- Don’t use canned beans or lentils thinking they will taste as good as fresh
- Don’t use pre-ground spices they will taste as good as freshly toasted and ground whole spices
- Follow the freaking recipe! At least the first couple of times
Notice how I only yelled during the third one. You can use canned chickpeas or pre-ground spices if you’re time-pressed, but the dish just won’t be as good. If, however, you cheat on the recipe the first time you make it, you’re basically saying that you know better, which you don’t. How do you know what the recipe’s supposed to taste like if you don’t follow it to the letter? “Oh I’ll just skip the cumin seeds and use half the salt,” you say.
NO! There I go, yelling again. Don’t you know that hubris is the downfall of the tragic hero?
I’m not all mean, though. Here are my tips to make this recipe less intimidating:
Clean out your coffee grinder to grind the spices. Or use a blender or food processor or mortar and pestle, or a brown paper bag or plastic bag with a rolling pin or water bottle or wine bottle to crush, if that’s all you’ve got. Just don’t break the bag when you’re pounding the toasted spices. Lesson learned.
Recipe adapted from “My Indian Kitchen” by Hari Nayak
2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained (or three 15 1/2oz or 439g cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed well)
4 cups water + 1/2 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp turmeric for cooking dried peas
1/4 cup oil
2 cloves garlic + 2 thick coin-sized pieces of ginger, blended to a paste or mashed in a mortar and pestle
8 dried red chilies, broken in half (seeds removed if you want)
1 tbsp + 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tbsp + 1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
2 onions, minced
4 thin fresh green chili peppers, sliced open lengthwise
One 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp salt
2 tsp garam masala (recipe below)
1 tsp Asian chili powder or cayenne
1 cup water
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves, optional (“kasoori methi”)
4 tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
Bring the soaked and drained dried chickpeas to a boil with the water, 1/2 tsp salt and turmeric. Skim the scum that rises to the top. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the peas are tender, about 45 minutes. Drain the peas, rinse with cold water and drain again. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the ginger-garlic paste and fry for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the red chili peppers, crushed coriander and cumin and fry for 15-20 seconds, stirring constantly, until fragrant.
Add the onions, green chile peppers and chopped ginger and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the onions are uniformly dark brown in colour, about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the onions don’t stick to the pan, adding a little water if necessary. Add the tomatoes, salt, garam masala and chili powder or cayenne. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Add the 1 cup of water and chickpeas and bring to a simmer. Cook gently, partially covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the lemon juice, fenugreek and coriander leaves. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Serve hot.
2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
One 1/2-inch stick cinnamon
10 green cardamom pods
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp fennel seeds
5 bay leaves
Dry roast all the ingredients except the bay leaves in a small skillet (that means no oil) over medium heat, stirring until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the spices from the skillet and set aside to let cool completely (move them to a plate or bowl if the cumin is going to burn by leaving it in the skillet). When cool, add the bay leaves and grind the spices in an electric coffee grinder or spice grinder (or see alternate method suggestions above). Store in an airtight jar for up to 6 weeks.
Photo Credit: “Chana Masala in Santa Monica” by Divya Thakur on Flickr