Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Curried Chickpeas: Chana Masala or Chole

As Lent kicks in, today being Ash Wednesday, vegetarian dishes seem right to me since I grew up in the "old" Catholic days. Though a full carnivore, I particularly enjoy vegetarian cooking. The most extensive meatless cuisine, and one of the most delicious, is certainly Indian.

Chickpeas, kabuli chana in Hindi, are a classical legume of Central Asian origin that have also been eaten in the Middle East and southern Europe for millennia. They have the typical good attributes of legumes -- protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, low cost, easy storage, and delicious flavor.

Here's one of the classical North Indian chickpea curries. Most commonly called "chole," the richest variety is also called "chana masala." Most of the many versions I have tasted contain both tomato and some sort of dairy ingredient, yogurt, thickened milk, or even cream. Sometimes there is a hint of sweetness.

This recipe serves six, and should be accompanied either by white rice, preferably Basmati rice (see blog entry of 1/26/08), or by naan or other flat bread, warm. A raita (see blog entry of 4/25/08) or plain yogurt make a good condiment.

Chickpea Curry (Chole or Chana Masala)

2 large onions
4 tablespoons butter plus 4 tablespoons canola oil
4 large cloves garlic
1-1/2 inches fresh ginger
2 tablespoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper or cayenne
4 tomatoes, fresh, or 1-1/2 cups canned
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
1-1/2 cups water
1-1/2 teaspoons salt, plus to taste
2 (14-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzos)
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro for garnish

Chop onions coarsely or slice thinly lengthwise. In large low-sided pot, over medium heat fry the onions in butter and oil, stirring frequently until translucent and beginning to turn golden, 10 minutes or more.

Meanwhile, finely mince garlic and ginger (thinly sliced before mincing), or pound them to a paste in a mortar. Chop tomatoes. When onions are ready, add garlic and ginger and fry gently 2 minutes, stirring often. Remove pan from heat and add spices. Return pan to stove and fry gently, stirring constantly, about 1 minute or until fragrant. Add chopped tomatoes, and stir and fry mixture several minutes until tomatoes start to break down.

Beat yoghurt lightly and add to pan. Simmer until mixture bubbles and starts to thicken, several minutes. Add water and salt. Simmer several more minutes.

Meanwhile drain and rinse chickpeas. Add to curry mixture along with sugar. Let simmer several minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be the consistency of heavy cream. Add a little water if too thick. Taste a chickpea plus a little sauce, and add salt if necessary. Simmer several more minutes.

Turn off heat and allow curry to sit, covered, at least 20 minutes to season. Or cool, and refrigerate up to several days. To serve, reheat, if cooled. Taste and adjust salt if necessary.

Serve in a low bowl, garnished with chopped cilantro leaves. Accompany with rice or Indian bread or warm pita bread.


Blogger Corrie said...

We made this and it turned out really well. The only mistake was that I used smoked paprika instead of regular paprika and the flavor was too strong. Still, it turned out well and our guests had seconds! I will definitely make it again. Thanks for the great recipes!

2:31 PM  

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