Sliced bread with channa and naram pav with chawra ma gosh. From the working mother's guidebook to salvation.

Today's lunch of leftover channa with multigrain wholewheat bread

Running a working mother's kitchen


Legumes featured regularly in our dinners at home in Kolkata during my school and college days. Rajma, lobia, dried green peas, dried split peas (motor), green moong, Kabuli channa, et al. I doubt if their use was as prevalent in other Bengali households back in the mid to late 1980s and the early 1990a. Their presence in our kitchen was possibly a hangover of my mother's growing up years in Delhi. 

I was (and still am) a fussy eater. She was a working mother and this involved almost 4 hours of travel in buses everyday to and back from the BK Girls College in Howrah where she taught. Asking the cook to make a different legume every day on weekdays helped her take care of my demand for variety on the table and somewhat counter my ennui towards vegetarian meals. Meat, chicken primarily, was reserved for the weekends. Fish was not something that caught my fancy either back then. 

I did not make it easy for her did I?

Of the lot, the one legume that I did not care for much was what she called lubia and what I have seen North Indians call lobia. Chawli and chawra in Mumbai and black eyed peas for you, if you are not from India. It would feature at least once a week on our table and would sap the joy out of my life when it did.

I have had it in office canteen thalis after I loved to Mumbai. The Maharashtrian version I guess. Never liked it.

My wife, a Parsi, loves it though. They call it chawra. Which is why lubia continues to feature on our table. I am still not too fond of it except when our cook, Banu, makes a spicy version. We do not add alu to it now unlike back home in Kolkata when cubed potatoes would be added to almost every legume dish (barring green moong).

Mutton is always the answer


The Parsis have a trick up their sleeves though when it comes to chawra and one which makes it work for me. They add meat to it. My wife loves chawra ma paya, black eyed beans with goat trotters. They have the dish in winter as it is supposed to warm the body and strengthen immunity. The slithery skin of trotters put me off and I am not a fan of paya I am afraid.

The other option, chawra ma gosh, I heart. Blackeyed beans with mutton. K had bought some mutton on Saturday and I suggested that we have chawra ma gosht for lunch on Sunday.

Sunday lunch of chawra ma gosh with naram pav

My mother in law was with us over the weekend and she showed Banu how to make it. Marinate the meat with spices, bhuno it (dry cook) and then add the meat to the chawra and cook the two together. Do not ask me for the recipe. I suspect the spices are Banu's. 

Like me mother, my mother in law too was a working mother. She worked in a bank. While both our mothers ran the kitchen at home, cooking is not something that excited either of them.

"Naram pav is a must with chawra ma gosh," said my mother in law and I did pick some from the corner shop. She was spot on with her advice. 

Mopping up the meaty dish with soft pav made Sunday so special.

The legend of Kabul


This reminded me about my favourite legume dish from my childhood dish. Kabuli channa. Mom would make this sparingly when I was a kid. It was more expensive than the rest, she explained. Unlike the other legumes which would be bought in larger quantities, she would only buy as much channa as required for a meal when she did buy it. And it sure did taste special.

Interestingly, while we would have most of the other legumes with roti (made by cooks or bought from shops as mom did not make them), I have memories of having kabuli channa with sliced bread or soft bread buns. 

Coincidentally, the mini-me of kabuli channa, ghoogni made with motor (dried yellow peas), is paired with sliced bread or small loaves of breads from local bakeries in Kolkata too.

I do not know why. I guess somethings are just meant to be.

Pahargunj to Bandra


Delhi to Mumbai



Which is why I decided to toast some bread this afternoon and have it with the excellent channa that our friend Annu had made for a gathering yesterday. She is the queen of channa and had recently sent us some excellent halva channa puri too on Ashtami, a Punjabi tradition. 

Paired with the channa at the meet yesterday were the typical of Delhi, bread kulchas, which our friend Priyanka had got from Camy wafers. This is different from the tandoor made kulcha of Amritsar which is served with channa too. The most famous channa pairing is of course the channa bhatoore. 

While I have had it in many restaurants in Kolkata, Mumbai and in the channa bhatoore homeland of Delhi, the ones most precious to me are the home made bhatoores that my PG aunty would serve on Sundays in her house when I had just moved into Mumbai.  Sunday deserves a treat said this Punjabi lady who was the one who first made Mumbai feel like home to me.


I basked in the reflected glory of Annu's channa yesterday as the masala that she used was the one that I had got her from Sita Ram bhatoorewala from Delhi's Paharganj.

The bread that I had today was the multigrain wholewheat bread that I had called from Birdsong Cafe a couple of days back. The joy was not quite the same, I confess, as it would have been with the soft white commercial bread of my childhood from Modern.

But then, 'life is not all ha ha hee hee,' as Meera Sayal said.

Halava puri channa
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