Monday, November 17, 2014

A hundred year old split pea stew with crispy bread

My family has eaten this dish for centuries, stemming back to when they lived in Karachi, Pakistan, before the partition that lead them to leave everything behind and flee for their lives to India. There is a lot of bitterness there, a lot of heartache for my grandfather to talk about. But they have brought with them the good memories too, like what they liked to eat on late Sunday mornings. 

Daal pakwaan, which is basically split yellow peas (chana daal) with crispy fried bread is the most traditional Sindhi breakfast I know. Sunday breakfast is eaten around 11 after visiting the temple, so I guess you could just call it brunch. It is a very simple preparation of just a few main spices -- cumin powder, coriander powder and most importantly, dried mango powder (umchur) as it adds the perfect muddy sourness to this dish. And the crispy bread adds texture. Additions such as red onion adds crunch and freshness and pickles an extra tang. 

I found that it was the older generation that appreciated it more than the younger ones. But now that I moved all the way to Sweden and it's cold, dark November, I've revived it into my repertoire. Last year when we visited Bombay, my husband tried it for the first time and thought it was so unusual to eat such a heavy meal for breakfast, especially when compared to Swedish breakfasts. But as we now eat it mostly for lunch and dinner, he has no objection to this delicious meal! 

I do like to play with tradition though. Pakwaan is usually deep-fried and I'm just not interested in that. I made an identical version in the oven so I am pretty pleased with myself and look forward to our family reunion so I can convert everyone to baking them instead! 

As for those of you who have never known our tradition, put simply, it's split peas in a pleasing combination of spices with crispy bread -- a tostada of sorts, or crispy tacos if that's a better comparison. Because like tacos, you get to choose your additions, which creates even more excitement! Hope you will try this delicious stew filled with protein and iron, that at the end of the day, is a hundred year old recipe from Karachi, Pakistan, where my great grandparents used to live and used to eat. 
Daal Pakwaan
Serves 4-6
1 1/4 cups / 2 1/2 dl Chana daal (split yellow peas), soaked overnight
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tbs / msk grated ginger
A tiny pinch of asofetida (hing)

1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp dried mango powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
A pinch of chili powder

1. Rinse the Chana daal and boil with 3 cups (6 dl) water, turmeric, asofetida and ginger until tender but not mushy. (I boil mine in the pressure cooker on medium high heat for one whistle).

2. In a separate pan, heat oil and fry the coriander powder, cumin powder, dried mango powder and chili powder until fragrant and toasted. Pour into the cooked daal along with salt and bring to a boil. Turn off heat.

1 1/2 cups / 3 dl white rye or all purpose flour
2 1/2 tbs canola oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ajwain seeds (optional)
1/4 tsp cumin seeds (optional)
Some crushed black pepper
1/2 cup / 1 dl water

1. Preheat oven to 220C / 450F. Mix the flour, oil, salt, black pepper, seeds  and 1/2 cup water to make a stiff dough, using additional water if needed. Divide between 6 balls. Roll thinly (about 1/8 inch thick) and place on a baking tray. Bake for 4-6 minutes until golden. Flip if necessary to allow it to be golden brown on both sides.

Serve pakwaan with the daal on top along with extras such as chili powder, mango powder, red onion, lime and mango pickles. Enjoy! 

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