Sunday, October 7, 2012

Chana Masala- my favourite Indian chickpea curry

Chana Masala served with brown rice, cucumber and garlic chutney

Hey! I'm French Canadian so this is the French Canadian version of an Indian chickpea curry - Chana Masala.  It's my comfort food- full of rich tomato coconut sauce, warm spices (yes, there will be heat), coriander and, of course, chickpeas.  And the aroma in the kitchen- hummmm.

Now, you can go ahead and make this on the stove top.  You know, the old fashioned way and it's delicious.  Today, I'll make it in an electric pressure cooker.  It's a wonderful appliance, time saver and I don't worry about watching the pressure gauge, it's all done for me.  Just set it and walk away.

The quantities are approximate because I encourage you to taste, adjust and to make it your own.  Here goes...

Serves 6 generously.

4   cups of dry chickpeas (soak them overnight in water to cover if using the stove top) to make about 8 cups cooked
2   tbsp oil
2   tbsp minced fresh ginger
2   cups, chopped onion
2   tbsp garam masala
1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1   tbsp chili powder (I used an Indian roasted chili powder purchased at the Indian Grocer)
1   tsp ground coriander
1   tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp amchur powder (powdered dehydrated unripe mango, purchase at the Indian Grocer)
salt and pepper to taste (optional)
1   tbsp tamarind concentrate (optional)
4-5  cups jarred strained tomatoes/tomato coulis (or tomato sauce and/or tomato juice)
1  400 ml can coconut milk
3/4 cup chopped coriander

Optional garnishes:
Cucumber, chopped
Mango, peeled and chopped
Tomato, chopped

In the pressure cooker:
You don't have to soak the chickpeas overnight.  Place them in the pressure cooker with enough water to cover them by 1 inch.  Add 1 tbsp oil to prevent the water from foaming.  Lock the lid and cook for 10 minutes.  Release the steam and when it's safe, remove the chickpeas (watch out for hot steam) and drain them.  The chickpeas should still be "al dente", just about cooked.  They finish cooking in the sauce.

While the chickpeas are draining, heat the oil in the pressure cooker, on medium heat, add the ginger and cook until fragrant- about 30 seconds.  Add the spices until fragrant- about 30 seconds, then add the onions and cook until they soften- about 3 minutes.  If the spices are too dry, you can add a bit more oil. Add the drained chickpeas, the tomatoes, tamarind and the coconut milk.  Mix well.  Lock the lid and cook for 10 minutes.  Release the steam and, when it's safe, open the lid.  Watch out for hot steam!  Grab your spoon and taste.  Adjust your seasonings, add more liquid if you like (tomato sauce or water or coconut milk), more spice.  Then lock the lid and continue cooking for another 6 minutes.  When the timer beeps, you can let the steam release on its own, it will take approximately 10 minutes.  Add the fresh coriander and serve over rice.

On the stove top:
Soak the chickpeas overnight then bring them to a boil on the stovetop.  Boil gently for approximately 45 minutes or until they are almost soft.  Follow the directions above for the rest of the recipe, except that you need to bring the chickpeas and sauce to a boil, then turn down to a slow simmer for approximately 1 hour. Stir occasionally. Taste and adjust the seasonings about half way through the simmering period.  Remove from heat and add the fresh coriander.

Simmering chickpeas
Wanna play?
You could add fresh tomatoes to the sauce.  Or a can of diced tomatoes. Or soften one or two tablespoons of garlic with the ginger. Or one tablespoon of finely chopped fresh chilies.

Taste your sauce and adjust your seasonings- more cayenne, cumin, garam masala or chili powder.
I like my curry "saucy" so the rice can soak up the extra, but if you like your sauce thick, add one tbsp of tomato paste or reduce the amount of strained tomato.
Don't like coconut milk?, then forget it and add more tomato sauce.  Who doesn't like coconut milk anyway?

You can top your curry with diced cucumber, diced mango, tomatoes, raisins.

I'm having mine with cucumber and the garlic chutney I made last month (recipe follows).

For the freezer: When the curry has cooled, laddle into medium freezer bags- about 3 cups per bag should be enough for two people.  Let the air out as you close the bag, label and freeze flat to save space.

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