A popular vegetarian dish throughout Northern India, Chana Masala is both vegan and gluten-free but definitely not lacking in flavour. "A dollop of comfortingly bolstering pulses bathed in a thick, tangy, deeply spiced gravy, it’s the kind of food that tastes of home", whether home is Ahmedabad, Aberdeen or Asakura. Mumbai-born chef Maunika Gowardhan simmers her chickpeas with a black teabag, which she says is "common practice in Punjabi households", lending the dish a rich smoky flavour and deep colour. One can’t taste the tea, but it does give the dish a lovely warm hue. In this recipe, my stepson Harry starts by soaking the chickpeas overnight in cold water then simmering them for a hour until tender. Once cooked, the chickpeas and tomatoes are simmered with a mixture of fried garlic, ginger, onion, and green chiles with a flury of traditional Indian spices including ground cumin, garam masala, coriander, and turmeric. A tin of San Marzano tomatoes are then added along with the cooked chickpeas and simmered until thick and lovely, about 20 minutes. Garnished with chopped cilantro before serving, Harry's Channa Masala is definitely "pukka" or as he is currently living in Japan he would say — Oishii!
Chickpeas soaked overnight in water and tea, then boiled for an hour
The chickpeas are cooked in a fragrant tomato masala for 20-30 minutes
Harry's Chana Masala
Recipe adapted from Felicity Cloake, The Guardian UK
8 oz dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves
1 oz fresh ginger, minced
1 oz fresh cilantro
1 hot green chilli, finely chopped - seeds optional
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 14 oz tin plum tomatoes, mashed
1 1/2 tsp fine salt
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp lemon juice
Place the dried chickpeas in large pot and cover with water twice the amount of chickpeas and bring to a boil. Cover and allow to simmer one hour.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat and when hot, add the cumin seeds. Fry until aromatic, stirring, then add the onion and turn the heat down. Cook until golden brown, stirring regularly.
Meanwhile use a pestle and mortar or stick blender to mash the garlic, ginger, cilantro and chillies into a paste, then place in the pan and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Then add the ground coriander, chilli power and turmeric plus a splash more oil if necessary, and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, chickpeas and some salt to taste. Bring to a lively simmer, then turn down the heat to medium low and cook for 20 minutes or until thickened.
Stir in the garam masala and lemon juice, then allow to cool slightly before serving scattered with the remaining coriander leaves.