Chana Masala


A classic restaurant favourite from Punjab, Chana Masala is delicious and healthy too! Cooking up dried chickpeas is key to this recipe because of all the flavour, nutrition and texture they add to the finished dish. The home made spice mix makes all the difference and is worth making from scratch. It can be used in any other Indian recipe as well and keeps for ever in an airtight container.

Spice mix

1 stick cinnamon, about 2 inches long, broken into small pieces
10 each: green cardamom, cloves
1 star anise
1 tbsp each: cumin seeds, coriander seeds
1 tsp each: black peppercorn, fennel seeds
2 dried hot red chilies
½ tsp *ajwain (carom seeds), optional
½ cup *dried powdered pomegranate seeds
1 tbsp dried ground ginger
¼ cup *dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
1 tsp *black salt

Prepare spice mix:
Warm a large frying pan over medium heat. Add cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, star anise, cumin, coriander, black pepper, fennel, red chilies and ajwain (if using). Toast until darker in colour and aromatic, about 4 min.
Cool slightly and transfer to the jar of a mini blender, spice grinder or coffee grinder. Powder coarsely, then add powdered pomegranate seeds, ground ginger, fenugreek leaves and black salt. Powder again until a fine mixture is achieved. Transfer to a clean dry jar and reserve.

1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas
1 tsp black salt

Prepare chickpeas:
Soak chickpeas overnight in lots of water. Drain, rinse and pressure cook or cook in a saucepan with 4 cups of water and black salt, until very soft, tender and mushy. Reserve.

Fresh garnish:
1/4 cup each: finely chopped red onions, chopped fresh coriander
1 ripe tomato, finely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice

Prepare fresh garnish:
Combine all ingredients together and keep refrigerated until needed.

Chana Masala
2 tbsp oil
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ inch ginger, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed into large pieces

Prepare chana masala:
Warm oil in deep non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add cumin seeds and let them sizzle for 30 sec. Add ginger and garlic and brown lightly for 1 min. Add chopped onions and sauté until lightly browned, about 5 min. Add chickpeas, all the cooking liquid and the potato. Add about 1 tbsp of the spice mix. Cover skillet and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook for about an hour and a half or longer until potatoes are soft and mushy, the cooking liquid has thickened around the chickpeas and spices are mellow. If there is too much liquid at the end of cooking, uncover skillet and boil off excess. You should be left with a thick sauce clinging to the chickpeas. Taste for seasonings and add salt, cayenne pepper or more of the spice mix if needed.
Remove from heat and fold in the fresh garnish.

Serves four

*Look for these spices in any Indian grocery store near you.