Chana masala, or chole, the classic Indian dish consisting of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) cooked in a spiced tomato sauce, is very special to me. Back in the days when I was a university student who was lucky enough to live in a brand-new, fancy dorm equipped with a complete kitchen and just starting to cook, it was one of the first Indian dishes that I made. The sheer simplicity, low cost and quickness of chana masala made it the ideal student meal, accompanied with some rice or frozen chapatis (this was long before the days that I made my own). Years later, chana masala (along with a South Indian-style okra poriyal or dry curry) was the first thing that I ever cooked for my husband back in the days when we were first getting to know each other. My cooking repertoire was obviously much more expansive then, but I chose chana masala because I have never met anyone who doesn't like it . Even someone like my husband, who at the time claimed he didn't like chickpeas, raved!
Chana is the Hindi and Punjabi word for chickpeas. The dish is a classic from the state of Punjab but is enjoyed all over India. A favorite way to eat it is along with a type of fried bread, with which it is known as chana or chole bhatura. This is a much-beloved snack or street food throughout India, but also shows up on many a restaurant menu.
Chana masala is the ideal dish to try if you are new to making Indian food. You pretty much can't go wrong! It's also great for vegetarians, since chickpeas are packed with healthy protein and fiber. Pair this with chapati or rice, a raita and a green salad on the side and you've got a complete meal!
CHANA MASALA (INDIAN-STYLE CHICKPEAS)Serves 4
Nonstick cooking spray or 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Sugar to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon crème fraîche
1. Heat cooking spray or olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds. When they start to puff up and pop (approximately 1 minute), add the ginger, garlic, onion and red bell pepper. Saute until the onion becomes transculent and the red bell pepper begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
2. Place the chopped tomatoes in a blender along with a little water. Blend into a thick liquid.
3. Put the saucepan back onto medium heat and add the tomato liquid.
4. Add all of the spices, sugar and tomato paste and bring to a boil.
5. Add the chickpeas, stir well and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.
6. Remove from heat and stir in the crème fraîche and chopped coriander. Serve with more chopped coriander as a garnish on top.