Friday, February 17, 2006
Kala chana is both the name of this variety of chickpeas and of the dish made with them - an economy of words indeed. Although kala chana or black chickpeas (actually they're brown in colour!) are a variety of chickpeas, they look and taste very different from the more common white kind (kabuli chana) that are used to make, among other things, hummous and chole. I personally like them better, because they have a stronger, earthier flavour that is not masked by the masala that is used to make the curry.
These chana can be soaked overnight in water, but 3-4 hours is usually enough to make them grow plump in the water and ready for cooking.
I also like kala chana plain boiled, sauteed in a little oil and tempered with the usual mix of mustard seeds, some dried red chillies, asafoetida powder and urad dal - they make for a tasty, healthy snack with just this tempering, or with the addition of freshly grated coconut for garnish. This dish (called sundal) is usually made as prasadam or holy offering during certain festivals, but I like to make them even otherwise.
Not this time, though... this time it was kala chana curry for my vegetarian sister-in-law, who regularly invites herself over for a home-cooked Indian meal!
Recipe for: Kala chana
4 tomatoes, de-skinned and chopped finely (To de-skin the tomatoes, make a small shallow cut in the skin, then put the tomatoes in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let rest for 3-4 minutes. Pour out the water and slip off the tomato skins - they will come off easily)
1 cup kala chana, soaked in plenty of water overnight
2 medium onions, chopped fine
1 tsp ginger, grated
4-5 green chillies (or to taste), minced or sliced into fine rounds
2 bay leaves
1" cinnamon stick
2 black cardamom pods, left whole
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 htsp chana or chole masala
1/2 tsp garam masala
Salt to taste
2 tsp oil
Fresh coriander, chopped, for garnish
Thinly sliced tomatoes and onion rings for garnish (optional)
1. Pressure-cook the soaked kala chana with the bay leaves, whole black cardamom pods and cinnamon stick in enough water to cover the chana fully. Do not overcook. (They should hold their shape yet be easy to mash when a little pressure is applied.) Remove the bay leaves, the whole cardamom and cinnamon stick and discard.
2. In a wide pan, heat the oil. Add the grated ginger, the chopped green chillies, the cumin seeds. Fry for 1 minute, then add the chopped onions. Fry till the onions become soft and are beginning to turn slightly brown.
3. Add the chopped tomatoes and the garam masala/chana or chole masala and stir. Add 1/2 cup water and cook till the tomatoes break down and become mushy.
4. Now add the cooked kala chana (reserving 1/4 cup) and salt to taste. Stir well to coat.
5. Add some more water if required, to make a thick gravy, and let the kala chana simmer away for 5 minutes.
6. Mash the reserved 1/4 cup of the chana and add it to the pan. Stir again. This will thicken the chana.
7. Garnish with the tomato slices and onion rings (if using), and scatter the coriander leaves on top.
8. Serve hot with rice, chapatis or puris.