Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ashram Comes To Essex

Last weekend Prince Charming and I turned our home into a hindu ashram, loaded with cooking, chanting, and eating! It brought me back to a much cherished time when I lived in Taos NM. On Sunday's mornings
I practiced seva (selfless service) at the Taos Hanuman Temple's kitchen. Not all meals cooked for the 30-200 people attending the vegetarian lunch were Indian, but most were. Some basic rules to follow when cooking there: Rule #1, you must not run out of chai. Real chai that is, not this beverage most Americans are calling chai. Real chai masala (chai in India is black tea, if you order chai masala you will get wonderfully spiced tea) takes time and patience, ginger is mortared, spices are gathered, and timing is key. Rule #2 do not taste anything while you are cooking, ever! Nothing is eaten until is is offered to the gods first, so someone, often me, would bring a plate of food into the temple room. This was totally opposite of what I had been taught as a chef but the food was mysteriously always perfect!!! Rule #3 Think positive/loving thoughts as you cook in the ashram kitchen.

Back at home in Vermont the sandalwood incense burned as spices were mortared. Our house was in full mode, preparing for Sunday's vegetarian Indian feast. Some things have changed in my Indian cooking over the years, my samosas are baked not deep-fried, white basmati has switched to brown (basmati means "queen of fragrance"), and the chai is decaf since I am not trying to keep myself awake for hours in meditation. A recipe for Chana Masala is below. Namaste... 

Chana Masala
Serves 6-8 
3 tablespoons ghee                                                                                         
2 medium onions, medium dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 hot pepper, minced
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons toasted & ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Sea salt
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed                                                                                      
1 cup water
2 lemons, juiced
handful of chopped cilantro
In a large pan over medium heat add ghee. Add onion and sauté until golden brown. Add garlic, ginger and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the spices and salt, cook 1 -2 minutes stirring. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, water and lemon juice then simmer until all the liquid is gone, about 25 minutes. Taste for seasoning and lemon juice. Garnish cilantro and serve with basmati rice.


Anonymous said...

Incredible photography and writing. Thank you so much for sharing. It brings back such lovely memories. So fragrant, and filled with love. . . .

Chef Courtney Contos said...

Thank you!

The Chai Girl said...

Thanks fellow realchai lover! The more people know about and get to enjoy authentic chai the better the world will be :-)). I love Real Chai soooo much I started my own company called just that - realchai! You can check it out at Lot of great chai recipes to be found!