Chana (chaana) masala is probably one of the most popular dishes to come out of India and that’s saying something! And it’s not just for vegetarians. Devout carnivores and fervent omnivores alike will love this curry. It’s so rich in iron and so amazingly well rounded with such an intense flavour combination – and so easy to make – that it’ll quickly become a household staple.
Chana Masala – Recipe
For Spice Mix*:
- 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
- 1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
- 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
- 1 tsp. black pepper, whole
- 1” cinnamon stick, unfurled
- 8 cloves
- 2 dry red chillies, torn and stems removed
- 2 cardamom pods, shelled
- 1 tsp. dried ground ginger
*If you want to save time, replace whole spices with premade, ground versions. Add an extra tablespoon to the curry if necessary. I have to say, however, that freshly ground spices have a much more intense flavour than preground ones. People will literally follow their noses to the coffee grinder when the aromatic, spicy-sweet smell of cinnamon hits the air. Or, if you’re really pressed for time you can also buy the chana masala mix at the supermarket. But, only if you really don’t have time, k?
- 1 Tbsp. canola oil
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (if you’re using dried garbanzo beans, soak overnight)
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
- Thumb sized piece of ginger, crushed to a paste
- ½ to 1 tsp. ground chili or cayenne pepper
- 3 Tbsp. spice mix, divided
- Salt, to taste
- Few sprigs of coriander, for garnish
- Heat a heavy bottom, non-stick pan on medium and dry roast all ingredients under ‘spice mix’ – with the exception of the ground dried ginger – until fragrant and slightly toasted.
- Place in a coffee or spice grinder along with the ground dried ginger and grind until smooth. Store in an airtight container. Skip step 1 and 2 if you’re using preground spices or a store-bought chana masala mix.
- Heat oil in a heavy bottom, non-stick pan on medium; add the chopped onions and sauté until golden.
- Add the crushed garlic and ginger and sauté until no longer raw, 2 minutes.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, ground chili/cayenne and 2 Tbsp. spice mix and cook until tomatoes are mushy, 5 minutes.
- Add the chickpeas and 2 cups of water, season with salt and allow to boil, 5 minutes.
- Check seasoning and cook for another 15 minutes until chickpeas are tender.
- With the back of a spatula start mashing some of the chickpeas; add more water if necessary as the ground chickpeas will thicken the curry. Continue mashing – up to half the chickpeas – until desired consistency is achieved. This is the restaurant secret for delicious chana masala.
- Add the remaining 1 Tbsp. spice mix, stir through and cook for another minute.
- Dish out, garnish with a few sprigs of coriander and serve with a side of naan, chapatti or cooked rice and a small salad.
This is another dish that does extremely well over time. Leftovers will keep well in the fridge and the flavours will mingle with each other and the curry will just get more and more delicious. It reheats spectacularly so it’s a win win.