Chana Masala. Those two words set my mouth watering before I can say them out loud.
I bought this huge can of chickpeas from the warehouse store the other day– bigger than two people can possibly use up in a week’s time, but a six-pound can for under $3 just looked too good to pass up to someone who thinks she could eat chickpeas for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert. Well, maybe.
So I got home, promptly opened the can, and did the easiest thing I know to do with chickpeas– made hummus. I still had a ton of chickpeas left over so they went into a box and in the refrigerator (this is common sense but don’t store your leftover canned goods in the can) and there they waited for a couple of days until I started to squirm at the thought that those idle chickpeas might be planning to go rogue on me. And although I am not the least wasteful person you’ll ever know (I am embarrassed to admit that, but it’s true), the idea of wasting all those delicious chickpeas just didn’t sit well with me.
So into the kitchen I went and cooked up some chickpea burgers that I shared with you the other day. I still had a truckload of chickpeas left over. And then, as I wondered what to cook for our friends Willis and Naomi who were coming home for dinner this past weekend, the light bulb went off. Chana Masala, of course.
Chana Masala is a surefire crowd pleaser — no one who loves Indian food does not love this tangy, spicy, tomatoey dish. It is also a supremely healthy dish, packed with protein and fiber and low in fat. And for the time-starved cook Chana Masala can be a blessing, especially if you have the right ingredients on hand.
I had shared a chana-masala-from-scratch recipe with you on this blog long ago, and that post includes a recipe for Bhatura, a delicious, puffy fried bread often served with Chana Masala. This recipe is almost as good for half the trouble and time. The only thing you need to chop up is onions and coriander, if you are using it as a garnish. You do need ginger and garlic paste, but here’s a time-saving tip– if you cook Indian food often, take some time on a weekend or a slow night to make some ginger-garlic paste and store it in the refrigerator.Here’s a simple recipe for that:
Ginger-Garlic Paste: Take 4 heads of garlic and a 4-inch piece (or pieces adding up to 4 inches) of ginger. CHop roughly, place in a blender and whiz, adding just enough water to keep the blades moving. You should have a thick paste at the end of it. Scrape it all into a mason jar and store it in the refrigerator where it can sit for weeks, saving you time every day.
Now on to the main recipe, for my quick and easy Chana Masala. It’s a keeper. Our friend, Willis, a carnivore for sure, eyed it, proclaimed it “Bill Clinton food,” then proceeded to devour it anyway.
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas (if you decide to take the long way and cook with dry garbanzo beans, soak them overnight and cook with enough water to cover until they are really tender. It should take about an hour or more. You want the cooked chickpeas to be mashable)
- 3-4 cups vegetable stock (preferable) or water
- 1½ cups canned, pureed tomatoes
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 heaping tbsp ginger-garlic paste
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper (use less if you want less heat)
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp chana masala powder (You can find my recipe on the DIY spice blends page and you can make a batch and keep it for future use, but even easier, you can also buy this at the Indian store.Use garam masala if that is all you have on hand)
- 1 tsp aamchoor (mango powder, also at the Indian store)
- 2 tsp sugar
- ½ cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
- Salt to taste
- Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When they sputter, add the onions.
- Add some salt and saute the onions over medium heat until they start to get brown spots. Add ginger and garlic and saute for a few seconds.
- Add the tomato puree and the powdered spices, including the turmeric, cayenne, paprika, chana masala powder and aamchoor. Let the mixture cook until the tomato puree is a few shades darker and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. Scrape so it doesn't burn. This should take about 5 minutes.
- Add 2-3 cups of the vegetable stock or water and chickpeas and let the curry come to a boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Add salt and sugar. If the mixture is too dry, add more stock or water
- Garnish with the coriander and serve hot with rotis, bhatura or rice. I love it with some simple pilaf rice