Chana masala is a delicious Indian dish that would be great for the spring. I still vividly remember the first time I had chana masala at a friend’s house. He had us over for dinner when his parents came to visit like 25 years ago. I did not even recognize the chickpeas … I actually thought they were chestnuts. I never got the recipe but his mother gave me some tips. (Thanks to the internet I found this recipe on line and I think it is very close to what we had that night).
Chana means garbanzo beans and is the main ingredient in the dish. IMO it is crucial to prepare these beans properly. I remember our friend’s mother told me to cook the beans for a long time. They should be cooked for 3 hours or you can use a pressure cooker according to its instructions, of course. Cooking for this long will soften the beans and let the flavors come out. So if time is not an issue, I would recommend home cooked chickpeas instead of using the canned ones. The canned beans will not have the same results for sure.
Garam masala is the main spice in the dish. It is not just one spice but is actually a cleverly chosen mixture of a few spices: fennel seeds, star anise, mace, black cardamom. It is nicely balanced so one flavor will not overwhelm the dish. You can blend it yourself or you can just buy it. (I ended up buying it at the store).
This is a common dish that people in India make on a regular basis for lunch or dinner. It has an interesting flavor, taste and texture. It can be made less spicy, if you don’t like spicy dishes, just leave out the green chili. So chana masala is basically a chickpea curry cooked in an onion tomato sauce with the spices. I always wonder how poor people in India get by on very little money and still eat well. This dish might be one of their secrets …
-I doubled the recipe
serves 3-4 people
- 1 cup of dried chickpeas or 1 (15oz) can
- 3 cups of water
Ingredients for the tomato sauce
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil/ghee
- 2 large onions, finally chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 inch ginger piece, finally chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2-3/4 TBSP of red chili powder (adjust to taste)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- salt to taste
Ingredients for the chana masala gravy
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 inch cinnamon stick (If you double up the recipe, you will not need to add another cinnamon stick)
- 2-3 clove pieces
- 3 green cardamom pods without the shells.
- 1 green chili pepper, chopped (optional)
- 1-1 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 2 pinch mango powder (amchur) (optional)
- fenugreek leaves (optional)
- coriander leaves
Clean and soak the chickpeas for at least 8 hours. Pour off soaking liquid. Add fresh cold water and cook for 3 hours. Less for pressure cooker. Save cooking liquid. Omit if using canned beans.
Directions for the tomato sauce
- Sauté the onions in oil or ghee until golden. Add the chopped ginger for 1 minute, stir.
- Add red chili powder and turmeric. Stir for 1 minute. Add garlic quickly, stir.
- Quickly add chopped tomatoes and little salt, stir. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until there is a nice sauce. The onions should not taste raw.
- Let this mixture cool. Add 1 tbsp liquid from the beans. Make a thick gravy with a blender. Set aside.
Directions for the Chana masala gravy
- Dry heat the spices (cinnamon stick, bay leaf, cardamom, clove) in a pot for 1 minute until you can smell the aroma of the spices. Stir. I grind the cardamom as some people don’t like them in their foods whole.
- Pour the blended tomato sauce mixture from the previous step back into the pot, the chopped green chili pepper, coriander and garam masala powders and the spices.
- Mix and cook for a few minutes until ingredients are mixed nicely.
- Add the cooked chickpeas and the cooking water. You might have to add more water.
- Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes.
- Taste the mixture and see if you need more garam masala. Boil and simmer for 2 more minutes if spices were added.
- Take out the larger spices like bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves.
- I also added salt here.
- Keep it covered until served.
- Serve hot with cilantro, yoghurt, lemon, rice, vegetables and roti.