By Renu Jain Chandarana
This year Diwali falls on a weeknight, Wednesday, November 11th, to be exact. For my family, Diwali is a pretty big deal and I try and make a traditional meal with a few different curries. I even go all out, making naan from scratch. I usually pick a weekend close to Diwali to do this so that I’m not interrupting our chaotic weekday schedule of work, school, kids and activities. However, this year I’m proposing we have a special meal on Diwali night, hump day and all.
Where I live, November 11th is a statutory holiday to mark the very special and important Remembrance Day. Canadians acknowledge those brave soldiers who fought and are still fighting for good over evil, a theme that directly parallels the meaning of Diwali – light overcoming the dark. We burn candles and ‘diyas’ to light a path for goodness and prosperity to enter our homes. We make and deliver sweets to our friends and neighbours and shower them with good wishes, feasting together many times during the Diwali season.
This year, I think it is fitting to celebrate Diwali on Remembrance Day because it will allow for a special conversation at the dinner table. My daughter is in kindergarten and will be attending her first Remembrance Day assembly the day before. What a great opportunity for us to discuss what it means for good to overcome bad using both Western and Eastern stories, breaking bread (er, naan) together! This is unique for a weeknight because I usually eat standing up at the kitchen island while trying to shovel food into the kids before bath and bedtime.
BUT WHAT WILL WE EAT? Panic is not setting in this year as I’ve decided to keep it simple, yet authentic, practical yet traditional. Although that day is a statutory holiday for us, I don’t want to interrupt the rest of the week with loads of groceries and hours of kitchen time. I’ve noticed that I don’t have to order take out or make a trip that’s over 30 minutes away to the “Indian Market,” now that The Real Canadian Superstore has everything. The ethnic food aisle is fully stocked with anything you could possibly need for a simple and traditional weeknight meal or a quick fix for a weeknight Diwali dinner.
Here’s what you need to make weeknight Chana Masala in less than 30 minutes. All these products can be purchased at The Real Canadian Superstore:
- Tilda Basmati Rice – Extra long grains. It comes in a teal blue (as opposed to the usual royal blue) package and it is exquisite. The individual grains cook out to be longer than regular basmati rice and they look beautiful. I use a rice cooker (can also be found at Superstore).
- Patak’s Tandoori paste – This paste is a wonderful staple to have in your fridge. It adds a flavour to your Indian dishes that you might only find in an Indian restaurant. Those flavours take a long time to develop by layering different spices with onions and garlic and ginger. This paste has it already prepared and by adding a touch, you can have those deep lingering flavours in just minutes.
- Suraj Canned Chickpeas – I’m a dried bean fanatic. My pantry is full of jars of dried lentils and beans (we are vegetarian) and I invested in a pressure cooker so that I could prepare them fresh and freeze them for future use. It’s cost effective, healthy and you can control the sodium. For this recipe, I’m choosing canned chickpeas because they too are as healthy and will cut my preparation time and cooking time significantly. The Suraj brand is good quality, reasonably priced, and so accessible since it’s sold at Superstore.
- MDH Chana Masala – if you like making a chickpea curry –whether it is the low and slow way or the quick and simple way, MDH Chana Masala powder is the perfect spice blend. The blend mixes spices found in a North Indian style Chickpea curry – Coriander, salt, dry mango powder, dried pomegranate seeds, red chillies, cumin, dried musk melon powder, black pepper, black salt, dried fenugreek leaves, cloves, mint, nutmeg, dry ginger, cinnamon, bay leaf, black cardamom, caraway, mace and green cardamom. It is salty, tart, mildly spicy, earthy, warm, and authentic.
- President’s Choice Marinara sauce – if you think about making a curry like this you know you’ll need tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes. You can definitely just buy the plain tomato sauce or canned crushed tomatoes. I like PC brand Marinara because it is a more versatile product for my family – pasta, pizza on another day if I don’t use the whole jar. You’re also adding that much more flavor to your Chana Masala and there’s no need to add any salt to the curry.
- President’s Choice Naan Rounds and Little Naan Dippers – These little guys are priceless in my house. Whether it’s for eating with Indian food, making individual pizzas on, dipping into hummus or substituting burger buns with naan rounds, these are a staple in my house. I always have a pack in my freezer and they now come in whole wheat! But I like the traditional white naan for this recipe.
RECIPE: WEEKNIGHT CHANA MASALA
serves a family of 4-6
3 tablespoons neutral oil (I use grapeseed)
1 tablespoon MDH Chana Masala powder (if you want it mild for kids use ½ a tablespoon, add 2 if you want it stronger and spicier)
1 tablespoon Patak’s Tandoori Paste (or more if you want a stronger flavour, but it is quite potent)
1 cup President’s Choice Marinara sauce
1 798 ml (28 oz.) can chickpeas rinsed and drained
½ cup water (125 ml)
1-2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
Basmati rice and toasted naan, to serve
For the Rice:
To make the rice – follow the instructions on your rice cooker for white rice. For mine, I use two scoops (the scoop provided with the cooker equates to about ¾ cup) of the Tilda Basmati Extra Long Grain rice and I fill the rice cooker pot to the ‘2’ mark. I add a few cloves and a stick of cinnamon to make the rice more fragrant. My rice cooker takes about 20-25 mins to cook so I put the rice in the cooker before I start cooking my curry.
For the Naan:
Spread each naan with a little bit of butter and stack them on top of each other. Wrap the naan in aluminum foil and place the packet in your toaster oven or baking oven at about 300F. Let them get warm and soft while you cook the chana masala.
For the Chana Masala:
- Heat oil in a medium sized pot on medium heat. Add the chana masala powder and roast for 1 minute.
- Add Patak’s Tandoori paste and stir for one minute to combine spices.
- Add marinara sauce and stir until spices and sauce are mixed well.
- Add water, sugar (if using) and the rinsed and drained chickpeas.
- Stir gently until everything has been incorporated well, careful not to break the chickpeas. Partially cover and let simmer on low for 10-15 minutes.
Serve hot with rice, naan and a side salad of sliced cucumbers if you wish!
But wait…there’s more! How can you celebrate a weeknight Diwali without any dessert? Walk down the freezer aisle of your local Superstore and you’ll find Nanak Rasmalai. It’s the sweetest, softest, rasmalai west of New Delhi (beside’s my mum’s of course!). Nanak Rasmalai (frozen) is produced in British Columbia, made with milk not cream, is perfectly sweetened, and is a cost effective Indian dessert (you can get a 12pc box for under $10). Just remember to put it in the fridge the night before so you’re not defrosting it. I like it served chilled, but some like it room temp or a little warm. This dessert is such a hit with my family that we served it at my wedding.
I hope you can find some time during your week this Diwali to stop the work and school madness and enjoy the simplicity of this meal with your family or friends.
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