3 TBSP oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tsp. grated ginger root
2 stems curry leaves
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. garam masala
1/4 tsp. coriander powder
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
- Soak beans for 8 hours. Rinse.
- Put beans, 1 teaspoon salt, and water in pressure cooker. Cover.
- Pressure cook at 15 pounds for 15 minutes. The beans should retain their shape, but be tender.
- Once beans are cooked, drain them. Save 1/4 cup of the broth. (Note: Save all of the broth for a future vegetable soup.)
- Add oil to a wok and heat on high. When oil is smoking, add cumin seeds. Cover. Turn off heat. Cook for 30 seconds or until seeds turn dark.
- Add ginger and curry leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir. Cover. Turn heat on low. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add paprika, garam masala, coriander, and pepper. Stir well. Add chickpeas. Stir to coat with spices for about 10 minutes.
Serve with a veggie side dish such as Zucchini in Orange and grilled whole-wheat nan bread with basil butter.