I wondered why a bag of Chappati Kallis / Cactus was sitting in my daughter-in-law’s refrigerator along with the other fresh and colourful vegetables! I almost had a panic attack when she said that she intended cooking the Cactus for dinner! I have never seen or heard anyone cook or eat Chappati Kalli in all my sixty five years of existence! I have seen them flourish in waste lands. I have also seen them planted in rows as borders to demarcate agricultural properties in rural areas. But eating the ‘kalli’ ? It seemed a bit far fetched! I browsed through the internet to make sure of the edibility of the ‘thorn’ considered to be a vegetable before I made an attempt to eat it. I came to know that the Nopales or the Prickly Pear Cactus or the Chappati Kalli also known as Opuntia is widely cultivated in Mexico and is extensively used in Mexican cuisine.
The next time my son guided me in the preparation of a Mexican dish using Cactus and Pinto Beans. It was fun learning to ‘tame’ the monster with thorns and prepare it for cooking!
Cactus pads – 2
Pinto beans – 2 cups
Onion – 1 (Sliced)
Elephant Garlic – 1(Sliced)
Jalapeno peppers – a few
Vegan Bouillon cube -1
TO PREPARE THE KALLI/ NOPALES FOR COOKING
1. Carefully hold the nodule at the base of the cactus pad in one hand and scrape out the thorns using a sharp knife.
2. Similarly scrape the thorns on the flip side.
3. Chop and discard the nodule.
4. Lay the scraped cactus pad on a cutting board and cut the edges and discard.
5. Make sure that all the prickly thorns are gone and wash the pads thoroughly under running water.
6. Cut the cactus pads into lengthwise strips.
7. Hold the cut strips together and chop them into small pieces like you would cut green beans.
8. Boil the chopped pieces in 4 cups of water adding a pinch of salt.
9. Cook for 15 minutes until the vegetable becomes soft.
10. Drain the cooked cactus pieces and wash with cold water. This removes the slime in the vegetable.
TO PREPARE THE CACTUS AND PINTO BEAN GRAVY
1. Soak the dry Pinto beans in warm water for 4 hours.
2. Drain the now softened beans and add 4 cups of water in a pressure cooker.
3. Add the drained beans, chopped onion, garlic, jalapeno peppers and the Vegan Bouillon cube.
4. Pressure cook until two whistles, switch off flame and allow to cool.
5. Stir in the Refried beans and the already cooked cactus to the pressure cooked beans.
6. Add more water if the curry is too thick.
7. Since the fried beans already contain salt additional salt is not needed.
8. Stir well and cook the curry for three or four minutes so that the ingredients blend well.
Garnish with more jalapeno pepper slices and enjoy the Mexican Cactus and Pinto Bean Gravy /Kalli Curry with Mexican Red Rice or Rotis.
UPDATED ON – 2/9/2016