A decade ago, my marriage to a UPite (Uttar Pradesh, a state east of Delhi), outside the chartered territory of the Haryana-Rajasthan-Delhi tristate area, caused quite a furore amongst the older generation of my family.
'They have nothing in common with us' was an oft-repeated refrain from my uncles and aunts. 'You'll have a lot to deal with culturally', they warned. 'They eat very different food- it will be an inconvenience for Guddo' - reminded my naani, very gently, but worried enough to slip out the much-hated (by me) childhood endearment. 'How dare you agree to let our only grand daughter go across the river', thundered my naana referring to the the River Ganges, a geographical and symbolic divide between two of the most fertile, similar and yet disimilar, states in India. My dad fretted and fumed about his decision for days but then decided that his daughter had been brought up liberally enough in the huge metropolitan melting pot of Delhi to be able to take a few cultural diversions in her stride.
After all this preamble, I felt pretty let down by the lack of the expected 'differences' in my new home. There were minor cultural deviations, mostly in celebrating festivals, but nothing on the food front. In fact, I tried really really hard to find foods specific to my in-laws native land- but failed; partly because I didn't really spend much time in India after marriage. Then a few years ago, I realized that a lot of A's friends (and mine too, by default) have their roots in UP. And when they got together reminiscing about their favorite foods, they did drop names that caught my attention. At first no one noticed. Then, they got a gentle reminder from yours truly that I wanted to try what they were talking about. And finally, last Thanksgiving, a dear friend R invited us to join them for dinner and experience Nimona. It was love at first bite. But I was too shy to ask for a recipe. R threw me a Birthday Party this year, and she not only made me her Nimona, but also parted with the recipe to the traditional version, as well as her mom's own Chane ka Nimona. Yesterday, for the first time I made R's mom's Chane ka Nimona for dinner....
Chane ka Nimona
(Bengal gram and potato soup)
Bengal gram/ Kale Chane 1/2 cup soaked overnight
Potato 1 medium boiled and cubed
Onion 1 small chopped
Tomato 1 small chopped
Green chillies 2-3 chopped
Ginger 1 inch piece grated
Salt to taste (start with 1/2tsp)
Asafoetidia/ Hing (a pinch- optional)
Red chilli powder to taste
Oil 1 Tbsp
A squeeze of lemon
Pressure cook the Bengal gram/black chickpeas till tender- takes a while despite soaking so be patient. Or use a slow cooker. Then allow to cool and puree 2/3 of them using an immersion blender.
Heat 1Tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan and add a pinch of Hing.
Now add the onions, saute till translucent.
Add the tomatoes, green chillies, ginger and spices and cook covered till the tomatoes reach a thick sauce-like consistency.
Now add the chana puree, leftover 1/3 portion of whole chana and potato cubes. Adjust water to get a soup- like consistency that you like. Bring it to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for 5-7 min.
Serve warm, with a dash of lemon, and rice on the side.
My two cents : When R told me how to make Nimona, I couldn't believe how simple the recipe was. In fact, I was so certain that she hadn't told me all the finer details that I cooked this last night with a telephone by my side- to call her if it didn't taste just like hers! But this was incredible. Under 30 min. in a pressure cooker, excluding the time for soaking, which is a rarity for me. And as a bonus, since they couldn't really see those beans, my two girls ate it gladly as well!! I was a winner twice over.