This is one of those recipes I’m not quite sure how to categorize. My daughter eats the entire batch in one sitting, so I’d think that qualifies as a main course. However it also makes a great protein-packed snack as well as a side dish to grilled meat or fish. All I know is that lately I can’t make enough of the stuff. I cook up a batch, then turn around and it’s been consumed.
Many people are a bit skittish about Indian food. “It’s too spicy” is a common complaint – and misconception. There’s some Indian food that definitely has a kick, but you could say the same for most cuisines – Mexican (spicy salsa), southern U.S. (spicy wings), Spanish (spicy chorizo sausage) or Chinese (Sichuan spicy noodles). This is a great intro for Indian cuisine newbies; a gateway food, if you will.
This is also a good gateway recipe for Indian food fanatics who only eat it at restaurants or do take-away/carry-out. I’ll admit I fell into this category, though I do make a mean Chicken Tikka Masala which I’ve since learned falls more under the British cuisine umbrella rather than Indian, though we still love it. This is a good intro to Indian cooking because it uses pretty basic ingredients. The most exotic is the garam masala which you should be able to find in the spice aisle of most supermarkets (or I’ve included a make-your-own substitute at the bottom of the recipe).
So get out of your comfort zone and try something new this weekend. It may be your first time making Chana Masala, but it certainly won’t be your last.
Chana Masala (serves 1 as a main or 4 as a side)
Note: This recipe can easily be double, tripled or quadrupled though you may have to slightly extend the cooking time.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/2 cup (120 grams) chopped tomato, fresh or tinned
1 green chili, finely chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons garam masala (see garam masala substitute below)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one 14 ounce or 400 gram can/tin, strained and rinsed)
Chopped fresh cilantro/coriander (optional, for garnish)
Place the oil, onion, garlic and ginger in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and cook for 3 minutes. Add the cumin seeds and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, green chili, garam masala and salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
Add the chickpeas to the skillet and cook for 1 minute. Turn the heat off, cover the pan with a lid and let it sit for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with a sprinkle of cilantro/coriander or chopped green chili, if desired. Serve plain or over rice.
Garam masala subsitute: If you don’t have access to garam masala, you can make your own by combining the following spices:
2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon black pepper
3 teaspoon ground cumin
3 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
Adapted from “Everyday Indian” by Bal Arneson