There are some of you out there who may wonder if this is the same thing as Chana Masala. Essentially, it is very similar. However, I have too much respect for Indian culture and the complexity of their cuisine to label my simple variation of this dish as one which likely has a lot of meaning for those who were raised on it. Food is funny that way. I am Egyptian but was born and raised in New York. I have a strong association with certain dishes I grew up eating. They link me to my heritage. The tastes and smells of those foods as well as the way they signify togetherness and family are important to me. When someone labels a recipe as Koshary, for example, I have an expectation. I want it to be just like the one my mom makes. If it isn’t, I may be disapointed.
So, this is just a simple chickpea curry. Nothing as wonderfully traditional as the one described here but a version that was very tasty to my untrained palate. I am new to Indian spices and techniques. I really like exploring with them in the kitchen. I recently made some Curried Chicken Lettuce Wraps and loved them. This chickpea curry is a great vegetarian dish that packs a lot of protein and flavor! I ate it over basmati rice. So good. Like any stew, it is best made early in the day or even left overnight before eating it so the flavors marry and develop together.
We made a homemade a garam masala blend in school by toasting some cumin, coriander and fennel, grinding those seeds together with cinnamon and peppercorn and adding some ground cardamom, nutmeg and cloves. As you can imagine, this spice blend adds so much depth and was the primary flavor enhancer in my dish. Luckily, garam masala blends are readily available in most supermarkets so you should be able to recreate this dish at home pretty easily. I had trouble finding tamarind paste so I added a little dried apricot, worcestershire sauce and sugar as a substitute in this recipe. If you have tamarind paste, you can omit those three ingredients, mix 1/2 of a tablespoon in with a cup of boiling water and add it instead. Enjoy!
- 2 oz canola oil
- 1 tsp cumin seed
- 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ T ginger, minced
- ½ small green chili pepper, seeded and minced (this adds a lot of heat so omit it if you don't like things too spicy)
- 2 T garam masala blend
- 2 oz tomato liquid (from canned tomatoes)
- 4-5 dried apricots, diced
- ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp brown sugar or ½ tsp white sugar
- 3-4 whole tomatoes (from can), liquid removed and crushed (I used San Marzano)
- 1 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained
- 1 cup boiling water, plus more as needed to add to stew as it reduces and thickens
- salt to taste
- Add oil to hot, deep saute pan
- Add cumin seeds to hot oil and cook about 30 seconds until they start to jump a bit in the pan
- Add sliced onions and stir constantly until nice and browned (about 10-15 minutes). You want them to have a rich color but not burn.
- Add the garlic, ginger and green chili pepper and cook for 15-30 seconds
- Add the garam masala blend and toss with the onion mixture for a few seconds before adding the 2 oz of tomato sauce from the canned tomatoes. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Add the apricot, worcestershire sauce, sugar and water (or tamarind paste mixed with 1 cup of hot water) and simmer, partially covered for about 20 minutes.
- Add chickpeas and additional water, as needed to loosen the sauce. Continue to simmer an additional 20-30 minutes, uncovered, adding water as needed. (You want a somewhat thickened sauce at the end).
- Season liberally with salt.
- Serve over basmati rice and enjoy!