A Simple Summer Chickpea Salad

It’s getting hot in Pune. Unbearably hot. The kind of hot that makes heavy eating, and standing over the stove for too long, a real chore.

I tend to feel sluggish in the warmer months if I eat heavy foods and spicy curries- so chicken curry and sambhar are replaced with pachadi and curd rice. And on many days, we eat salad.

What I love about salads are that they’re pretty forgiving creatures, as long as you have an open mind. There are no must-have or can’t-use ingredients. You can use all kinds of vegetables & herbs, proteins & carbohydrates, nuts & grains to create a really filling, tasty meal-in-a-bowl. Fattoush and panzanella make use of bread, som tam and the Waldorf make use of fruits and nuts, while a classic caeser and nicoise put eggs and fish to good (and delicious!) use.

When I make my salads as a meal, I need to have some form of protein in it. Unfortunately, I am neither Rachel Allen nor Nigella Lawson, so I rarely never have leftover meat from a Sunday roast in the form or chicken strips and beef shreds. So my protein of choice is either canned tuna or kabuli chana, which is a staple in most Indian pantries.

The only cooking this salad requires is boiling the chickpeas- but you are more than welcome to use canned chickpeas. I often pressure-cook a batch of chickpeas (two cups) on Sunday and store them in the fridge for salad or hummus during the week.

So this salad came together on a weekday when it was too hot to cook. It’s simple, and light on the stomach but still keeps you sated. I like adding some kind of nut or seed to my salads this days- they add a lovely bite and crunch, plus they are really good for you. If I’m using almonds, I just soak them and use them raw. With peanuts, I like to toast them lightly in their skin and crush them before adding in. And watermelon and sesame seeds I just sprinkle over the top as they are; though toasting them would be a nice touch.

SUMMER CHICKPEA SALAD

INGREDIENTS

For The Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Garlic salt, celery salt or store-bought Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon
  • A pinch of sugar
  • Salt & pepper to taste

For The Salad

  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained
  • 2 medium cucumbers, chopped
  •  8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large red onion, sliced into half moons
  • A fistful each of chopped mint and coriander (optional)
  • A fistful of pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, sunflower seeds or any seeds of your choice. You could also use some soaked raw almonds. (This is also optional.)

METHOD

  • To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl until evenly combined. Adjust for salt-sweetness-acidity as per your liking, and set aside.
  • For the salad, add all the ingredients to a large bowl and mix well. (Use your hands, use tongs, use your kids toy spade, it doesn’t matter!)
  • Pour the dressing over the salad, toss well again and serve.

Roasted Tomato & Lentil Soup

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I’ll admit I have a short temper. Sometimes it’s with an applicance that doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s triggered by muddy shoe tracks around the house. Sometimes by my son, who is being his 3-yr-old self but making a mess and racket while doing so. I try to work on it as much as I can- but there are times when I blow my fuse.

Cooking and being in the kitchen, however, makes me forget whatever it was that made me angry. I’m happy to toss a salad. Shake some vinaigrette together. Chop some onions into half-moons, dice tomatoes and slice cucumbers. And if my son has been punished, then a snack is what is produced as a peace offering.

Happy as I am to prep, chop, cook and stir, there are days when I take the lazy route- that is, cooking without having to stand over the stove for too long. For me, lazy cooking is about chopping some vegetables, roasting them in the oven, and tossing them with pasta, creating a salad, or blitzing everything into a soup.

The great thing about roasting veggies in the oven is that the oven does all the work for you…the natural sugars come alive, the juices come out and the vegetables just dress themselves, absorbing all the lovely flavours of the herbs and oil.

 

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If you think garlic sautéing in butter/olive oil is one of the nicest (savoury) aromas, think again. Tomatoes and peppers roasting in the oven with rosemary is an aroma that can make any stomach growl. Ever since I tried Clara’s blistered cherry tomatoes, I’ve had a weakness for roasting tomatoes in the oven- big and small. I agree, cherry tomatoes look prettier when roasted and paired with pasta or a topping for a tartine, but when you are roasting tomatoes for a soup, it doesn’t matter. I also found these red chillies in the market earlier this week, and was a little undecided about what to do with them.

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Anita suggested pickling them, which I intend to do, but I was impatient to get cooking with them, so I slit, de-veined and de-seeded them, tossed them with chopped tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, thyme and crushed pepper, and put everything in a 200 degree oven for 40 minutes, with a gentle toss and massage after 20 mins.

Once done, I blitzed everything in a blender with a little water, and added the mix to a pot of simmering lentils- dinner is done.

ROASTED TOMATO & LENTIL SOUP

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 medium tomatoes, halved
  • 2 medium red chilli peppers, halved, deveined and de-seeded
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, fresh or dried
  • A good grinding of black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup red lentils or husked masoor dal
  • Water for boiling

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 200 C.
  • Place the tomatoes, peppers and garlic in a roasting tray/baking dish and toss with the olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper till well coated.
  • Place in the oven for 40 minutes, checking on them after 20 mins and giving everything a quick toss.
  • Once cool, place everything in a blender and blend, adding a little water, till smooth.
  • Place lentils in a large pot and add enough water to cover. Simmer on medium-low heat until lentils are tender, skimming off the foam at the top periodically. Once the lentils are tender, add in the tomato-pepper puree and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes more. Add more water or vegetable stock if necessary.
  • Season with more salt and pepper if you wish, and drizzle some olive oil over the top before serving.

Lentil, Kale & Egg Bake

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So this dish is a twist on shakshuka, that beautifully spiced North African dish of eggs baked in a spicy, sticky tomato-pepper sauce.

It came about because I had bits of vegetables and odds & ends lying around in my fridge- and I am unapologetic about combining the most random elements to create a dish, if it suits me.

♥ “But can you put lentils in shakshuka?”

   “It’s shakshuka-inspired. It’s a lentil bake.”

 

♥ “Can you actually bake kale?”

   “Sure…just wilt it in and pop it in the oven.”

 

♥ “But isn’t this supposed to be for breakfast?”

   “Naaah…eggs & kale work anytime, anytime.”

 

So I had one carrot. One small bunch of kale. A wrinkly red red pepper. Some tomatoes. Half a dozen eggs. And an almost-empty jar of green mung dal. I decided to toss everything together, crack some eggs on top and put it all in the oven. Minimal effort, fewer dishes to wash, and an all-in-one meal.

I think hotchpotch-meal creation is genetic. It comes from my maternal grandmother. Just nonchalantly tossing things together (which you normally wouldn’t,) and making a meal of it. My grandmom would put things in front of us, combinations which we weren’t used to, and if we questioned the meal, she’d just say “of course you can add ___ to sambhar!” without batting an eyelid. The ___ in question could be something like cauliflower, which really isn’t added to sambhar, but if there was an odd end of it lying around, it would go in.

And for this bake, whatever little I had in my fridge was thrown in. (Ok, gently sautéed and wilted in.) I cooked the green mung dal beforehand of course, (in a pressure cooker,) because they can take a while to get tender.

LENTIL, KALE AND EGG BAKE (With inspiration from NYT Cooking and Serious Eats.)

INGREDIENTS

  • Cooked lentils, 1 cup (I used green mung, but red lentils, puy lentils or beluga lentils would work just as well. Just remember cooking times for each vary.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 3 medium-sized tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne/chilli flakes
  • ¼ cup grated carrot
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup kale, shredded
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • Feta or goat’s cheese (optional)

METHOD

  • Preheat the oven to 180 C.
  • In a largish skillet or pot, heat the olive oil on medium-to low. Add the garlic, lightly sautee, then add the tomatoes and allow them to soften. Add the spices and sautee till the raw smell of the spices disappears- the oil will start to separate a little at this point. Add the carrots and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper.
  • Cover and cook for 10 minutes until the mixture begins to break down and soften. Add the lentils and wilt in the kale, cover and simmer till the mixture thickens.
  • Next, take the mixture off the heat and transfer to an oven-proof baking dish, or you could use the same skillet if it’s oven proof. Make gentle wells in the mixture with the back of a spoon and crack the eggs in. Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
  • Crumble some goat’s cheese or feta over the top, and bake at 180 C for 15 minutes or until eggs are cooked and the yolks are set to your liking. I don’t like runny yolks, so I kept my dish in the oven for a while longer.