Self-Inflicted Food Challenge- Part II

Coconut milk, broccoli, ginger, chickpeas, banana thrown into hot liquid (for creaminess and sweetness), and fresh pasta. Seemingly relatively easy ingredients compared to the previous food challenge where White Castle was thrown in to the mix. I’m still not over that soggy bun… And that “meat.”

Food challenge #2 ingredients + fresh pasta
I won’t reveal what I made quite yet, but after this challenge, I was feeling creative and great about the outcome until I Googled one of my creations and found out that someone had created it already. Yeah, yeah, yeah I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, but seriously! Then I reminded myself that pretty much everything exists in the world of Google. Take for instance a.) tiger in pajamas, b.) dog and cat hugging, c.) disco chicken.
Tiger in pajamas.
Dog and cat hugging.
Disco chicken…

The strangest things exist, even in cartoon or photoshop-form. I’m willing to bet that nobody has combined all the elements of my dish in the same way though, and I guess that’s what really matters to me.

I could have taken the easy way out and just thrown all the ingredients into one pot, but that was against the rules of this challenge. Originally, I was going to make homemade pasta using chickpea flour, but as I was doing some searches, I read about so many pasta failures. The biggest one being that chickpea flour can’t form a strong protein network like regular pasta, so that when thrown into boiling water it can go from noodle to mush. In traditional flour-based noodles, gluten is the protein responsible for making up the structure of a noodle. Starch is essentially held in by the gluten network. With chickpea flour, you have some protein, but you don’t have a strong protein network made of gluten. With a poor protein network, the starch granules can more readily escape into a pot of boiling water, creating a pot of mush. Chickpea pasta will hold up better when stabilizers like gums are added to the dough, but I like to stay away from these ingredients. While I’m a risk-taker, I wasn’t ready for a chickpea pasta failure. Plan B, it was.

I began thinking about some of the food I’ve tasted during my travels throughout Europe, and one food stuck out: spätzle. This is a soft egg noodle or dumpling common in countries like Switzerland, Austria and southern Germany.

Spätzle with schnitzel in Southern Germany
I had made spätzle with my swiss sis before, and purchased the spätzle-making equipment, I just haven’t used it in years. The basic components of a spätzle dough are flour, eggs, salt and milk. I looked up a recipe in order to begin to understand the proportions of flour to eggs to liquid, and I got started with my chickpea spätzle. And to accompany the spätzle, I made a coconut banana curry sauce, which ended up being delectable!
Chickpea Spätzle with Coconut-Banana Curry Sauce
Chickpea Spätzle

Sometimes I like to do things in the most difficult fashion ever, so I started with raw chickpeas. Since chickpeas are so hard and are difficult to grind into a powder without some strong blades, I brought some chickpeas in to work and used the lab’s beloved Vitamix to grind the chickpeas into a fine, light powder. If you end up recreating this recipe, I suggest using ready-made chickpea flour versus starting from the raw beans. This will be easier and convenient. And it turns out that raw beans contain a substance that is hard to digest and may cause some irritation if not properly removed by soaking the raw beans and discarding the soak water. I’ve got a stomach of steel, so this wasn’t a concern for me. Just be warned.

In a large bowl, blend 1-1/8 c of chickpea flour, 1/4 t pepper, 1/4 t curry powder, and 1/8 t salt. Whisk in 1 egg and 1/4 c coconut milk, forming a soft batter. With the basic spätzle recipe that I had looked up earlier, I actually ended up having to add more chickpea flour to liquid because the dough was super sticky. After forming the batter, the dough will still be a little sticky, but that’s okay. Resting the dough while you boil a large pot of water and make the coconut-banana curry sauce will reduce its stickiness.

Semi-sticky dough made from CHICKPEAS.

When your large pot of water has come to a boil, it’s time for the fun part! It was also nerve-wracking for me because I wasn’t sure if I would end up with a pot of bean paste.

This is what my spätzle “screen” looks like. It’s very basic. You can also use anything with 1/4″ holes or a coarse grater or strainer.

Spätzle setup

Dividing the dough in half, put the dough on the screen and using a spatula held at about a 45 degree angle, push the dough through the holes.

I was too focused to take a picture of actually forcing the dough through the holes, so this is my dirty screen afterwards.
Stir the spätzle to separate and boil 2-3 minutes. The noodles will be floating at the surface. Using a fine sieve or slotted spoon, scoop the noodles out of the water and spread out on a baking sheet. Repeat until all dough has been cooked.

Scoop out of water with slotted spoon.
Lots o’ chickpea “pasta!”

When your coconut-banana curry sauce is getting close to being completed, heat 1/2 T coconut oil in a frying pan and pan fry the spätzle until golden brown.

Coconut-Banana Curry Sauce
I’ve made coconut curry sauces before, but I’ve never added a banana to the sauce. Thanks to Carol for the inspiration! The last time I made a curry, I wanted to thicken up my sauce without adding starch, so I blended some of the coconut milk with chickpeas until I got a fine paste and then added it back to the pot. This time, instead of chickpeas as a thickener, bananas were my tool. Bananas are a very starchy fruit, and thus were most likely going to be a very functional thickener for my sauce.

Heat 1 t coconut oil and add 2 cloves of garlic and a 1″ piece of fresh chopped ginger (you can never have enough ginger and garlic) in a medium frying pan. When the garlic and ginger are lightly brown and fragrant, add the remaining can of coconut milk, 1 t curry powder, a dash of dried basil, 1 t soy sauce and 1 t chili garlic sauce.

When the mixture comes to a boil, add 1 banana broken up into smaller chunks. Use a whisk to smash the banana and create a more homogenous mixture. It was impossible to remove all the banana lumps, so use a blender/magic bullet to process the lumpy sauce in to a smooth mixture.

Proving to be a very useful tool in my kitchen!

Transfer the sauce back to the frying pan. Add broccoli (up to your discretion how much you want to add), and cook until tender.

The best way to enjoy this meal is to mix the spätzle with the coconut-banana curry sauce, or serve the sauce on top of the noodles. Since a higher protein (chickpeas) replaced the all purpose flour in the spätzle dough, this ends up being a surprisingly filling meal! Great for leftovers, too 🙂

The final product!

Cleanup was a little messy, but the delicious flavor-loaded meal was all worth it in the end.

Part II of this cooking challenge and blogging are complete. I look forward to writing about my last meal, which incorporated avocado, quinoa, cilantro, Italian sausage and taco salad. I thought I had it in the bag, but my first attempt at creating a delicious recipe resulted in a major recipe fail and a pile of shit on my plate that triggered my gag reflex. It makes for much better story telling though!

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