Regular visitors here would know that I have been posting simple dishes, simple curries that comprise our everyday meals. My daughter insisted that I post simple, everyday meals on the blog. And we started the series with Oatmeal Porridge. Today’s post is about one of the tastiest beans/ grams. Its fairer cousin, namely the white chickpeas (the famous Chhole), have always managed to hog the lime light. You will find the Chhole invariably on the menu of an Indian wedding or restaurant without fail but rarely the kala chana. Kala in Hindi means black. Kala chana is also known by the name Bengal grams and kadala in south India. Rich in iron and low in glycemic index, kala chana or black chick peas have a robust, rich and almost meaty flavour.
Despite being richer in taste than the white chickpeas, I fail to understand why it has been given a step child treatment by most cooks; though I believe the tables are turning for this humble and healthy chana. This recipe is a great option for vegans and those allergic to gluten. Have it with rice or with chapatti. I enjoy it most with paratha (fried flatbread). That is how we used to enjoy it at my mom’s house. The recipe I am sharing here is for chana with curry but you can turn it into sookha or dry chana by adding lesser water and reducing the amount of onions by half a cup. The dry one is best served with flatbread.
3 tbsp Cooking Oil
1 Black Cardamom
2 small Bay Leaves
½ tsp Cumin Seeds
A pinch of Asafoetida
1½ C finely sliced Onions
¾ tsp Ginger Paste
¾ tsp Garlic Paste
150 gm Tomato (pureed)
1 tsp Salt (or to taste)
½ tsp – ¾ tsp Red Chili Powder
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
2 tsp Coriander Powder
½ tsp Garam Masala
Take a cooking pot or kadahi and place it on high heat.
Add oil and once it is hot (not smoking), add the black cardamom, bay leaves, cumin seeds and asafoetida.
Once the cumin seeds begin to crackle, tip in the onions and fry them on high heat, stirring often, till they become brown (be careful not to burn the onions at this stage)
Reduce heat and add three to four tablespoons of water and add the ginger and garlic paste.
Fry again on high heat, stirring continuously, till ginger and garlic paste no longer raw and becomes aromatic.
Reduce heat again and add the tomato pulp. Also add the spices at this point.
Fry again on medium heat, till the masala leaves oil around the edges (you need to keep stirring the contents)
Discard the water from the soaked chana and add it to the masala.
Fry for a minute or two on high heat and add approximately 750 ml of water.
(at this point, I always transfer the contents to a pressure cooker and cook for three whistles on high heat and then reduce the heat to minimum and cook for another seven to ten minutes)
Allow the chana to come to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, for ten minutes, stirring the contents occasionally.
Reduce heat and keep cooking, till the chana is completely done, replenishing the chana with water when ever required. (I cooked chana this way only once before, years ago and never bothered to note the time so I won’t be able to tell you how long it will take to cook. You will have to keep an eye on that But it will take a lot of time cooking this way therefore I always pressure cook it)
Serves 4 to 6