Chickpeas in a Spicy Cilantro Sauce, and BABY RACCOONS!!

This is my adaption of Madhur Jaffrey’s chickpeas in a mint sauce recipe from World Vegetarian. (I’ve linked to a blog that has the original recipe, but I got it from the book itself and I highly recommend it.) I adapted it mostly because I didn’t have any mint, and anyway, I was a bit skeptical about getting Mark – who claims not to like Indian food – to eat anything that tasted too minty. I also made substitutions for other ingredients I didn’t have.

Chickpeas in a Spicy Cilantro Sauce

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked (if you have a pressure cooker, you can use non-soaked if you must)
1/2 cup toor dal (the original recipe called for chana dal, which I thought I had but didn’t; you can also substitute yellow split peas)
1 large onion, chopped finely
1 large tomato, chopped
fistful of tamarind, or a few tablespoons tamarind paste
1-2 Tbsp chopped ginger
5-6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 jalapeno, chopped
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, or, in my case 2 cubes frozen cilantro (from Trader Joe’s)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp garam masala (I used the version in World Vegetarian)
1/4 tsp ground cumin

I actually soaked chickpeas when I left for work this morning, but managed to somehow overcook them when I started making this dish (I saved those for hummus), so I ended up using non-soaked chickpeas. So my time in the pressure cooker may be different than yours. Try just 5 minutes if pressure cooking soaked chickpeas, in water to just cover. I pressure cooked my non-soaked ones for 15 minutes in water to cover by about an inch. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, cook the soaked chickpeas in about 5 cups of water for an hour.

Measure the toor dal (or chana dal, or yellow split peas).

When the chickpeas are just barely tender, release pressure if pressure cooking, and open the cooker. Add the toor or chana dal and about a cup and a half of water. Bring back up to pressure and cook for another 15 minutes. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker, cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until both are tender.)


If you are using tamarind in non-paste form, place it in a glass and cover with hot water, and set aside. (These Luminarc glasses are a great size for this; they are kind of wide, which will later allow you to stick your hand in there.)

Hmm, that looks a little disturbing, but it’s really quite awesome.

Measure out the curry powder, ground coriander, garam masala, ground cumin, and salt.

I used Bolst’s curry powder.

Place the cilantro, garlic, ginger, jalapeno, and 1/4 cup water in a spice grinder or food processor.

Process until smooth.

Finely chop the onions.

Chop the tomato.

Stick your hand in the glass of tamarind and squish all around until it forms a paste.


When the chickpeas are done, set them aside. (You can boil off extra liquid first if you need to.)

Heat some oil in a wok over medium high heat and add the onions.

Cook until browned.

Add the tomatoes and cook until they start to break down.

Add the cilantro mixture and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the chickpea and toor/chana dal mixture. If necessary, add some water to make it kind of – but not overly – soupy. Add the spices, then the tamarind paste to taste. (By the ratio of the original recipe, this would be a bit more than 2 Tbsp, but I like a lot of tamarind in mine so I added about 1/4 cup.)

Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, cover, and cook for half an hour.

Remember how I said Mark thinks he doesn’t like Indian food? Guess who had two large servings of this? Guess who said these were the greatest chickpeas in the universe?! Smark, that’s who!

In other news…

So we’ve been visited by a couple of raccoons for a while now; I call them Rocky and Rachel. They used to enjoy overturning our recycle bin. I was always excited to see them because I love raccoons. When Brachtune was alive, though, she HATED the raccoons. She would scream like a banshee! You never heard such terrible noises come from a cat. Gomez and Torticia are more accepting – when a raccoon peers into one of our sunroom windows, they just silently stare back.

Several weeks ago, the cats and I heard footsteps in the attic. I knew it was a raccoon because they were heavy steps, but Mark NEVER managed to be in the room when I’d hear them, and he insisted I was insane. I also saw Rachel scaling the side of the house, but still Mark denied there was ever a raccoon in the attic. I only heard her periodically, though, so I never did anything about it. As far as I was concerned, she could stop by to visit if she wanted.

Last week, though, I started hearing the noises not just above the sunroom, but above our bedroom – which is at the opposite end of the house – as well, and I realized we probably now had a new family of raccoons. They’re mostly nocturnal, so there was a lot of creaking and thumping around right over our heads all night long, which drove us out of the bedroom and made me sleep-deprived for days. And then the chattering began. You may not know this, but baby raccoons make a kind of purring noise that could easily be mistaken for birds if you don’t know what it is. It’s actually really cute (search for “raccoon chatter” on youtube), but when it’s right over your head and you’re trying to sleep – not so much.

I know a little bit (and am gradually learning more) about wildlife laws in Virginia, and I knew that we have a really, really, really stupid law that says that if you remove a wild animal from a property, it must be “euthanized” (read: murdered). Most wildlife removal services (in this state) will kill whatever they remove from your house; sometimes they lie and say they “relocate” it, but if that’s true, they are breaking the (very stupid) law. I didn’t want that to happen, so I told our landlord I would handle everything (except paying for it! I love renting!), and called our local wildlife rehabilitation organization, who directed me to a company that will not harm the animals.

So the guy came out, went up into the attic, and very quickly snapped up three baby raccoons while the mother watched, popping them into a soft, fuzzy bag. He came back down from the attic and let me pet one. There are three of them, they are two weeks old, their eyes aren’t open yet, and I nearly passed out from the insane cuteness.

Then he climbed the roof with his bag o’ babies and tried to get them to cry for their mother, hoping to entice her to come out through the attic fan (which is how he figured she’d been coming and going) and rescue the babies. (Seriously: ridiculously cute. Look at their little tails!)

Rachel wasn’t being cooperative, however, and refused to come out. This meant extra work for the guy, but secretly I was glad because while he spent 15-20 minutes closing up holes, installing a one-way door on the attic fan, and putting together a box for the babies, my job was to play with them!

Baby raccoons are crazy cute. I mean, THE cutest. They are about 1,000 times more cute in person than these pictures show.

They have these amazingly dexterous hands, which were already gripping me. It’s easy to see how when they get older they will be able to root through my garbage and pull it apart. They are also incredible climbers, and these little guys were already trying to climb around, even though they can’t see!

When I was finished petting and cooing over them, I put them back in their fuzzy sack and sat it on my lap to keep them warm. Do you know how awesome it is to have a sack of baby raccoons on your lap?! (I’m not kidding. These were the cutest things I’ve ever seen.)

Meanwhile, the raccoon guy had put a special box on the roof, and once he was able to wrest them away from me, he put the babies in it. It has a flap the mother can use to get in and out. Raccoons have many alternate dens available at all times, so usually if they don’t come out right away, they’ll come out that night and rescue the babies. Unfortunately, our Rachel only collected one of the babies overnight and we still have two on the roof (who were at least fed while mom was around). The raccoon guy is coming back tomorrow to check on them. Hopefully the last two will be gone as well, but if not, they’ll be taken care of. If the mother ends up abandoning them, they’ll go to a rehabilitator until they are old enough to survive on their own, then they’ll be released back into the wild.

Raccoons are beautiful, fascinating, wonderful creatures. If you find yourself in the situation we were in, where they, or any other wildlife, have invaded your house, please research the laws of your state – Maryland and DC have the same awful one Virginia does – and find someone who can humanely evict them for you.


  1. FoodFeud Said,

    May 20, 2011 @ 12:10 am

    Oh MY GOD I LOVE those baby raccoons!! Unbelievably cute. I love their little tongues sticking out! My favorite stuffed animal as a kid – and the only one I still keep with me – was a stuffed raccoon named “Cershmile” (yeah, I don’t know either). I love them!
    The chickpea dish looks great as well…super smooth! I’m a big fan of Indian food so if an Indian food dis-liker approves, it’s gotta be good.

  2. FoodFeud Said,

    May 20, 2011 @ 12:12 am

    Obviously I was too distracted by the raccoons to mention – where do you find tamarind? I feel like I’ve seen it a few time in the grocery store but never when I search for it. I even checked Whole Foods for tamarind paste but couldn’t find it…am I looking in the wrong places? (PS yes that soaking tamarind photo does look very creepy.)

  3. renae Said,

    May 20, 2011 @ 8:13 am

    FoodFeud, an Indian grocery store would definitely have tamarind. It’s used in Thai cooking as well, so most Asian groceries will also have it. In Whole Foods, they probably only have the paste, and it would be in their International section; for some reason the Indian foods always seem to be on the bottom shelf in every Whole Foods I’ve been in, though it could also be with the Thai stuff, which my Whole Foods seems to be expanding. I got my last package of tamarind at Wegmans, which has a huge International section, so a very well stocked regular grocery store may have it as well; I’d look near the ethnic foods. The paste usually comes in containers that look similar to this. There are several pictures of the blocks (which I use) and a lot of great information here.

  4. Anna Said,

    May 20, 2011 @ 6:49 am

    Oh! Pure cuteness! I almost forgot the “chickpeas in a spicy cilatro sauce” part… Oh!

  5. renae Said,

    May 20, 2011 @ 8:15 am

    Anna, the chickpeas were very good, but they were little more than a vehicle for bringing you baby raccoon pictures. 🙂

  6. Josiane Said,

    May 20, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

    Amazing how one single post can contain both the cutest babies and the greatest chickpeas in the universe! That’s a whole lot of awesomeness in one neat little package!

  7. Mark Said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

    There is a video here

  8. Jes Said,

    May 23, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

    The chickpeas look delish (if only I could eat cilantro)! But the raccoons? I’m having to work so so so hard not to start squealing here in my cube. I’m so glad you found a place to take them to. Can’t believe laws here call for euthanasia. So wrong. Ugh.

  9. Amy Said,

    May 23, 2011 @ 9:48 pm

    I’ve never seen baby raccoons before!! I can’t believe you got to hold them, soooo cute!!!!

  10. kittee Said,

    June 15, 2011 @ 4:02 am

    ohhHHHHhhhhhhh uhhhhhhhhhh.
    so cute!!!!!!
    glad they are being taken care of. we have squirrels in our attic and crawl place and the sound drives me bonkers.


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