If I have to treat my family some day with an elaborative home cooked meal – I usually prefer rich Punjabi curries for the time. Two reasons for that – A) I am so used to making them, it’s like a piece of cake for me. B) Most of them are legumes so even though they are heavier on the fat/oil side, I still know that they are good with their protein content as well. So it’s not that unhealthy either, better than having a Pizza from Dominos at least.
Chhole is often considered to be a very luxurious and heavy curry by many. I would like to state here (again!) that its not the food but the way we make it matters the most. Now, chickpeas are packed with nutrition. Besides being an excellent vegan and gluten-free source of protein and fiber, they also contain exceptional levels of iron, vitamin B-6 and magnesium. And if we mix a lot of spices, fat, cream, tomato-onion-ginger-garlic paste etc. to this simple legume- it does eventually gets fatty. So who’s the culprit here then? Not the poor legume for sure.
Apart from preserving our culture by keeping the traditional food alive, we also need to learn the art of cooking with less fat and more of the nutrition. Like this chickpeas curry today- This Chana Masala is a lighter version of the typical Punjabi Chhole that we get in the restaurants. The major difference being the usage of Garam Masala (Indian spice mix), which is used extensively in Punjabi Chhole curry. Also, the Punjabi version requires a lot of Masala paste to be roasted on slow flame for long to get the authentic taste and texture. Whereas in this version, the time we simmer the masala is almost the half. That automatically cuts down on the cooking time and useless oodles of oil used.
Another major difference is the use of gram flour (besan) in this recipe. We add some besan to get the rich texture without using too much of spices and masala. This brings out very delicate flavours and keeps the curry light. Adding gram flour is very unusual for any Punjabi curry though, and thats what makes this curry so different that the usual ones you must have had. Give it a try and you will definitely taste the subtle difference in taste and texture. Despite being a Vegan curry, it’s much creamier than the Punjabi version and like I said- way lighter too. Generally, I prepare Punjabi chhole when I am doing Naan or Paratha or Kulche etc. But if I am having plain Chapati or rice for dinner, I prefer this version.
This is a No onion garlic version, so is very apt for cooking in the month of Saavan or Navratri time. Since chickpeas (and as a matter of fact- all legumes), produce gas in stomach, it is important to add some digestive spices while cooking. So the digestives in this curry are – cumin seeds, asafoetida (hing), ginger and fennel seeds. All of these are optional though, but will be good for your tummy if you add these ingredients while cooking any legume curry.
** I have used the traditional method of soaking chickpeas overnight and then pressure cooking them till 4-5 whistles. But you can use canned variety as well. Take 4 cans of chickpeas/garbanzo beans for this recipe.
What you need?
- 250 gms cup chickpeas, soaked overnight ( 4 cans if using canned version)
- 1 tsp turmeric, red chili powder, coriander powder each
- 2-3 green chilies, chopped
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp garam masala
- ¼ tsp dry mango powder
- 1 tsp Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- A pinch of asafoetida
- ¼ tsp fennel seeds
- Salt to taste
- 2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped small
- 1 small piece of ginger, grated or chopped very small
- Handful of fresh coriander leaves to garnish (cilantro)
- 2 tsp Besan (gram flour)
- 2 tbsp oil
How to make?
- If using canned chickpeas – rinse and drain the beans. Take a handful out and blend to a paste in a blender/mixer, keep aside.
- If using raw chickpeas – pressure cook the beans with a pinch of turmeric and 1 tsp salt for 3-4 whistles. Open the cooker once the pressure eases off. Take out a handful of beans and make a paste, keep aside.
- In the meanwhile, heat a wide pan and dry roast gram flour into it. It will take about 12-15 minutes to roast besan on a low flame. Take care not to burn it and keep stirring frequently so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Once the raw smell disappears and besan changes its colour with nice aroma, you know its done. Keep it aside.
- Heat oil in a pan, throw in cumin seeds and let them splutter. Add in the asafoetida and let it fry for just 5-7 seconds.
- Add in chopped tomatoes, ginger and green chilies with salt and cook the mixture covered for like 6-8 minutes until its all mushy.
- At this point, add roasted gram flour. Mix well with the tomato mixture. Keep the flame very low while doing this else the besan might dry up quickly. You may add a few drops of water if that happens.
- Add in all the spices except Garam Masala and Kasuri Methi. Mix well and let it cook covered for another 5-8 minutes till it gets into a thick paste.
- Add in boiled chickpeas now, with 4 cups of water. Turn the flame to high and bring to a boil. Once it starts boiling, cover it and let it simmer for the next 10-15 minutes, stirring in between.
- Add in the chickpea paste we made in the beginning and simmer for the next 12-15 minutes. Check and adjust the seasoning (salt, pepper etc.) and turn off.
- When you are ready to serve, transfer the curry to a serving dish. Heat 1 tsp of oil in a small tadka pan. Throw in garam masala and kasuri methi and let them fry for just 30 seconds. Spread this sizzling tadka on top of the curry and cover with a lid. Let it absorb all the flavours by keeping aside for 7-8 minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot.
Notes and tips:
- You may use onion rings, chopped lemon pieces and even julienned ginger pieces for garnishing or as a salad aside.
- Just to remind you again- This is a Vegan, no onion no garlic curry and tastes very different from the usual Punjabi chhole. But if you want to add on these things, feel free to experiment.
- Usually Garam masala is added on top of the curry, but we have added that as a tadka/chaunk (spices sizzled in oil). Following this method ensures you get the tartness of Garam masala intact with the curry and enhances the flavours beautifully.
- Besan (gram flour) cannot be replaced by any other flour here, but you may skip it if you wish. Although again, it imparts a very subtle richness to the curry and you must try it at least once.
- This curry has a thick and creamy texture, and yet is not too heavy for the stomach.