Recipe: Kala Channa with Gravy

Garlic spinach, basmati rice, and spiced black chickpeas with sauce.

Sadly, I have no place in the house suited to taking luscious pictures of food… so a chair in the living room had to do. Adam has initiated (and I’m so happy!) a practice of eating veg at least two times a week, three if we can manage it. We’ll have to be creative with some of the options as he’s still reluctant to head towards things that are very clearly green – and things like radishes, cauliflower, eggplant/aubergine, and their ilk are still out of bounds.

In the mean time, we’re working on finding a balance with lentils and chickpeas, and since this came out spectacularly well, I wanted to share the recipe. It’s going into our definite rotation for every couple of weeks.

Black Chickpeas (kala channa) with sauce

  • 2 cups kala channa (black chickpeas), dry
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp salt (more or less according to taste)
  • 1 whole onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp ginger-garlic paste (or 1tsp each)
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste OR 2 puréed tomatoes OR 1/2 cup tomato purée.
  • 2 chopped green chilis
  • 1 tsp powdered cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper (powdered)
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder3 tbsp cooking oil (we used soya)
Cooking instructions:
Soak channa for 8 to 10 hours or overnight, and rinse under tap water. Put the channa plus enough water to cover into the pressure cooker; add a small bit of oil (less than 1tsp) to help keep the channa happy and the pressure cooker from spewing water everywhere. Add salt and cloves and the bay leaf. Close lid and cook for 4 whistles*, then remove pressure and simmer for 45min or until soft enough to squash with the back of a spoon or ladle.
Heat oil in a wok, kadhai or large pan. Add cumin seeds, and then add the onion; cook until the onion turns golden brown. Add garlic and ginger paste and green chilly, stirring for a minute, then add tomato puree or tomato paste and the black pepper, turmeric powder, cumin and coriander powder. Let this cook until the oil separates out from the tomato paste at the top and sides of the wok/kadhai/pan.
Separate water and channa through a strainer: keep the water it was cooked in! Take out 3 spoonfuls of channa and put them on a plate or in a small bowl; crush them with the back of a ladle to make a paste. Add this to the tomato, onion and spice mixture, cooking for 3-5 minutes. Add the rest of the channa and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the water from the chickpeas (I told you to save it!) in small increments to the gravy mixture, cooking it for an additional 20 or so minutes. You may add more water if you like a really saucy channa, or less of the water if you like it thicker; the water will cook off, so I do suggest adding at least half a cup or more to the dish.
*For those of you with non-whistling pressure cookers, about 20-30 minutes should do it. I might even suggest checking at 20, removing the chickpeas from the heat and running cold water around your pressure cooker to relieve the pressure; carefully open it up, check the chickpeas, and if needed, add more water and return to the burner.

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