chana pulao - spiced rice and chickpeas with mango chutney

photo by karen messer
I decided to open Fuchsia when my kids were going off to high school. I’ve worked mostly from home since they were born but felt it was time to start something new. I like to cook because it enables me to nourish the people I love, and through Fuchsia there are a growing number of loved ones!

I use an assortment of edible flowers and flower salts in my cooking, such as pansies, nasturtiums, dianthus, lavender and roses. There are no real menu choices – there is a hot vegetarian meal of the day and in summer I usually make a salad or two as well. I heard someone tell another while explaining the place, “When you go home, you don’t tell your mom what you want to eat, you eat what she serves you.” That seems to sum up the feeling at the restaurant. It feels like home. Time passes more slowly and is more relaxed.

As for chana pulao and mango chutney, I love the complexity, simplicity and versatility of Indian food. I go to the Indian market not far from my house, and investigate any crazy ingredient that I can’t identify. It’s always a rich experience. I came up with these recipes going through various books and magazines, and numerous phone calls to my friend Seema’s gourmet mom in Toronto. I’m a total spice addict and to imagine a rice dish so simple packing such a punch in flavour with spices from cloves to cumin – I was hooked immediately.

I’ve done it with and without the chickpeas. It’s wonderful. As for flowers, I would serve chana pulao seasoned with a pinch of rose salt and garnished with chive blossoms, which bloom well into the autumn and add a pungent, fresh aroma to the proceedings.

This dish, like almost everything I prepare, involves and touches the people around me. Seema was an integral part of the creation and execution. We played with presentation together and consequently added new dimension to our relationship. After this particular dinner, dishtowels in hand, she sat next to me and said because of me she doesn’t miss her mom quite as much. It was such a beautiful compliment. Food and cooking can really bring out the beauty in people.

chana pulao (spiced rice and chickpeas)
serves 6
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp. minced garlic
3 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
¼ c. vegetable oil or ghee
2 bay leaves
4 c. sliced onion
spice mix (below)
2 c. basmati rice
2 tsp. salt
2 c. diced tomatoes
4 c. cooked chickpeas
1 tsp. turmeric
2½ c. water* (see note)
handful of cilantro
toasted almonds
rose salt
chive blossoms

spice mix
2 tsp. each of coriander, cumin, black pepper
1 tsp. each of ground clove, cardamom, cayenne
½ tsp. each of mace, nutmeg
1    In a large pot with a tight-fitting lid, sauté cinnamon, garlic and ginger in oil until fragrant, 1–2 minutes.

2    Add bay leaves, onions and the spice mix and continue cooking on medium-high until the onions are soft, 10–15 minutes.

3    Add rice and salt, stirring for 2 minutes.

4    Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, turmeric and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 25 minutes.
(*If using canned tomatoes: drain, reserving liquid, and add enough water to tomato liquid to make 2½ cups.)

5    Remove from heat and allow to sit for another 15 minutes. Top with yogurt, cilantro, almonds, rose salt and chive blossoms and serve.

mango chutney
¼ c. oil
1 tsp. fennel seeds
2 c. chopped, peeled green mango
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. cayenne
½ tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
¾ c. sugar
1    Heat oil and fennel, then add mango. Cook, stirring, until the mangoes start to soften.

2    Add remaining ingredients and continue to cook, stirring, over medium heat until mixture is bubbly and sticky. Add a small amount of water if necessary.

Binky Holleran is the chef and owner of Fuchsia, located at 54 Duluth St., Montréal, Québec. Tel: 514-487-3155

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