The Washington Post had a recipe for an Indian-inspired Caribbean dish called aloo channa. In Indian cooking, aloo means “potato” and channa means “chickpeas,” so what’s not to love about that combination? The potatoes are cooked in curry powder, but there are also New World chiles in the dish. It wasn’t like anything I’ve tried cooking before, and it’s a vegan dish, so perfect for Meatless Monday. Also, I thought it was a nice recipe to honor our new VP, Kamala Harris, whose father immigrated from Jamaica and whose mother immigrated from southeast India.
I’m ashamed to say that until I read this recipe, I didn’t know there was a large India Indian influence on some Caribbean cooking. Apparently once slavery became illegal under British law, the English replaced their slave labor from Africa with indentured servants from one of their other colonies–India. So apparently, there are a number of dishes that combine the Indo-Caribbean ingredients for the original fusion cuisine.
As usual, I took my Captain Barbasso “They’re more like guidelines” approach to the recipe. The one from WaPo called for canned chickpeas, but I never do that. So I cooked the beans in the Instant Pot while I sautéed onions in oil bloomed with curry powder, then added diced potatoes to simmer. Once everything was cooked, I chopped scallions, cilantro, and chipotle peppers (it was supposed to be Scotch Bonnet, or Habaneros in a pinch, but instead I used what I had) and mixed them in.
I have to admit that this wasn’t my best dish. I’ve never had it, so I don’t know what it is supposed to taste like. It wasn’t bad, and it was warm and filling on a cold, rainy January night. However, I think I overcooked both the potatoes and the beans, because they were both kind of mushy. Of course, mushy potatoes and mushy beans are great comfort food, but I think the dish needed a bit more contrast in textures. Also, some bites seemed more curry-like, whereas in other bites the peppers dominated.
However, we’re going to give it a night for the flavors to meld; that may solve the second problem. The recipe had recommended serving it with rice and/or naan, but that just seemed like too much carbohydrates (we had green beans instead). However, I have a really nice mix of multi-colored heirloom American wild rice (which is technically not the same as the grain we call rice, but a form of grass) that has a lovely chewy bite to it–not to mention having fewer calories, more protein and fiber, more macronutrients, and 30 times the antioxidant benefits of white rice. So I think I’ll serve this again tomorrow over wild rice , plus with more scallions, and see if we don’t like it better with time and a chewier companion.
I realized that I haven’t really tried cooking many Caribbean dishes, so I may try investigating that more in the coming weeks. So thanks, Madame VP, for the inspiration!