Saturday, March 7, 2015

Malwani Kala Watana Amti (Traditional black peas curry)

'Kala Watana' or black peas is my favorite vegetarian delicacy from Malwan - a coastal town in Maharashtra. It is a roasted coconut based mildly spiced curry typically had with 'amboli' - a thick slightly sour pancake made out of rice flour.

Black peas are not to be confused with black chickpeas that are easily available in the indian grocery stores in the US. Till date, I have not found these in any of the regular or specialty stores that I have been to. But being a fan, I always get black peas from India.
That being said, who is to say that you cannot make this dish if you don't have access to black peas. Go ahead and make these with any beans that hold shape really well, like black or green chickpeas.

'Kala watana' are much harder than your regular peas and hence hold shape really well even when cooked for longer periods.
The masala (Bhajani) I use in this recipe is the traditional malwani masala that we usually use in our meat curries at home. The addition of cashewnuts is again very authentic to this curry, so try not to skip these. I am sure you will love it!

Let us get to the recipe...
I have divided this recipe into three parts for easier reference. First part is the pre-preparation, then details on how to go about making your masala and the last part discusses the curry preparation.

Source: Aai
Level: Medium
Serves: 5 - 6 people

Part 1 - Pre-preparation:
1.5 cups black peas
4 cups water

Step 1 - Wash the black peas thoroughly under running water. Soak these under 4 cups of water or till the black peas are well submerged and leave them to plump up for a good 6 - 7 hours. Once done, drain the black peas and use them in your curry or keep them in a vacuum sealed box in your refrigerator if you do not plan to use it immediately. They stay well for 2 - 3 days.

Part 2 - Bhajani (1 portion)
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut OR 1/4 cup dry grated coconut
3/4 cup onions, roughly chopped
7 peppercorns
4 cloves
1.5 inch cinnamon stick
2 tsp coriander seeds
1.5 tsp poppy seeds
1 tblsp oil

Step 1 - In a flat pan, on medium heat add  the peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon stick, coriander seeds and poppy seeds. Dry roast these spices till the coriander seeds and poppy seeds turn brownish. Take them off the pan and place them in a plate to cool off.

Step 2 - In the same pan, heat 1 tblsp oil. Add the onions and stir fry continuously on medium-high heat till they turn brown all over.

Step 3 - Once the onions get properly browned, turn the heat down to medium and add the grated coconut and saute continuously till the whole mixture gets a deep brown color. Do not let this mixture burn. Add the spices from Step 1. Mix everything together for a minute and remove this mixture onto a plate to cool down.

Step 4 - Grind this mixture in a blender with as little water as needed to form a smooth paste.

This is your basic 'Bhajani' or Coastal Masala !

Tips: The color of your curry is dependent on the color of this bhajani mixture. So make sure you roast the ingredients really well.

Part 3 - Black peas curry:
Soaked black peas (instructions above)
1 portion Bhajani (recipe above)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tblsp broken cashewnuts
1.5 tblsp oil
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 pinches asafoetida
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilly powder, or to taste
3/4 tsp jaggery
1 tsp concentrated tamarind pulp
Salt to taste
Coriander to decorate

Step 1 - Heat oil in a pressure pan. Add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the asafoetida, turmeric powder, cashewnuts and onions. Saute till the onions turn transparent.

Step 2 - Add the red chilly powder. Saute well. As we have used less oil, your spices might start burning. Sprinkle some water into your pan if needed, to prevent the burning.

Step 3 - Add the soaked black peas, bhajani paste and 3/4 cup of water. Mix well and saute for 5 - 6 mins. Add the jaggery and tamarind pulp. Mix again. Then add enough water till all the peas are a just below the liquid. Mix well and pressure cook for 2 whistles or till the peas are well cooked. Do not overcook the peas. The peas should be easy to crush when pressed, but should not break easily when you just stir them around a little. Adjust the taste and consistency as desired at this point. The curry needs to be spicy with a very slight hint of sweet (jaggery) and sour (tamarind). Decorate with coriander leaves.

Serve piping hot with some 'ambolis' or steamed rice. Heaven!
I usually make pancakes (thick dosas) using store bought idli batter to make pseudo 'ambolis'. They serve the purpose well.

Hope this recipe brings a little Malwan into your homes.

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