My friend Diana is in town for a couple of days, and I promised her a vegetarian feast. There’s nothing she loves more than Indian food, so I broke out my Madhur Jaffrey cookbook and made this chana masala for her and our friends Peter and Cat. It turned out really well, and was less difficult than I expected. It was spicy without being overpowering, and the lemon really gives it a fresh, tangy taste.
(Incidentally, I realized about five minutes before my guests arrived that we were out of lemons– Joe used them all making lemon curd! We only have small corner markets in my neighborhood, none of which carry produce, and I don’t have a car. Fortunately, the neighborly folks at Ida Mae’s Bruncherie, reviewed here, spotted me a lemon!)
Chana masala, for those who haven’t tasted it, is a vegetarian dish of chickpeas simmered with onions, garlic, ginger, tomato puree and spices. It’s topped with lemon juice, tomatoes and chopped onion and served with fried bread– in this case, bhaturas. My friend LeftyProf gave me a real-deal recipe, from his best friend’s mom in Delhi, but when I raced home from work and started cooking, it emerged that we didn’t actually have all of the ingredients! So I’m going to try that this weekend, and last night I made Madhur Jaffrey’s bhaturas instead. Props to Peter for doing an excellent job deep frying these– I’m excited to have successfully produced another new (to me) Indian bread! Read on for the recipes.
I’m going to paraphrase the recipes here– they’re actually quite simple. I’m also adapting the chana masala recipe to use canned chickpeas. All credit, rights, etc. belong to Madhur Jaffrey.
1 15-oz can chickpeas
1 medium onion, chopped
1 head of garlic (about 10 cloves), chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsbp chopped ginger
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
generous pinch of salt
Empty the chickpea can into a pot. Add 1 pint of water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and leave the chickens sitting in water.
In a pan, fry the cumin seeds in the oil. As soon as they start to turn brown, add the onion and cook until it starts to turn golden brown. Add garam masala, coriander and tomato puree and fry for a minute or two. Add ginger and garlic and fry for another minute or two.
Drain the peas and reserve 1 cup of the liquid. Add the peas and 1 cup of liquid into the pan. Add lemon juice and cayenne. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Garnish with lemon slices, quartered tomatoes and chopped onion. I’m not sure it’s traditional, but a dollop of yogurt or sour cream is delicious on this.
5 oz flour, plus some for dusting
Plain yogurt (a few tbsp)
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp ajwain seeds (optional)
Beat the egg and add to the flour. Add salt and ajwain seeds (take it easy with the ajwain, it’s potent). Mix with your hands. Add a little bit of yogurt at a time, just enough to get a soft texture. Once it is a single ball of dough, knead it for 10 minutes, dusting with flour to keep it from sticking. Brush with a little bit of oil, cover with a damp cloth, and let sit for an hour or so.
While the chana masala is simmering, heat a pan or fryer of vegetable oil until it’s just about smoking hot. Separate the dough into 8 balls, and roll each ball out to about a 4-5 inch round. Drop it into the oil. It should rise and float, then start to puff. Let it get golden brown, then turn it over and brown the other side. Set on a paper towel until ready to serve.
The chana masala is gluten-free, dairy-free (if you use tofu sour cream or don’t add a dollop) and vegan. The bhaturas are vegetarian.