Whatever you call it, chana masala, chole masala, channa, chholay is sold on the streets, served at parties, and eaten at all hours of the day, from breakfast to late-night snacks. It's inexpensive, nutritious, and simple to make in large quantities; it reheats well and, most importantly, it tastes great.
Prep: 15 min
Cook: 40 min (if using tinned chickpeas)
Ingredients for Channa Masala:
- 450g drained cooked chickpeas (or just under 2 x 400g tins), or 200g dried chickpeas
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda, if using dried chickpea
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 large onion
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 6 garlic cloves
- 25g root ginger
- 2-4 green chillies, to taste
- 30g fresh coriander
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1-2 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes
- 1½ tsp fine salt
- 1 tsp garam masala (see step 9)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
Instruction how to make Channa Masala:
1 If you're using dried chickpeas...
If using, soak the dried chickpeas in cold water overnight, preferably with a half-teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda added, then drain, transfer to a pan, cover generously with cold water, and bring to a simmer. Skim off any scum, reduce the heat, and cook until the chickpeas are tender – how long this takes depends on the age of the chickpeas. Always keep at least 500ml of liquid in the pan. Once the chickpeas are tender, strain off 500ml of the cooking liquor into a jug.
2... and if using canned
If you're using tinned chickpeas, place them in a pan with 500ml water (you can make up some of that amount with the liquid from the tin), bring to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Saute the onion
Masterclass in chana masala by Felicity Cloake 2. sauté onions
The onion should be peeled and finely chopped. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, then add the cumin seeds and fry, stirring constantly so they don't burn, until aromatic. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and golden.
4. Prepare the curry paste
Felicity Cloake's chana masala masterclass 3. While the onion is frying, grind the garlic, ginger, chillies, and a quarter of the coriander to a paste in a mortar.
While the onion is cooking, peel and roughly chop the garlic and ginger, then combine them in a mortar or mini chopper with the chillies (stalks removed but seeds and pith left in unless you really don't like heat) and about 25g fresh coriander. Blitz or grind to a fairly smooth paste, adding a splash of water as needed.
Felicity Cloake's chana masala masterclass 4 out of 5 stars While the onion is frying, grind the garlic, ginger, chilies, and a quarter of the coriander into a paste in a mortar.
5. Combine the paste and spices in a mixing bowl.
Scrape the paste into the onion pan and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, then add the ground coriander, chili powder, and turmeric (and a splash more oil if the mixture looks like it's going to catch) and cook, stirring, for another couple of minutes.
If using whole tomatoes, coarsely chop them (if you have access to ripe fresh tomatoes, you can use them instead).
6. Stir in the tomatoes and chickpeas.
Masterclass in chana masala by Felicity Cloake 6. Stir in the chickpeas and tomatoes.
Add the tomatoes to the pan, then stir in the chickpeas and their cooking water, as well as the salt, and bring the gravy to a lively simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and leave to bubble for 20 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Check the seasoning and stir in the garam masala (see step 9 if you want to make your own).
7. Finishing touches
Turn off the heat and allow the chana masala to cool slightly before scattering the remaining coriander leaves on top and serving.
Chana masala is typically served with flatbreads like chapati or pav buns, poori or rice, as well as raita and/or a kachumber salad of chopped onions, cucumber, and tomatoes, but it also works well as a vegetarian side dish.
8. Different Options
For a slightly thicker consistency, replace 50g of the dried chickpeas with chana dal. Stir in a couple of spoonfuls of plain full-fat yoghurt if you prefer things milder. And, if desired, bulk up the dish by adding two medium peeled and cut into chunks to the pan in step 6. (in which case you may need to cook the curry for longer, and add a little more water).
9. DIY Garam Masala
To make your own deliciously aromatic garam masala, combine the seeds from eight cardamom pods in a spice grinder or mortar with a teaspoon of black peppercorns, cloves, cumin seeds (preferably black, but brown will do), a stick of cinnamon, and a third of a nutmeg, finely grated, then grind to a powder.