Grandmas and green chickpeas

There is something about fresh seasonal produce that I find quite irresistible. Ruby red tomatoes, creamy cauliflowers, shiny purple brinjals, crunchy white radish and the greens - spinach, fenugreek, dil and coriander - all alluringly beautiful.

Hence vegetable shopping these days is an exercise in self control. The husband has his own theory of course. He insists it's my all-encompassing shopping bug that does not even spare vegetables. 

Just LOOK at those colours. I clicked this one at Mahabaleswar but you do get the idea, right?

But really, they're so fresh and healthy that they're a complete delight to behold. I buy them and get them home and then don't quite know what to do with them. A case in point being chana or green chickpeas that make an appearance in the winter. It was Rachna who reminded me of them.

During winter months our grandmoms would sit in the warm afternoon sun in the angan, talking till the sun went down. Yet, they were never really idle. Even as they chatted, their hands would be busy knitting, cleaning rice or daal, making sewains (the handmade ones) or of course shelling peas or chana.

We’d be drowsing by, a book in hand. The clink of chanas dropping into the steel bowl took on a hypnotic quality. Through half open eyes we'd watch the bowl filling up steadily, while the branches with empty pods still on them, piled up on the other side. We’d chip in sometimes, eating more than we shelled, only to be shooed away.

They would then be ground by hand on a stone sil-batta to get a bright green paste, which was then cooked with the most redolent of spices - cinnamom and bay leaf, cloves and cardamoms black and green and many many others.

Finally it would turn into a thick shiny emerald green flavourful gravy. With a blob of home-made butter, it sat on a mound of equally aromatic basmati rice and made our winter lunches memorable. It was called the nimoma.

My grandmom would also make green boondi laddoos. She would grind chana, make tiny boondis (just like the ones made from gram flour) then add sugar syrup and bind them into delectable laddoos

The laddoos remained beyond me but the nimona I did try a few times. However, I never could get it right. It may have to do with the fact that I don’t quite have a master's touch when it comes to cooking. Or maybe I just don't have the meticulous way with ingredients that turns them into works of delicious art.

Mostly, I suspect, it's because, it is a mindboggling amount of work.

I cannot but marvel at how much dilegence and precision that generation put into cooking. That too without weights and measures and teaspoons and tablespoons. I'd watch in fascination as my grandmom would measure out the salt that went into our daily daal on the palm of her hand - and I'm talking rock salt crystals not the powdered salt we use today. She'd get it right each time, every time.

Here I am, not even able to make tea without precisely measuring out the water cup by cup and woe-betide anyone who changes the spoon in my teabox. I never could get the 'andaaz' thing right. 

So I stick with the simple and uncomplicated - like this salad. The recipe is here at Rachana's blog. I added flax seeds for extra crunch. Try it, it comes out great, I might add.

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