Chickpea Curry (Channa Masala)
There are as many channa masala recipes (also known as chickpea masala, kadala curry or chickpea curry) as there are cooks in India. It is wonderful, nourishing vegetarian comfort food that sticks to your ribs and warms you from the inside.
When my mother-in-law makes her version for us, we often eat it for breakfast with pooris (puffy fried whole-wheat flatbreads) or puttu (steamed coconut and rice flour). The smell in my kitchen brings back wonderful family memories.
I love how the chickpeas become thick and super soft. It’s comforting like mashed potatoes. We eat ours for dinner more than breakfast, with fresh chapatis (recipe coming soon) or fluffy basmati rice. We usually accompany it with a spoonful of plain yogurt and sometimes Indian mango pickle.
This is my own version. I usually just throw things together and adjust to taste, but this time I took the time to measure and make sure it was just right, while keeping it pretty simple so that you could make it without buying a dozen spices.
I use the quick method for soaking beans 9 times out of 10. Mostly because I haven’t planned in advance. I make my chickpeas in a pressure cooker (which I’m actually giving away right now!) and with it, you can actually skip the soaking altogether, but I don’t. See, soaking gets rid of a lot of the indigestible carbohydrate which causes the… er… musical effect of beans.
If you wonder about the salt in the chickpea-cooking step, I’ve been reading about the case for salting beans during cooking and have learned from several authorities (Harold McGee, Fine Cooking) that it does not actually make them tough. And now I have perfectly seasoned beans. So go ahead and salt the water.
Take your time with the onions and let them get nicely caramelized – that is the flavour foundation for the whole dish; as with many curries, the onions basically dissolve and become the sauce. I kept it mild, because I am feeding little kids, but feel free to add another jalapeño (it’s a big batch for just one) or some cayenne (that way you can add small amounts closer toward the end until you get the heat to your liking).
This recipe makes a really big batch, because I like to make it once and eat it all week, plus have some to freeze. Feel free to cut the recipe in half, but it is not a quick preparation, so I feel like you should make lots and share or save (or both!).
Chickpea Curry (Channa Masala)
- 1 1/2 lbs dry chickpeas soaked
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/3 cup + 1 tsp oil divided use
- 1 1/2 lbs yellow onion
- 2 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 jalapeno
- 1 " piece ginger from fat end
- 1/2 head of garlic about 7 cloves
- 4 tbsp garam masala you may substitute curry powder
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 cup unsalted diced tomatoes and their juices
- 2 yellow potatoes peeled, coarsely chopped
- 4 cups water plus more as needed
- handful chopped fresh cilantro
- Cook the soaked chickpeas covered by 1 1/2 inches of water with 2 tsp kosher salt in a pressure cooker (20 mins) or in rapidly simmering water (1 to 1 1/2 hours) until tender.
- Meanwhile, heat 1/3 cup oil in a large stockpot (your biggest) over medium heat. Add onions and cook until very soft and deeply golden, about 30 minutes, reducing the heat to low if they start to brown too quickly.
- Push onions to one side of the pot and add the remaining teaspoon of oil the space you made. Add the cumin seeds to the oil and increase heat to medium. When cumin is toasty (1-2 minutes), stir back into the onions along with jalapeño, ginger and garlic.
- When garlic smells fragrant (another minute or so), stir in garam masala, cinnamon and salt to coat other ingredients, then add tomato. Cook the tomatoes down for about 5 minutes (you should see the oil bubbling up to the surface).
- Stir in the potatoes, cooked chickpeas and water. If mixture is quite dry, add another couple of cups of water (you want it to be fairly loose and stew-like, so that the potatoes will be submerged and simmer; it will thicken as it cooks). Cook, uncovered, until potato is tender (about another 30 minutes, but you can simmer it longer - it only gets better). Add more water if at any point it is getting dry (and if you add too much water, simply simmer it down). Taste and add more salt at the end if needed. Stir in cilantro just before serving.