Vegan Chana Masala with Cashews & Mushrooms

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On my recent European trip I indulged in as much Indian food as I could, in two weeks and four countries. Hands-down the best Indian food is always in London (and I’ve been to India). Just recently, I found a vegan restaurant in Piccadilly, London which inspired me to share with you one of my own vegan creations – a version of traditional chana masala with extra stuff added (and butter subtracted) to make it extra yummy. I’ve been mastering the art (through decades of trial and error) of Indian spices in lacto-vegetarian cooking since 1982 (I’ve just been vegan for the last 2 years) so again, I never measure anything, I go with the flow, so I’ll try to use exact quantities here.  I’m cooking it here at home as I write this. Rule number one of Indian food preparation – NEVER buy pre-made curry powder. Make your own. It’s easy!  As complicated as I am as a person, I’m also a bit lazy.  The same can be said about my recipes.  This dish tastes complex but it’s actually easy, once you get the hang of it.  Kind of like yoga, kind of like everything.

INSTEAD of Ghee or Butter, choose the compassionate and super healthy, rich-in-anti-oxidants alternative, coconut-oil, which also happens to be decadent tasting! Fortunately it is grown and made right where I live in Bocas Del Toro, Panama. Don’t be afraid to use it abundantly! It is the ONLY oil when heated that DOES NOT TURN RANCID, so please DO NOT use vegetable oil, canola or olive oil as a substitute. Trust me and go with the coconut oil – it’s worth the splurge, for health, taste and compassionate benefits. If you live in Bocas Del Toro, and don’t know where to get these specialty Indian spices you can find them at King’s Food in Panama City, Panama the next time you take the one-hour flight there.  If you are fortunate enough to live in a place with mail service, you can easily order them online.  Indian spices are known for their cancer-fighting properties.  They also increase circulation, so are beneficial to all places of your body, including your sexual health.  This makes a hearty, healthy full meal.

1/2 Cup Coconut Oil

One Large Red Onion – chopped

4 or 5 Cloves Garlic – chopped

In a stainless-steel-pan carmelize onion & garlic together in coconut oil (that means take it to a high heat, then simmer until they turn brown – this makes the onion turn sweet). Turn off heat, and set aside for now.

In separate pan with deep sides (do NOT use non-stick teflon or aluminum – it is nasty and toxic – only use quality stainless steel):

One cup Coconut oil

1 Tablespoon Black Mustard Seeds

Bring to a high-heat, then bring heat down to low until the black mustard seeds POP. Once they’ve popped, immediately take them off of the heat.

It is VERY easy to BURN Indian spices (which turns them too bitter – they are kind of like people in that way), so please, wait until the Black Mustard Seeds have cooled down to a very low-simmering heat (better to play it safe and just turn off the heat at his point) and add the following to the already warm oil:

Pinch of Cumin Seeds

1 or 2 Tablespoons of Sesame Seeds

A pinch or two of Hing (Asafoetida Powder)

½ teaspoon Ground Ginger

2 Tablespoons Tumeric Powder

2 Tablespoon Garam Masala

1/2 Tablespoon Coriander Powder

1/2 teaspoon Cumin Powder

½ teaspoon ground Cayenne Pepper or few of dashes of Tabasco Sauce (optional)

pinch of ground Cloves

pinch or two of Ground Cinnamon

2 or 3 Bay Leaves

Once the spices have been allowed to immerse, and stir lightly, in the relatively low-heated oil for a few minutes, turn the heat back on to low and then add in the already prepared onion & garlic, and the following:

32 Ounces Chick Peas (Garbanzo Beans – you can used canned/rinsed ones here if you want)

8 Ounces Cashew Nuts (unsalted preferably – if all you can find is salted, then do NOT add salt later on)

1/4 Cup Golden Raisins – this adds a touch of sweetness to balance out all the piquant

1 or 2 Cups of fresh mushrooms cut into quarters (do NOT used canned mushrooms)

1 large fresh Ripe Tomato chopped (do NOT used canned tomatoes, they are toxic)

2 or 3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice

2 Cups Water

1/2 teaspoon Salt (if you didn’t use salted Cashews)

Let the whole mixture, of all ingredients combined, simmer for at least ½ hour for the flavors to mix.

Garnish with freshly ground black pepper and chopped Cilantro (optional).

Have a bottle of pure hot sauce (no preservatives, artificial flavours, colours, gums, sugars, etc.) on the table to dash on to adjust hotness to your taste.  I’ve found that if serving to others, it’s better to have it less spicy, then let each individual add hot-sauce at the table according to their tastes.  A simple sauce like Tabasco is good.  Do not use habanero sauce, as it’s so overpowering, it will mask the delicate blend of mixed spices of the masala you just created.  Serve with love and compassion for all beings and eat with gratitude in your heart.

You do not need rice or bread – that’s just needless starch fillers with little nutrients and take different digestive enzymes for your body to process anyway (more work for your digestive system), so just enjoy the simplicity of eating this one hearty dish as it is.  Also, to have optimal enzymes in your body for digesting such rich, cooked food, do not drink any liquids for 1/2 hour before, during or 1/2 hour after eating.  Make sure to stay plenty hydrated the rest of the day.  Love from the tropics where we are not afraid to sweat.