Saturday, July 30, 2016

Chana Masala

A big pot of chole or chana masala was customary in any late 80s - early 90's birthday party in my memory. An Indian vegetarian staple, chole is inexpensive, hearty, healthy and generally well liked by children and adults alike. Apart from my dad - he does NOT like chole! It is a bit of a running joke between us. We FaceTime quite often just around my dinner time. If I am having chole, I will tell him I am having "his favorite!" Then of course he has to guess which one of his 'favorites' it is - bhindi (okra), rajma (red kidney beans) or chole (chickpeas)! 

Skip the yogurt if you want to make this recipe vegan. It is vegetarian, gluten-free and overall awesome but it won't make your coffee for you.

Yield - Serves 2
Time - 40 Minutes


2 Cans Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)
1 Teaspoon Tea Leaves (or 1 Tea bag)
1 Black Cardamom
Baking Soda, a pinch
1 Onion
1 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds
1/4 Teaspoon Asafetida (Hing)
1 Tablespoon Ginger Garlic Paste
1 Tablespoon Yogurt
1/4 Can Whole Tomatoes
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Turmeric 
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Kashmiri Red Chili 
1 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin 
1 Teaspoon Ground Garam Masala 
3/4 Teaspoon Ground Amchur
3/4 Teaspoon Chaat Masala
1 Tablespoon Cooking Oil
Cilantro, a few sprigs
Water, as needed

Note - I always use Kashmiri Red chili powder in my recipes, which is much milder than other varieties. If you are using hot red chili powder, please adjust the quantity according to your heat tolerance.


Steep a teaspoon of loose leaf tea (or one tea bag) in a hot mug of water. In a sauce pan add the canned chick peas (drained and washed well), a pinch of baking soda and black cardamom. Pour the tea over it. Top it off with some water, if needed, to cover the chickpeas just to submerge. Don't add too much more. Chuck in the teabag or infuser in the pot. Cover and cook on medium heat till the chickpeas soften and take on a dark hue. About 6-7 minutes. Chop the onion to a fine dice while you wait.

In a skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil and add a teaspoon of cumin seeds and 1/4 teaspoon asafetida. Wait till it starts to crackle. Add the chopped onion and cook for 3-5 minutes till translucent. Add a dash of salt to help it along.

Add a tablespoon of ginger garlic paste and stir. Cook for another minute or two till the raw smell of the ginger and garlic is gone.

Add the yogurt. Stir and cook thoroughly.

Now add all the ground spices except chaat masala- turmeric, red chili, coriander, cumin, garam masala and Amchur. Stir it all well along with the onions. This is when I usually start coughing and sneezing at the same time because the spices are strong. Add a little bit of water, just enough to stop it from burning if you need to. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add canned tomatoes. Break them up using the cooking spoon if using whole canned tomatoes. You can use one large fresh tomato instead, in which case chop them fine before adding them in. Cook till the the whole thing is a paste.

Add a ladleful of cooked chickpeas to the above and mash them with the back of the cooking spoon just a little.

With a slotted spoon, add the rest of the chickpeas to the skillet (discard the cardamom and teabag), reserving the dark cooking liquid. Once all the chickpeas are combined add a ladleful of the cooking liquid. Adding all the liquid in makes this curry a bit too watery, so just add a bit at a time. Bring it to a quick boil. The chickpeas are pretty soft at this point so you don't want to cook them too much more. Adjust seasoning and sprinkle chaat masala. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Tuck in!


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