Easy Chana Masala

Chana MasalaI 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.

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Chana MasalaSo 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.


Chana Masala

Easy Chana Masala
Recipe Type: Curry
Cuisine: Indian
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
  • 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 [url href="http://holycowvegan.net/2014/01/vegetable-stock.html" target="_blank" title="Vegetable Stock"]vegetable stock[/url] (preferable) or water
  • 1 1/2 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
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp chana masala powder (You can find my recipe on the [url href="http://holycowvegan.net/2008/10/chana-bhatura-trip-down-memory-lane.html" target="_blank" title="Homemade spice blends"]DIY spice blends page[/url] 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
  • 1/2 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  1. Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When they sputter, add the onions.
  2. Add some salt and saute the onions over medium heat until they start to get brown spots.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. Garnish with the coriander and serve hot with rotis, bhatura or rice. I love it with some simple pilaf rice
Calories: 135 Fat: 2.3 grams Sugar: 6.6 grams Fiber: 6.5 grams Protein: 6 grams

 Chana Masala

Dhabay ki Daal

Dhabay ki Daal

Dhabas are north India’s greasy spoons– tiny roadside shacks that dot highways and mostly cater to weary truckers who pull in for a hearty, hot meal before heading over to the petrol pump (as gas stations are known in India) next door. Outside each dhaba are rows of charpoys, small Indian cots, where the truckers can nap awhile, right there under the open sky and by the dust-smothered highway, before getting back on the road.

If you’ve eaten at an Indian restaurant anywhere in the world, chances are you’ve already eaten some of the distinctive cuisine served by these otherwise unglamourous eateries: lassi, naan, aloo mattar, and, of course, this creamy, deceptively indulgent Dhabay ki Daal, one of my favorites.
There are perhaps a million different ways to make a dal, but Dhabay ki Daal has got to be one of the most special. It bursts with rapturous flavor from the few spices and the three different legumes that go into it. And its smooth, creamy, indulgent texture belies just how healthy this dish, made right, can actually be.
Dhabay ki Daal

Dhabay ki Daal is not typically a vegan treat– there is usually butter in the recipe which not just lends the dish additional flavor but also gives the dish a satiny texture. Because the butter plays such a crucial role, I added some vegan butter to round off the dish and mellow out the richness of the spices. You can leave it out but honestly, don’t. It’s just one tablespoon for more than eight servings, so it’s not like you’re eating a lot of fat. In fact, this dish is such a healthy one overall that your tastebuds and your waistline will be thanking you for the treat. Now how often does that happen?

To make this a true dhaba experience, serve this dal with a spicy veggie, like this Baingan Bharta, another popular dhaba food, some rice, or a naan. And a tall, cooling glass of Mango Lassi.
I am sending this dal to Nupur who’s hosting My Legume Love Affair 60 this month. This healthy event, the brainchild of Susan, the Well-Seasoned Cook, is now run by Lisa.Enjoy, all!

Dhabay ki Daal


Dhabay ki Daal
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
(Adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor's How to Cook Indian. Makes 8-10 servings)
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 10
  • ½ cup chana dal
  • ½ cup udad dal
  • ½ cup rajma or red kidney beans
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder, like paprika or cayenne if you like some heat
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ginger, grated or ground into a paste
  • 6 cloves of garlic, grated or ground into a paste
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, minced
  • ¼ cup kasoori methi
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp vegan butter, like Earth Balance
  1. Cook the legumes. I will share with you here my "shortcut" way of doing this-- because rajma takes much longer to cook than the two lentils, and because I don't always remember to presoak my beans, I faux-soak the rajma by covering it with 2 inches of water in a microwave-safe dish, zap it for about 10 minutes, add more water if needed, and then zap again for another 10 minutes. Then I place the legumes and the rajma in a pressure cooker and cook them together. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can cover the lentils and the soaked rajma with water in a large saucepan, slap on a lid, and cook about an hour.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan.
  3. Add the ginger and garlic, saute for a minute on a medium-low flame, and then add the onions.
  4. Saute the onions until brown spots appear, about 8-10 minutes.
  5. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric powders and salt to taste. Add the tomatoes and saute until they are cooked down, about five minutes.
  6. Now add the cooked lentils and stir well to mix. Add some water if the dal is too thick.
  7. Cover with a lid and cook about 8-10 minutes for all the flavors to meld together. Crush the kasoori methi with your fingers and sprinkle over the dal. Mix in the butter and stir until it's melted into the dal.
  8. Stir in the cilantro, turn off the heat, and serve hot.


(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.


Mango Lassi

I grew up in a bursting-at-the-seams apartment building in Bombay and at any time of the day we were enveloped in the delicious scents and sounds and flavors of foods from around the country. The spicy-pungent perfume of the ajwain from Mrs. Sinha’s North Indian chana masala bubbling away on the stove. The popping of tiny black mustard seeds in oil which Mrs. Raval would then pour over her slippery-delicious, bright yellow rolls of Gujarati khandvi. The sizzle that rose from the red-hot griddle the instant Mrs. Iyer, a Tamilian, poured a ladleful of white dosa batter right in the center.

Bombay is not a very green city, but in our little housing society we had a few, precious trees, including a handful of fruit trees. There was a gooseberry tree that carpeted the ground with thousands of acrid-sour, translucent-green fruit for a few weeks each year. A guava tree that attracted beautiful parrots flying free in the wind– a treat for eyes used only to seeing caged parrots with their wings clipped and taught to spout inane human words.

There were a couple of coconut trees with their tall, ringed, brown trunks that shot all the way up into the sky and then burst into a cap of wide, dark green leaves with spiky fronds. And the crowning jewel: an ancient mango tree that each summer began to birth a profusion of green fruit: nothing ever stayed long enough on the tree to actually ripen, thanks to all the neighborhood kids who could aim beautifully with a pebble.

As a child, of course, I just knew to enjoy all this diversity and richness but not really appreciate it. Looking back I can see how it shaped me into the cook I am today.

When I make a mushroom biryani, I can jog my tastebuds for their memory of the rich food I’d eat at the home of my best friend, Shahnaz, whose family had uprooted itself long ago, just before India’s partition, from Lahore.  When I make chana masala, I try to evoke the luscious scent of Mrs. Sinha’s kitchen. And I feel incredibly lucky to have the memory of how a slice of raw, green mango dipped in a smidgen of chilli powder and salt jolted each one of my senses alive.
All these memories of food and the incredible people who introduced me to them came rushing up this week when I sat down to write this post for Project Food Blog, a contest from Foodbuzz. If you’re a blogger, you’re likely already familiar with Foodbuzz, but if you’re not, they are a blog aggregator that I’ve been signed up with for the last two-plus years. This is a multi-step contest and the first step is to introduce my readers to what shaped me as a food blogger.

Holy Cow! is a confluence of my love for cooking, writing and animals, not in that order. I started cooking for the first time only in my early 20s, but when I did, I had a wealth of food memories to draw from because of the many cultures and cuisines I had been introduced to as a child. I became a vegan after I adopted my first rescue Lucy (about whom you will read more later in this post) because I realized I couldn’t love some animals and contribute thoughtlessly to the suffering of others. And I became a blogger because writing is always how I have best been able to express myself. A blog seemed the perfect forum to share with the world my animal-free versions of the dishes I’d always loved and the ones I was still discovering.

Now here’s what I need you to do: if you enjoy reading Holy Cow! be sure to vote for me between Sept. 20 and 23. And wish me luck!

Any food memory of my childhood would be incomplete without lassi which is, by far, one of the most popular items requested by friends coming over for dinner. When I became a vegan, those requests fell silent because the key ingredient in lassi, of course, is buttermilk or yogurt.

As children, my brother and I would sometimes go down to the neighborhood dairy farm to treat ourselves to some lassi. Now before you imagine up a pasture with cows, let me tell you that a “dairy farm” in Bombay was usually a small storefront that sold all sorts of dairy products like milk, ghee, butter and yogurt. The vendor would sit out front, stirring a huge wok of bubbling, reducing milk. He’d pour the sweet, cool buttermilk in tall, steel glasses, top it with a thick slice of cream, and hand it to you. It was divinity in a glass.

So making a vegan lassi, then, has been something of an obsession with me– both for my sake and that of my lassi-loving friends. And although I’d hatched a recipe for mango lassi long, long ago, I never actually got around to making it until this weekend. I wish I had– this lassi is so blissful, you’ll want to make it everyday.

I want to share with you news on Lucy and this is already getting to be a longish post, so I’ll stop chatting for a bit and get on with the recipe.  Enjoy, all!


Mango Lassi
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Drinks
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 2
  • 2 cups mango puree (I use the pulp available in Indian stores which is really the best for lassi, if you want an authentic flavor)
  • 2 cups vanilla soymilk (feel free to use vanilla-flavored almond milk which will result in a less thick lassi)
  • 4 green cardamom pods, finely powdered
  • 1 tbsp sugar or maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
  2. Pour into tall glasses, over ice if you prefer.
  3. Garnish with some mint and, if you like, some vegan whipped cream.
  4. Yum.


Lovely Lucy
I know many among you have been eager for news on Lucy who was diagnosed in April with osteosarcoma, a malignant bone cancer. The road since has been at times tumultuous and unpredictable and difficult but not for a moment have we regretted our decision to have her treated so she can be happy and healthy as long as possible.
Five months since her diagnosis, Lucy’s doing really well. She lost a leg– the one where the cancer was found– in April, but she has adjusted quite well to being tripawed. Of course, she can’t run up and down the steep stairs to the backyard as fast and as confidently as she once did, but that does not mean she stays away from them either: she just takes them on more slowly and sometimes — rarely — with a little help from a sling.

Lucy went through four courses of intense chemotherapy during which platinum-based agents were injected into her body. While she came through the first three courses with mild side-effects, she gave us a real scare after the last session when she had to be rushed to the hospital with a fever of 107 degrees (dogs usually have a temperature of around 101 degrees). We found out her white blood cell count had dropped to zero as a result of the chemotherapy, leaving her body defenseless against the smallest of infections. For two days she battled the fever and we prepared for the worst. But with the help of her wonderful doctors and plenty of IV fluids and antibiotics she did pull back and slowly returned to her old self.

Lucy is now on metronomic treatment, which is a small, maintenance-strength dose of chemotherapy, that she takes in capsule form each day. She has been happy, healthy, and so far there seems to be no sign that her cancer has spread. She loves to walk, as she always did, although she needs more sitting breaks because her three legs tire more easily. She even races around the backyard chasing squirrels with her little scampy brother, Opie. And she still tries to eat everyone’s food.

Thanks to all of you who have sent your thoughts and prayers out into the universe for our Lucy. She sends a lot of sloppy, slobbery kisses and cuddles right back at you!

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.


Makki di Roti, Sarson da Saag

Last week, a worker painting some siding on our house told me, a little too late as it turned out, that he had spotted a cardinal’s nest with a little baby inside it, in a tree right outside my kitchen window.

Delighted, I climbed on to the kitchen platform and hung precariously out the window to get a closer look the nest. But the baby was gone, most likely old enough to have flown away on its own. The little nest he had left behind looked a little sad but still really cute.

I was disappointed, but not for long. Summer is the season of avian abundance here in the Washington area, and there are many such delightful surprises and moments these beautiful creatures offer all through the season, making our humid summers more bearable and even fun than they would otherwise be.

Imagine this. We live not far from a busy road, but in the summer it is not the sound of traffic that floats in through the windows each morning…it is the morning raaga sung by hundreds of birds, each singing, cackling, even making cat-like meowing sounds. What a melody to wake up to!

Woodpeckers beat a rhythmic tattoo on tree barks, hummingbirds pause magically in mid-air, wings whirring, to sip sweet water, pairs of cardinals fly around in scarlet arcs…it is almost impossible not to adore these little fellows while at the same time feeling just a little jealous of their boundless freedom.

Now I am no bird expert, and I barely know the names of most of the birds I see, with the exception of the most commonly found ones.

But that’s no reason why I can’t enjoy the gifts they offer.

I can sit for hours at my window, watching birds drink water from the bird dish, or peck at the food I just put out in a birdhouse Desi fashioned out of an old lampshade. I especially love to watch them carefully and judiciously pick out pieces of grass and twigs, presumably for a nest. In fact, these little fellows often rip out my new little seedlings in the vegetable garden right out, making me mad, but only for a minute.

Anyway, coming to today’s post, Makki di Roti and Sarson da Saag is exactly the kind of comfort food I crave after a great afternoon of bird-watching.

To understand just how quintessentially matched this duo of dishes from the North Indian state of Punjab is, think of cookies and (soy) milk, or biscuits and gravy.

While I have often made Makki di Roti and Sarson da Saag in the past, this time I was inspired after watching this video from Vah Chef, who, in case you’re not familiar with him, satisfies my craving for Indian food shows without having access to an Indian television channel. Ah, what would we do without YouTube?

Makki di Roti is basically a roti made with corn and wheat flour, not very unlike a tortilla. The best way to eat this delicious bread would be to tear it with your fingers and dunk it into Sarson da Saag, a vibrant green vegetable dish made with pureed mustard leaves and spinach. Add to the plate a sliver of lemon and a few chopped onions, and you’ve got a meal to die for.

So here you go, with my recipe for an Indian classic, so delicious it is guaranteed to make you feel like you just went to Punjabi heaven.

Enjoy, all!

Makki di Roti

2 cups corn flour, like masa harina

1 cup whole-wheat durum flour (use regular whole-wheat if you can’t find this)

1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil

1 tsp salt

Water to make dough

Place all ingredients except water into a large bowl or into the bowl of a stand mixer. Knead, adding a little water at a time, until the dough comes together. It should be soft and pliable but not sticky.

Set aside for at least half an hour.

Pull out a piece of the dough, enough to make a ball about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll into a smooth ball, then, using flour to prevent it from sticking, roll out to about 6 inches in diameter.

Heat a griddle, brush with some oil or spray some cooking oil on the surface, and cook the roti, about 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden-brown spots appear on each side.

Sarson da Saag

1 10-oz package mustard greens

1 10-oz package spinach

Place the greens in a skillet with 1/2 cup of water and boil until the greens are quite tender, about 10-15 minutes.

Set aside to cool for a few minutes. Then grind to a puree in a blender.

Heat 1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil in a skillet.

Add 1 onion, finely diced, and saute until it begins to turn golden-brown.

Add 1 tbsp grated ginger and 6 cloves of garlic, minced, and stir together for a minute.

Add 1/4 cup of corn flour (the same flour used for the rotis). Stir with the onions until the roux is fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the puree of leafy greens and 3 chopped jalapeno or serrano peppers. Stir well.

Cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes until the greens are thoroughly cooked. Add some water if necessary to keep the greens from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add 1 tbsp garam masala (recipe follows) and salt to taste. Mix well, then turn off the heat.

Serve hot with some chopped onions, some lemon, and Makki di Roti.

Garam Masala for Sarson da Saag:

3 pods of green cardamom

3 cloves

2 1-inch pieces of cinnamon

1 tsp black peppercorns

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

Toast all ingredients on a low flame in a skillet for about 5 minutes or until fragrant. The coriander seeds should be reddish-brown. Cool and grind to a powder in a spice grinder.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Aloo Paratha

Alu Paratha
Parathas require just that little bit of extra effort compared to making a regular chapati. But the rewards are way more delicious and nutritious, making them absolute winners.Even those who don’t cook Indian food have doubtless had a paratha at a restaurant. And while parathas can be stuffed with just about everything from sweet potatoes to carrot to radish to even tofu, the most basic and ubiquitous version has got to be the gorgeous Aloo Paratha. It’s definitely my favorite, because I love potatoes and firmly believe that despite the fact that most people think potatoes are bad for you, they can– cooked the right way, by which I mean not deep-fried– actually be good for you.
They are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber.
As with any food, exercising moderation is the best way to have your potato and eat it too.What’s also wonderful about an Aloo Paratha is, you don’t have to have every ingredient in any recipe on hand. So long as you have the primary ingredients — wheat flour, potatoes and some chili powder and salt, you are pretty much good to go. From there on you can, of course, build on the flavors, adding more spices like Amchoor (dry mango powder which is tangy and delicious), turmeric, even garam masala.
Finely minced herbs like mint or coriander would be bliss in a paratha. If you use onions, however, make sure you mince them really fine because you don’t want big pieces of onion tearing holes into the paratha when you roll it.This recipe is really simple: a very basic one, but it is pretty much fail-safe. Make it to light up a simple dinner and serve it with any spicy subzi, or even with this spicy vegan kheema, as I did.

And enjoy!
aloo paratha

Aloo Paratha
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 8
  • For the dough:
  • 2 cups durum whole wheat flour (use regular whole wheat if you can't find this, but the durum wheat does make softer parathas).
  • 1 tsp canola or other vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • For the filling:
  • 3 medium potatoes, boiled until tender, then peeled and mashed or passed through a potato ricer. The potatoes should be smooth-- you don't want any big lumps in here.
  • 1 tsp red chili powder like cayenne
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  1. To make the paratha dough, mix all the dough ingredients and use water to knead into a smooth dough. Set aside for at least half an hour.
  2. To make the filling, mix together all of the filling ingredients.
  3. Now make the parathas. Pull off a 1½-inch ball of the dough. Using some flour to prevent it from sticking, roll out the dough into a five-inch circle.
  4. Make a smaller, ¾th-inch ball of the spiced potato mixture. Place it in the center of the rolled-out dough.
  5. Then, gather up the edges of the dough around the potato mixture and press together where the ends meet on top to form a firm seal.
  6. Roll out into a 7-inch circle, using flour to prevent the paratha from sticking.
  7. Heat a griddle. Cook the paratha on either side, about 3 minutes each, until golden spots appear. You can brush on some oil on each side, if desired, although it's not necessary at all.
  8. Serve hot!

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.