Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chickpeas and Dals -- Nutritional Goldmines!

As you know, my sister's name is Chana. What you may not know is that her name means 'chickpea'! She was named that because she is a valuable treasure, and always appreciated.

In a similar way, chickpeas are a valuable treasure trove of nutrition, as are dals (or just dal), which are a kind of bean used very commonly in Indian cuisine. Basically, dals are lentils, peas, beans...legumes, for short. There is even chana dal, which consists of small chickpeas split and polished. Dals are great because they're easy and relatively quick to prepare.

The fact is, there are a lot of vegetarians in India. And dals have been used as a great source of protein for literally ages. Chickpeas were also always really popular, even from the ancient cultures in Mesopotamia.

What's great about chickpeas is that they have phenomenal amounts of protein, fibre, and things like that, while also having negligible amounts of fat and cholesterol. They're also incredibly versatile and make a great medium for all kinds of things.

Dals are also unbelievably nutritionally valuable, and there are so many different kinds with so many different, distinct flavours that they all bring something very different and very valuable to any meal. My favourite is masoor dal, which are often accurately called red lentils. They have a really gorgeous reddish-orange colour, and I like to run my fingers through the dried ones.

Yeah, I know, we all have weird habits. I'll bet you liked to stick your finger in the sugar when you were younger too, so don't laugh!

The reason why it's so important to be conscious of things like dals and chickpeas is because legumes give so much valuable protein, fibre, and other nutrients that everyone needs. Vegetarians especially are always in need of a good and reliable, healthy source of protein. But the added fibre is also really much-needed in most diets. In particular North Americans are often dangerously low in dietary intake, which can be disastrous for the digestion!

The savoury and rich, fulfilling taste of both dals and chickpeas is another asset to vegetarian diets. Having a fulfilling meal in terms of taste is important in managing a healthy diet. If a meal is fulfilling as well as being filling, you won't be tempted to eat more than you really should. If you eat unfulfilling food, you might feel you need to eat more in order to gain satisfaction. It's one of the major reasons why a lot of people's diets's because they don't feel satisfied by what they do eat, so they overeat.

How to Use This Stuff!

It's pretty easy to use dals. As long as you get split dals rather than whole, here's what you do:

1) Put out as much as you need in a bowl. Go through the dals and make sure there aren't any bad ones or little pebbles or anything, because sometimes they get in there.
2) Add enough water so that it is an inch over the dals. You may have to mix them up with your hand so that they all sink.
3) Cover with a tea towel and let sit for at least 2 hours.

If you have whole dals, you'll probably need to let them sit for about 8 hours, or overnight.

Canned chickpeas are awesome because you can just open them and voila. However, dried chickpeas are good too if you know how to handle them, because you can store them easily and buy them very inexpensively.

To prepare dried chickpeas, you can either soak them overnight (which isn't always overwhelmingly successful) or try this method:

1) Put out as much as you need in a pot.
2) Add enough water to cover them by an inch or two.
3) Bring to a boil and let boil for 1-5 minutes.
4) Take off heat and cover, letting sit for at least 1 hour.

Some recommend boiling in salt water, which adds a bit more taste and takes away some of the edge that dried chickpeas can have.

Another especially good method to use is a pressure cooker. If you cook dried chickpeas for about an hour in the pressure cooker, it is probably the best and most flavourful method of rehydrating them and preparing them for cooking.

So there you have it! Two really valuable and very affordable foods that anyone, regardless of diet, can enjoy. These will help your health and thrill your tongue!

I'll be providing you with some personal favourite recipes including chickpeas and dals soon. Since they're some of the best and most nutritious, fulfilling foods out there, you can bet you'll see them again in Demon in the Kitchen.

Until next time...

}:) Dhiar <3

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