Longtime readers of this blog are familiar with my stories from Northern India, a trip I made when I was sixteen (you can read about how the trip inspired my Indian Carrot Pudding recipe, or this Slow Cooker Kashmiri Braised Lamb). This year (2018) is exactly a decade after that trip, but moments from that adventure are stamped vividly forever in my memory: stepping in cow dung on the overwhelming and noisy streets of New Delhi; playing on the shores of the Chandrabhaga River, snapping pictures of the rocks and sand as if there was something special about sand in India versus Colorado; eating dinner on the rooftop of a hotel in Udaipur on New Years Eve, lights glimmering against the river below; knocking on a small door in an alleyway, with a little sign next to it that said “cooking school;” and many more.
There is something about our brains at sixteen years old: they are pliable, receptive, and ready to learn. They are forming and reforming and reinforcing with every visual we take in. I was the perfect age for that trip. Open, ready, receiving. And my mind did just that. It formed connections that would never be broken, a passion for an older world, where roads are made of laid stone and brightly colored buildings are crammed together. A craving for chapati and mounds of spices and Chana Masala.
When we passed through that small door in the alley, a short woman ushered us into her home. She got out paper and a pen, and asked what we would like to learn to cook. She made notes, and suggestions, and then told us when to come back for our lesson.
Boldly I remember the simplicity of her kitchen. People talk about having a “minimalist kitchen” these days, but this was on a whole different level. The walls, the floor, the shelves, the cooking surface (the counter, if it could be called that), were all made of the same grey-ish stone material, solid and a bit bleak. A window behind us, with no glass pane, looked down on the street. There just enough room for the four of us: the teacher, my dad, myself, and our teacher's little daughter who must’ve been no more than three or four years old. She sat perched on the cooking surface in the corner, making flat bread.
Chana Masala is one of the dishes we learned to make that day. It's simple, if you know what to do.
This recipe is a bit different from the one we learned to make in India. For one, the grocery stores here in the United States have nothing on the markets of India when it comes to finding curry blends. But also, I've added coconut milk to the mix, which makes it nice and creamy. Coconut and curry go together so well, I highly recommend giving it a spin.
Either way, Chana Masala (which means “Spiced Chickpeas” in Hindi) is a one-pot wonder, and packs a boat load of flavor in. If you can make a stir fry, you can make Chana Masala! It’s also completely plant-based, so if that’s your thing, turn on the burner now!
Serves: 4 | Total Time: 30 minutes
- 2 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
- 2 onions, diced
- 7 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 inch ginger, minced
- 1 serrano chili, minced
- 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground curry powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 14-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
- 1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- Fresh cilantro for serving
- Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet until it glistens (I use my 5-qt Le Creuset Braiser (affiliate link!), but if you don't have a pan this large you might want to make a half recipe). Add diced onion, garlic, and ginger to the pan, and sauté until onion is transparent. Add minced serrano chili, crushed tomatoes and water, and bring to a simmer.
- Add cumin, salt, curry powder, coriander, and water to the pan, and stir. Then, add the chickpeas and coconut milk. Place lid on pan and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until chickpeas are warmed through and coconut milk is melted in.
- Finish by stirring in the lime juice and topping with cilantro. Serve hot over rice, cauliflower rice, etc.