I was feeling restless and in need of a simple sandwich, so we walked around New Market that day because it was perfect for walks. I was not that keen on picking up food, but gave in when I saw some lemongrass. We picked some of it off from a greengrocer who was sitting in the place where the guy I usually buy from sat. I didn’t ask questions, but panicked in my mind that he will give me rotten stuff (and turns out, he did! He switched the packet of mushrooms with a bad one, and I hated him for it). V needed cheese, so we hopped over for some nice Kalimpong Cheddar, because post-Diwali, there’s no Parmesan or Feta in the market.

Of course, I had to snack at Maa Kali Stores, because I wanted a sandwich with eggs and vegetables and sadly V got stuck with the sweet corn and mayo, which was too sweet for my taste buds, and I wisely stuck to my own. Coming back, I devised a spicy Ghugni in my head, and discarded and added spices and herbs to it. The result was tangy, reminded me of the stuff I generally eat off the footpath, which basically means my food achievement of the day was done.

I generally soak 200 gm. yellow peas in plain water, after giving it a good wash, overnight. I like to give it a good soak in water that runs about an inch higher over the peas, because somehow I have realized I am not much of a fan of the idea of dry peas cooking in the pressure cooker, and I don’t like the idea of adding baking soda to peas to cook it quicker. I have ethical issues against both. So, all you need to do is dump the container filled with the peas into a pressure cooker, add a cup or two more water (depending on how runny you want the final result to be – I prefer adding two, because well, you never know, do you?), and then cook it in a pressure cooker. I generally let the steam build up, and when the pressure cooker is at full pressure, drop temperature to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the pressure cooker cool down naturally. Meanwhile, I peeled and chop two medium potatoes into 1-inch dice.

Meanwhile, on a heavy bottomed vessel, heat 2-3 tablespoons of mustard or vegetable oil, and add a bay leaf, a couple of dry red chillies, 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin, 2 slightly bashed up green cardamom, 1/2-inch stick cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon crushed peppercorn. I prefer using peppercorn which is semi-crushed, because the aroma is beautiful. Stir them about for 20-30 seconds, and then add 1/2 cup chopped purple onions, stirring briskly to make sure the onions are fried to a light brown.

When the onions are light brown, add 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste, 1/2 teaspoon green chilli paste, 1 tablespoon coriander powder, 1 teaspoon cumin powder, 1/2 teaspoon amchoor powder (optional), and 1 teaspoon red chilli powder. At this point, you can of course add kashmiri chilli powder and it will add color. However, I was looking more for heat, so red chilli powder was the way I went. I also dropped in a couple of whole green chillies, and then poured in 1/2 cup tomato puree. I basically make a batch of tomato puree, and I refuse to buy store-bought stuff. However, if you have the store-bought stuff, you are more than welcome to add it. My mind also suggested adding tomato ketchup to this, but I resisted. You, of course, my dear fellow adventurer, are free to add that.

Cook the tomato puree till the oil starts to separate from it.  Add the potato to the mix, and stir well. You need to cook the potatoes for one-two minutes, stirring over medium-high heat, so that the potatoes get a nice start before adding the peas.

Pour in the cooked yellow peas, and add a bit more water to it if you feel that the peas aren’t wet enough.

 That sounded wrong.

Anyway, let the mix come to a boil, then drop heat, cover, and simmer till the potatoes are cooked. Add salt and sugar at the very end, top with some chopped coriander leaves and more green chillies, and my mother loves adding some tamarind pulp on top, but I generally refrain from it. I am also a purist, and I like eating this alone, without any accompaniments. However, if you are feeling peckish, I would suggest a few puffed up luchis will work wonders, or a few flaky parathas, or, my favorite application, thick chunks of crusty bread.

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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