Easy Chickpea Curry or Chana Masala

A bowl of Chana Masala makes me nostalgic; it takes me back to Durga Puja and Diwali season when the sound of devotional music and smell of fire crackers fill the crisp autumn air. Gifts abundant and studying rare, it is the time of the year eagerly awaited by kids and grownups alike. And, unsurprisingly, lots of delicious food, some home-cooked, some procured from the many food-stalls that dot the streets with their best fares. With a variety of sweet and savory treats on offer, one is truly spoilt for choice. Amongst all things eaten with gusto, there would always be a big thaali of Chana Masala with hot, fluffy puris. Made from scratch, chickpeas would be soaked overnight and cooked with lots of spices and herbs for hours filling our home with aroma that could make the fussiest carnivore salivate in anticipation. A lot has changed since then; time is luxury and a variety of affordable and ready-to-use ingredients is available everywhere. And, thus, my Chana Masala made with canned chickpeas with luchis isn’t a treat reserved for festivals and celebrations, it is a meal within reach whenever I need something that comforts me and makes me smile.

Portions (4-6 servings):

Great for four if consumed with rice and/or Indian flat breads. For six when served in a thali along with rice and breads, curries and vegetables.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans (400 gram each) of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tbsp of oil; I prefer a flavourless variety such as sunflower, canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 4-5 whole dried chilies; you can choose to skip these completely or use 1 tbsp chili flakes instead
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • A piece of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds, ground coarsely
  • 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds, ground coarsely
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, ground coarsely
  • 150 grams of onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 2 square inch piece of ginger, minced or grated
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 1/2 -2/3 cup of tomato passata; alternatively, you can use 3 leveled tbsp of tomato puree/paste or 3-4 finely diced or blended ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder as preferred; adjust to taste
  • 1 tsp of Garam Masala
  • 1 cup of warm water; you could use any leftover salt-free vegetable stock
  • 2-3 tbsp of coriander leaves, finely chopped for garnish (optional)

Garnish options:

  • 2-3 tbsp of fried onions
  • More coriander leaves
  • Sliced green chillis
  • Julienned ginger

Method:

  • Place a deep pan/pot on high heat and add 3 tbsp of oil.
  • When the oil is hot, reduce the heat to medium and add the sugar.
  • Once the sugar melts and slightly caramelises, add in the chillies, bay leaves and cinnamon and crushed cumin seeds, fennel seeds and coriander seeds and fry until golden and aromatic.
  • Add in the diced onion and the salt and sauté stirring every once in a while over medium-low heat with the lid on until soft and caramelised.
  • Add in the minced or grated ginger and garlic and fry until no longer raw.
  • Add the tomato passata/puree and stir to combine.
  • Sauté placing the lid slightly ajar stirring every couple of minutes until the paste is mostly thick and dry and the oil has started to separate. Keep a fairly close eye on it; stir and adjust the heat if needed. You will need considerably less time if you are using tomato paste.
  • Stir in turmeric and the garam masala and fry for 30 seconds.
  • Now add in the chilli powder, stir to combine and cook for 20-30 seconds.
  • Now add in the chickpeas, stir to coat in all of the spices and cook for 2 mins with the lid on.
  • Add in warm water, increase the temperature and bring it to a boil.
  • Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer gently stirring it every 4-5 minutes for about 25-30 mins until the chickpeas are tender and the sauce is thick to your liking. Do feel free to add a splash of warm water if needed.
  • Mash a few chickpeas against the side of the pan with a ladle and if they fall apart easily, you are done.
  • Discard the whole spices if you wish and add in a handful of coriander leaves and stir to combine well to infuse, turn the heat off and place the lid on. You want to contain all of the delicious flavours in the pot.
  • When you are ready to serve, sprinkle fried onions, sliced chillis and a few coriander leaves.
  • Serve it with hot puris or with chapatis, parathas or/and rice, complete with papadoms, veggie curries and mango/lime pickles and enjoy!

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