SPICE KIT VARIATIONS
In many of my Spice Kit recipes you can substitute some of the key ingredients or add others to make a delicious variation on the basic recipe. Here are some I can recommend; if you have any others, I'd love to hear about them.
For this Spice Kit recipe, you can use dried chickpeas instead of canned. Use 1 cup or 250 gms of chickpeas instead of the 2 cans on the recipe card, and use either of the methods below.
- Method 1 (overnight soak): Soak the chickpeas overnight. Strain/drain the chickpeas. In a large pot put the drained chickpeas, add about 2 inches of fresh water, a tiny pinch of baking soda, salt, Spice Sachet 1 and boil or pressure cook till done.
- Method 2 (quick soak): Rinse chickpeas in cold water. Put them in a large pot and cover with about 3 inches of cold water. Bring to a boil, shut the heat, cover and let it soak for 1 hour. Drain the water, put the chickpeas back in the pot, add about 2 inches of fresh water, a tiny pinch of baking soda, salt, Spice Sachet 1 and boil or pressure cook till done.
I also love using Pedrosillano chickpeas instead of the regular chickpeas. They are much smaller in size and are very popular in Spain. It has a very thin soft skin that doesn’t peel after being cooked. I am fortunate that my Food Coop carries it, but if you Google it you can find many online shops that can mail it to you.
You can substitute other types of yellow lentils to make this dish. They take longer to cook but taste great, and include Toor or Arhar dal (also known as Yellow pigeon lentils) and Chana dal, which is very popular in Bengal. Though the latter takes even longer to cook, it is lovely and apparently has a very low glycemic index. It doesn’t turn to mush like the other yellow lentils and works very well in this recipe.
Shrimp Masala Dal: Shrimp or small prawns are often added to dals in Bengal. I tried it with my Masala Dal and it was fantastic. Follow the recipe in the Spice Kit till the tomatoes are cooked (step 6). Then add the shrimp and mix well, cook for a few minutes till the shrimp is cooked, but not overcooked. Add to the boiled lentils or vice versa. Mix well and heat for 2 minutes before serving.
You can substitute other types of yellow lentils to make this dish, such as Toor or Arhar dal (also known as Yellow pigeon lentils). It takes longer to cook but tastes great.
You can add peas to this recipe to make Aloo Gobi Matar. Use 2 medium potatoes instead of 3. Wash and rinse 1½ cup of frozen green peas. After the ginger-spice mixture is cooked, add the peas along with Spice Sachet 3. Mix well and cook uncovered for another 3-4 minutes.
This dish is wonderful with fresh whole green beans too. Use 1 lb of trimmed green beans instead of frozen green beans. This winter I have been using 1½ to 2 packets of Pero family farms fresh snipped green beans that are absolutely fantastic.
You can optionally add 2-3 shallots (sliced) after adding Spice Sachet 2, and sauté them till translucent before adding the green beans.
Broccoli Poriyal: Broccoli is not a vegetable traditionally used in India, but it works really well. Use 1 lb broccoli florets instead of the beans. When I make broccoli I like to first plunge it in boiling water, drain immediately and put it in a bowl of ice water to keep its brilliant green color before stir frying.
While the Spice Kit recipe calls for frozen spinach, you can of course make this dish with fresh spinach also. Fresh spinach tends to have a lot of sand and grit, so you have to wash it well at least 3 times. I discovered a fantastic (albeit somewhat expensive) alternative: I used a 1 lb bag of Taylor's triple washed baby spinach instead and it was fabulously easy. Cook the spinach with 1/4 - 1/2 cup of water till completely wilted. If you want to retain that bright green color, keep a large bowl of ice water on the side. Once completely wilted, dunk the spinach in the ice water before pureeing and adding to the sauce.
This dish traditionally is also made with fish. Use a firm white fish – I think blow fish will be great if you can get it. Cook it the same way as the shrimp but be much more gentle with the fish when cooking, so that it doesn't fall apart.
CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
The Spice Kit recipe calls for broiling the chicken in the oven, but of course you can cook it on a grill, should you have one. When using a grill, I cut the thighs only after I have grilled it. I also do not grill it till it is cooked through completely. And I baste it with oil and/or left over marinade while grilling. I cook it further in the sauce to keep it nice and moist.
You can use bone-in chicken for this dish if you prefer. It is better specially if you want to use breast meat instead of thigh. Score it deeply at about 1 inch intervals before mixing it with the marinade. Make sure it gets charred in the broiler/grill before adding it to the sauce.
You can make this dish with ground lamb instead of beef or turkey. It's quite delicious.