Doesn’t Chana Masala sound exotic? You know just from the name this is going to be a fun and tasty dish. We think so, too, and are a bit surprised that Madhur Jaffrey calls it Chickpeas in a Sauce in her book At Home with Madhur Jaffrey: Simple, Delectable Dishes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Of course, many people will find the latter name more descriptive, even if it is less poetic.
We decided to go with this dish soon after we made our scratched hummus. After all, we were cooking up garbanzo beans (chickpeas) for that, so all we had to do was set some aside for the Chana Masala. Once you start scratchin’ your meals, you’ll start doing things like this to save time. And, when you do it often enough, it turns out that many of your meals take the same amount of time as if you bought something from the store. Only they taste better, way better.
Makes 2 generous servings
- 3 Tbs olive oil
- 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 cup tomatoes, chopped
- salt to taste
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas with about 1 cup liquid
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp lemon juice
That’s a long list of spices, some of which you might not have on hand, but many are common to several Indian dishes, so, if you like Indian food, consider going over to your local ethnic market to pick them up. Often they are much cheaper. If you’re missing one or two of the spices, don’t worry, it’ll still be good. And, be careful with that cayenne — if you don’t like spicy, leave it out. Chickpeas, ideally you should boil them up from dried chickpeas, but we know that’s not always possible. When we buy the cans, we do try to get the organic kind, since we’ll be using the liquid, too.
Mise en place. Parts of this recipe goes quickly, so seriously consider getting everything ready before hand. We always chop the onion and ginger and measure out some of the spices and tomatoes.
Heat oil. In a large skillet, heat that oil on medium until it shimmers; you want the oil hot so the cumin seeds will pop a bit. Their flavor changes in the hot oil.
Cook cumin and onion. When the oil is hot, toss in the cumin seeds and onion and cook, stirring until the onions begin to brown.
Add ginger, coriander, cayenne, and turmeric. Stir this around for about 20 seconds. You want to cook these spices just a bit. Again, like the cumin seeds, the flavor will transform from dusty and raw tasting, to just plain tasty.
Add tomatoes. We used tomatoes from a can, and we knew that this brand breaks up easily in the pan, so we didn’t chop them. Other tomatoes we would have diced. Stir around the tomatoes for about a minute, scraping up any stuck bits. Add salt to taste.
Simmer. Turn heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add chickpeas. Add chickpeas and liquid and bring heat to medium heat until the sauce boils.
Simmer. Once again, lower heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Add garam masala and lemon juice. Then stir and cook uncovered for about 5 minutes. Since it is only a tsp of lemon juice, we don’t bother squeezing a lemon, but you could.
It’s always fun to make an exotic (well, exotic to non-Indians) meal that tastes this good. Since we’ve learned a couple of these dishes, we probably have something like this once a month or so, but it’s still missing some of the flavors that you’d find in a good Indian restaurant. Therefore, four stars.