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nosh friday: chana masala

January 7, 2011


As many delicious dishes that I’ve made in my lifetime as a chef (which boils down to mostly the last four years), there are a relatively small handful of ones that I’ve remade, time and time again. I’m not sure what the mystery element is that makes a dish stick, but whatever it is, chana masala has it in spades.

Not only is it easy and fast (buzzwords to “modern cooks”) but it’s delicately layered with spices, fragrant, filling, stretches a buck, reheats beautifully and most importantly, tastes AMAZING. I don’t even remember how I came across this recipe but after the first time I made it, giving it my own personal stamp, I knew that it was a keeper.

I’ve made this more times than I remember, often to introduce friends to Indian food. It’s the first thing I recommend people try making if they are afraid to either eat or cook Indian food. My experience of Indian is very, very limited but as I try to expand my own culinary borders, I heartily recommend you come along for the ride, if only for the chana masala.

(P.S. If the spices sound like something McCormick probably doesn’t make and it makes you nervous, try looking at your local World Market, if you have one, or any spice shop. You can also find things like garam masala very easily online.)

Pair this with some naan bread (this is a FANTASTIC homemade naan recipe and you won’t believe how easy it is) and some basmati rice and it’s a dish that will warm you up to your toes during cold winter nights.

And don’t we all need that!

Chana Masala
Adapted from Serious Eats

2 T. neutral oil (I use soybean)
1 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 T. ground coriander
1 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. ground cayenne pepper
1/2 t. ground turmeric
14 oz. crushed tomatoes*
1/2 cup water
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 t. paprika
1/2 t. garam masala
1/2 t. salt
1 T. lemon juice
1 inch-long piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

*This is about half of one of those big cans. In the past, I’ve used the whole can to help stretch the dish. If you do, just up all the spices by about a 1/4 or 1/2 tsp to help flavor the sauce.

Heat the oil up in a large saucepan over medium-low to medium heat. Dice the onion and saute for about 5-10 minutes, or until the edges are starting to get brown and the onions are translucent. Mince and add the garlic, stirring for about 30 seconds. Make a hole in the middle of the onions and add the coriander, cumin, cayenne and turmeric and stir into the onions until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and water, stirring well to combine with the spiced onion mixture. Let it come to a simmer and add the chickpeas, cooking over medium heat for an additional 10 minutes with the lid on, until the chickpeas are toothsome and tender. Add the paprika, garam masala, salt, lemon juice and ginger, stirring and cooking for an additional minute or two.

I don’t like to let mine reduce down too low; you want some good spicy tomato sauce to sop up with rice and naan. Serve in bowls with your starch of choice (I usually am greedy and choose both, plus a samosa if I have them in the freezer). It’s excellent served with a dollop of plain yogurt on the top and a little chopped cilantro.

Feeds 4 hungry folks

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 7, 2011 7:31 pm

    Sounds good to me! I can’t wait to try it out- that and the naan recipe.

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