Chickpeas. Indian spices. Tomatoes. Chilies. Onions, garlic and ginger. Sound good? It is. This isn’t the most conventional chana masala but I’m going by the literal translation so I think I’m safe. Chana is Hindi for chickpea and masala means spiced or spice mixture. I have chickpeas. I have spice. I’m calling it chana masala. I think I’m safe.
It’s really not that far off a conventional chana really. It’s not in your face spiced. Balanced. A nice counterpoint to a big lamb curry. Any curry really. Or no curry. It stands alone as a vegetarian main. The only big twist is the fresh curry leaves. They add a South Indian flair. A new taste. Leave them out and you have a good chana masala. Keep them in and you have something different. Something new.
Curry leaves have nothing to do with curry powder. They don’t grind up curry leaves to make curry powder. Think of them as an Indian herb with a misleading name. They have to be fresh. Dried curry leaves taste like nothing. Nothing at all.
The key to this recipe – as with many curries – is the onions. Take the time to chop them finely or use a food processor. That makes short work of chopping onions. And please, take the time it takes to cook them to a nice brown. This is what makes a homestyle curry. There’s no way around it. Caramelized onion is good curry. Barely cooked onions is curry flavoured stew. It’s that simple.
Once the onions are nicely browned, cooking the spices in oil makes the dish. After that it’s a coast over the finish line. Not that hard once you get your head around those two concepts. But until you do you don’t have a chance.
This chana masala, as written, is a bit on the hot side. If you don’t like spicy, leave out the kashmiri chili powder. It will be as tasty. Just not quite as much zing. Serve with Indian flatbread or rice or both.
- 4 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 large onions, minced
- 1 Tbsp garlic ginger paste
- 2 green chilies, minced
- 15 fresh curry leaves (optional)
- 2 tsp restaurant spice mix or curry powder of your choice
- 1 tsp mild kashmiri chili powder (or ¼ tsp cayenne mixed with ¾ tsp paprika)
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
- 2 19 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 Tbsp cilantro leaves and stems, minced
- 1 tsp salt (to taste)
- 2 Tbsp cilantro leaves, minced
- ¼ lemon, juiced
- pinch of garam masala (optional)
- Heat the oil in a sauce pan large enough to hold all the ingredients.
- Add the oil and fry the minced onions until flecks of brown start to appear. This can take 10-15 minutes.
- Add the garlic ginger paste, green chili and spice mix and cook about 1 minute. Be careful not to burn the spices.
- Add the tomatoes and simmer about 10 minutes.
- Mix in the chickpeas and enough water or stock to keep the mixture loose.
- Simmer about 20 minutes, adding water or stock as needed.
- Add the cilantro, lemon juice and garam masala and simmer 5 minutes more.