Monday, June 14, 2010

Curry Chickpea SoupStew (maybe with chicken, maybe not)

So awhile ago at work I made a Curry Chickpea Chicken Stew, and it went over pretty well- I was asked for the recipe (even though I didn't- and still don't, really- have one) we sold a bunch, people liked it, I liked it. It was good. And the next day I came on here and wrote something about it and mentioned plans to actually do a post about it at some point in the next couple weeks. This was like 4 months ago. Today, after many starts and stops, I'm finally getting around to doing some sort of post about it. But it's not quite the same as the stuff I made at work that day. For the stuff I made at home, for this post, I didn't have any chicken thawed out, so that right there is kind of a big difference. I've made it a couple more times at work since, always without any kind of recipe, and so it's just different every time. I'm such a lousy food-blogger. Really, I almost never use a recipe when I cook, and when I do use a recipe, I can't stick to it- I just toss stuff in without measuring it. A lot of times I just go by sight when I add something, tasting it later to see whether it was enough or too much. Kind of hard to post recipes for other people to actually try out when that's your m.o. Which is why I call this blog How's it Taste? - because I generally don't use, or at least follow, recipes when I cook. I cook by how things taste when I'm throwing it all together. But for this dish I figured I'd at least try and write it down as I went so at the end I could somehow edit it together into a recipe that I could post here. Well, it didn't quite go as planned. Never does. For me, throwing something together in the kitchen, especially a soup-type dish like this, is... well, it's hard to describe. Alchemy is one word that comes to mind, but I'm not sure if even that's accurate. I do go by taste, of course, but for a few things I don't even bother- it's like I'm on autopilot; I just go by sight and experience, and taste it at the end. And more often than not, that works quite nicely. But when I actively try and put together a recipe, like I did for this one, it throws off my cooking mojo. Things just don't come together as smoothly as they should because I'm so focused on writing stuff down and creating a recipe that I can't really focus on just cooking. And I make so many minor adjustments along the way that it's kind of hard to keep up with myself sometimes. After adding several dashes and pinches and shakes of stuff, you tend to lose track of just how much of a particular ingredient you added. (Might be easier if I had a friend with a video camera who could act as my assistant and record me actually making something, but that's a long ways off.) I actually do have a (partial) recipe for this dish today, which I'll post (not that it's going to matter; you'll see) but from here on out, I give up on trying to actually come up with recipes for the stuff I make. If I've got one (and I do for a couple things coming up) I'll post it, but if I don't then I'm just going to write about whatever it is that I'm making/eating and how I went about doing it. Like I said, lousy food-blogger, but hey, I like to cook and eat, and I like to share it with others, and so this is one way for me to be able to do that, as well as being some sort of record for myself of what I was cooking/eating during a particular time period. But generally, I plan on posting 'recipes' pretty much the way I cook- here's the list of stuff, here's about how I did it, plain and simple. I realize that lowers my standing in the food-blogging world (what kind of food blogger doesn't post recipes? Hell, even the No-Recipes food blog is full of recipes.) Truth be told, I don't give a shit. I like to cook, and I think I (mostly) make good stuff. Not everything's a winner, obviously. And sometimes the stuff I make at work that I think is just 'ok' gets rave reviews, while the stuff I think is rave just gets ok reviews. Go figure. Oh, and photos too- I like photography but don't take nearly enough photos, so having food that needs to be photographed gives me an excuse to bust out the camera. Also, it helps me to improve my photo-taking skills, even if only very slowly. Take the following photo, for example-

I just noticed something about this photo the other day that for some reason I'd never noticed before in other, similar photos. Something that I really can't stand and that I think makes it a crappy photo. Notice anything? Sure, the colors don't really pop out, and the left side of the bowl is cut off, and you can see soup sloshed around the sides of the bowl. None of that offends me, at least not much. No, the thing I really hate about this photo is that damn spoon! I've done a bunch of photos like this in the past, and for some reason always felt the need to add in an eating utensil, like anyone would forget to use it if they actually made the dish and my photo didn't show one or something. I don't know why I never noticed this before, but the spoon does absolutely nothing good for the photo, and in my opinion actually takes a lot away from it. Maybe it's just me, maybe I'm doing something wrong, but I don't know- I just think the addition of an eating utensil really detracts from the photo, and I plan on never doing another photo like this on my blog again.

Anyway, let's make some stew.

Here's what I came up with for the recipe (feel free to skip it; I always do)

1 camote* (438mg for this particular one)
2 orange bell peppers
1 lg-ish onion (300-something mg, I forgot to write it down)
eyeballed the minced garlic (maybe 1/3 c.)
few pinches kosher salt
ground black pepper (1t, tops)
couple T coconut milk powder added to the garbanzo juice
2 heaping T turmeric
2 scant T grated ginger
1/4 (heaping) c. curry powder
1 T cumin
2 heaping T ground coriander

*camote = sweet potato, but I just like saying camote (cah-mo-tay).

So that's the basic recipe I started to come up with for the Curry Chickpea Stew I made at work that one day. Notice I forgot to write down garbanzo beans, even though I mentioned the juice. Now you see why I don't/can't use recipes when I cook? So let's just back up and start over here. If I was going to make this today, for me, for you, for the Soup of the Day at Sweeney's, here's how it'd go:

When I make Curry Chickpea (possibly with Chicken) SoupStew, it changes every time, but the basics are generally the same- got to have curry (duh) onions, garlic, orange or yellow bell peppers, garbanzo beans, and lemon-ness (usually in the form of ground coriander, but I also like to add fresh lemon juice, especially at the end). Other stuff that I usually (but not always) add are: ground ginger, cinnamon, diced fresh tomatoes, camote, coconut milk, chicken, etc.
So, assuming I'm just cooking enough for myself here, here's what I'd grab:

(I'm going to skip using specific amounts. Just go with the flow and adjust however you see fit.)

Diced onion
Fresh, minced garlic
Olive oil
Fresh ginger (or dry, if I didn't have fresh)
Coconut milk
Cooked garbanzo beans (canned or homemade, both are good)
Ground coriander seed
Fresh lemons
Curry powder
Kosher/sea salt
White sugar
Fresh ground black pepper
Orange bell peppers, diced
Diced fresh tomatoes
Boneless chicken breast
Chicken stock
Garbanzo bean flour
Fresh cilantro (garnish)

I think that's it. Depending on what else I've got in my spice drawer I might add some other stuff, but I'm so disorganized right now that I don't even know what's in there. Everything's scattered. (Really looking forward to getting my own place...)

Putting it all together:

Heat up a large (6 qt. or so) pot, get the olive oil going nice and hot and toss in the garlic, (fresh) ginger, onions, and peppers. Hit it with a dash of salt and pepper and cook over medium/med-high until soft (don't brown). As far as the chicken goes, I do it different almost every time, depending on how much time/motivation I have. Sometimes I'll cook it in a simple salt/sugar brine in the oven and shred it into the soup later on, other times I'll dice it up raw and cook it right in the pot with the veggies, which is probably how I'd do it this time. (In which case, I'd rinse the diced chicken first in water, then toss it in the pot at about the same time as all the veggies.) Once the veggies have softened and the chicken is at least mostly cooked, I add a little of the garbanzo bean juice, turmeric, more s/p, lots of ground coriander seed, lots of curry powder, a squeeze of lemon juice, heavy pinch of sugar (for balance) cayenne, couple dashes of cinnamon, a can of coconut milk, and some water or preferably chicken stock. Stir it all up good, give it a taste (once the chicken, if using, is fully cooked) and adjust as necessary. (How simple is that!) At this point, I like to add a little more fresh lemon juice, and maybe some lemon zest to finish things off. If you want to thicken things up a bit, garbanzo bean flour makes a nice thickener. You can buy garbanzo bean flour (Besan) at most any grocery store nowadays- Bob's Red Mill is a good quality, if pricey, brand that's pretty much available nationwide. However, there are other options- I got a large bag of Besan at my local grocery store for less than the price of a similar amount of dried garbanzo beans, so if you live in a large metro area you're almost certain to be able to find similar deals.

Also, if you have any Middle Eastern or other Ethnic stores in your area, they'll likely have Besan fairly cheap. Otherwise, you can also take some dried garbanzo beans and put them on a sheet pan in a 350 degree (F) oven and bake for 20 minutes or so (might be longer, I can't remember exactly). After that, they blend up nicely in a coffee grinder. Lastly, Amazon sells just about everything you could ever want, so you can always check there.
Add cilantro for a wonderful, delicious garnish. Green onions are nice, too. Use both, if you've got them.

This stuff is delicious and easy to make. (Recipes? We don't need no stinkin' recipes, dammit!) So give it a go- vegetarian or otherwise; I think you'll love it.

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