If you missed the earlier installments of the Pakistani Roti series, check them out here:
- Pakistani Roti Part 1: Introduction
- Pakistani Roti Part 2: Making the Dough
- Pakistani Roti Part 3: Shaping and Cooking the Roti
I love the vegetarian dishes of Pakistani cuisine: dal (lentils), bangan bharta (roasted eggplant puree), aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower). A few spices and the trinity of aromatics—garlic, ginger and jalapeños—transform the most ordinary of vegetables and legumes from commonplace into lively, satisfying meals.
The Pakistanis make equally delicious meat dishes, but they eat meat much less frequently than Americans do. In fact, butchers in Pakistan are required to close shop two days a week, meaning no fresh meat is available on those days. This gave birth to a national cuisine with vegetarian dishes at its heart.
Sam and I are not vegetarians, but we do consider ourselves “flexitarians” because we only eat meat a few times a week. While part of our decision to eat less meat was born out of Sam’s childhood in Pakistan, the other part is because we want to eat grass-fed or free-range meat. It’s more nutritious than factory farmed meat, but it’s also more expensive. So we simply eat less meat.
Dinners like this Pakistani-style potato chickpea dish make me forget that I used to eat meat at every dinner. The potatoes are filling and nutritious, and the two legumes—chickpeas and green peas—provide a substantial source of protein. Toasted coconut stirred in at the end is a little luxury. The dish can be mild or spicy, just add more or fewer jalapeños to suite your taste.
If you’ve never cooked any Pakistani or Indian dishes, this is a good starter dish because all the ingredients are available at any supermarket or grocery store. If you’re not up for making roti, you could also serve the potato chickpea mixture over brown rice (though white Basmati rice is more traditional).
1 ½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (I used red potatoes)
? cup dried grated unsweetened coconut
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 (3-inch) fresh jalapeño, coarsely chopped, including seeds
1 (2 ½-inch) piece peeled ginger, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tablespoon curry powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon turmeric
? cup vegetable oil
1 ¾ cups water, divided
1 large onion, chopped (about 3 cups)
1 (15-to 19-ounces) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ cup frozen peas (do not thaw)
½ cup chopped cilantro
Cut the potatoes into 1 ½-inch pieces. Transfer to a bowl and cover with cold water.
Toast coconut in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and wipe out skillet.
Toast cumin seeds in skillet over medium heat, shaking skillet frequently, until fragrant and just a shade darker, about 30 seconds. Transfer to another small bowl. Reserve skillet.
Purée jalapeño, ginger and garlic in a blender with curry powder, cinnamon, turmeric, oil, ¼ cup water, and 1 teaspoon salt until smooth. Transfer purée to skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until thickened slightly, about 1 minute. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften, about 8 minutes.
Drain potatoes, then add to onion mixture with cumin seeds and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are barely tender, about 10 minutes.
Add chickpeas and remaining 1 ½ cups water, scraping up any brown bits, then briskly simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender, 16 to 20 minutes more. Add peas and cook, covered, until just tender, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in toasted coconut and cilantro.
Serve with Roti and a side of steamed greens.
Potato Chickpea recipe from Epicurious.
How to Eat with Roti
Though rotis are similar in taste and texture to tortillas, it is not customary to eat rotis as you would tortillas, rolled up like a burrito or taco. Curries and masalas are served family-style at the table, and rotis are stacked, wrapped in a cloth and served at the table. Spoon some curry onto your plate and tear off a bite-sized piece of roti. Use the roti to pinch up pieces of the curry. No need for forks and knives! Just keep some napkins handy.