Kiran's Cooking Club

Everyday Indian Food

Cookie Monster and Tummy Trances: Channa Massala

You know how Cookie Monster is when he says “COOO – KIES”? A little bit possessed by the very idea of them: eyeballs zigzagging in opposite directions, voice gruffer than normal, and even his wild blue Muppet fur is stilled. It’s as though the very thought of Cookies has him intoxicated from the very depths of his soul. He is in a tummy trance.

That’s exactly what a colleague of mine was like just before she (regularly) uttered the words Channa Massala to me. In fact, I think Cookie Monster himself may have been involved in her ‘possession’. She looked at me in the same state: there was a strange silence in the air and stillness in her frame before the words were spoken. I knew they were coming. In a near equally gruff voice she turned to me, eyes wide, hungry and greedy. Then out they came in a Cookie Monster voice: “Channa Massala”.  She was a zombie in that moment. But then, maybe she wasn’t so much hypnotised, as trying to hypnotise me?

It worked. I had to invite her around and it had to be the full shebang. She had worked in India and had tasted the real stuff. No quick cheats there or here.

Channa Massala brings back memories for me of special occasions with important guests coming over. It is rich in spice (depth not necessarily heat), and the masala (onion paste and mixed spice blend) has been cooked slowly to release sweet flavours that sing higher spiritual notes, arousing tingles in your soul. If it’s served up it says: “you’re special”.

I can remember my mum would cook this in bulk. The onion and spice masala would take FOREVER to cook out because of the quantity involved. The amount in the recipe below is for a small quantity – if you increase it, just remember it will take time for the onion ginger paste to cook properly.

While Channa Massala reminds me of slow moving Sundays with a pot on the boil in the background, grand Indian weddings, or important dinner guests, in India Channa Massala is also a cornerstone of Indian street food.

On the street the beautiful wonders of Channa Massala are all further  jazzed up with a covering of tamarind sauce or lemon to add a little bitterness. Chopped onions, chillies, coriander, and a sprinkle of freshly ground roasted Garam Masala. Served with a bhatura (puffed flat bread) in a plate made from a leaf. Yes, a leaf. (Indians are a resourceful people and wonder what all the fuss about recycling is about – we’ve been doing it for generations!)

I miss India and I’m feeling suddenly very inspired. It’s autumn here in the UK with the gorgious leaves turning into wondrous colours befitting of a glorious dish. This is THE BEST time to be in Delhi and to enjoy the culinary delights of all its dazzling street food. The weather is a perfect 26 degrees or there abouts. So in honour of Delhi’s street food here’s my very own Tummy Trance:

“CHAN – NA   MAS- SALLA” served in my very own home made autumn leaf bowl – Indian Street Food stylie.

For every single Indian family there’s a different recipe for this dish. The basic, most fundamental idea is to infuse the chickpeas with the layers of spice. There are many tricks to do this – boiling the whole spices in a bag with the chickpeas as they cook, cooking the whole spices in the hot oil with the onion paste, or ground roasting the spices and adding during and after the cook. But basically, the longer it’s just left, the better the taste. Make it today – this morning, eat it tonight, or even better – savour it tomorrow.

I’m using freshly ground garam massala mix which you can find on my last post, which really makes a difference.

For a small serving for 2-3 people: (Total cook time approx. 45- 60 minutes)

You need

1 cup of dried chickpeas (channa)

4-5 tbs cooking oil (anything you have – vegetable, olive or ghee)

1 medium onion

½ inch piece fresh ginger

½ tsp cumin seeds

1 ¼ tsp salt (to taste)

1 fresh green chilli chopped (to taste)

¾ tsp garam massala (to taste)

¾ amchoor powder (dried mango powder)

¼ tsp haldi (turmeric powder)

1 tsp paprika powder

1 tsp dunia powder (coriander powder)

1 tsp tomato puree

1 fresh tomato finely blended (if you don’t have a tomato, increase the puree to 1 tbs).

You do this:

1. Sift and wash chickpeas: make sure there are no chickpeas with holes, or that there any stones in the mix. Wash chickpeas thoroughly.

2. Soak your chickpeas in 5- 6 cups of cold water, overnight if you can. They will swell to double in size. You need to soak them for at least 4-5 hours. If you add them to boiled water you can get soaking time down to 3-4 hours. Soak them in the pan you will be cooking in.

3. Keep the water the chickpeas have been soaked in. The water always needs to be 1 inch above the swollen chickpeas throughout the cooking process. If you need to top up, do so now with hot water, and keep it topped up throughout the cooking process. Cook for around 45 minutes until the chickpeas are tender and soft.

Do this on a medium heat, in a pan with a lid.

4. While the chickpeas are cooking you can get on with the massala. Blend onion and fresh ginger to a paste in an electric mixer. If you do not have one you can chop very finely, or go all traditional and blend in a pestle and mortar.

5. Heat oil in a pan or wok, and add the cumin seeds. Let the pop and crack and enjoy the aroma.

6. Add the onion ginger paste as soon as the cumin seeds have browned. For this small amount of paste, cook for around 10 minutes on a slow – medium heat, with the lid on the pan.

The steam generated will ‘slow cook’ the onions.

The onions need to turn a golden colour brown.

You know when the paste is cooked when the oil is released or ‘separated’ from the onion mix. (There will be a tiny edge of oil around the paste).

7. Add all of the spices and salt apart from the amchoor, and ½ the quantity of the garam masala, and half the quantity of chopped green chilli. Allow to cook on a medium heat without the lid on the pan for 3-4 minutes. Add a little water if it sticks to the pan.

8. Add the tomato paste and chopped tomato and cook for 3-4 minutes.

9. Once chickpeas have cooked, drain them, keeping the cooking water to one side. Add the tender chickpeas to the massala. Adding a little of the cooking water at a time – depending on how runny or soupy you want the final mix. Allow the channa to cook for 5 minutes.

10. After 5 minutes, add the amchoor powder and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

11. Garnish with the remainder of the garam masala and chopped chilli.

12. Any remainder left over water, you can allow to cool and store in the fridge, using it to thin out the channa massala in the following days (if you’ve cooked a large amount).

NB: Some Channa Massala dishes have a “black tone” while others look redder. This is because traditionally the chickpeas are cooked in an iron skillet which darkens them. If you prefer the blackened colour, one trick is to add a tea bag (make sure it’s a bag!) to the chickpeas when they are boiling.

Enjoy the tummy trance!

Here’s the leaf bowl from the inside – I lined it with grease proof paper before adding the Channa Massala!

Was really easy to make – honest! I think I had around 8 leaves laid out on a table to form a kind-of-circle.

I pinned these together with extra leaf stems to secure.

Then I gathered it up and pinned it some more. I lined it with cooking paper before adding the Channa Massala.

Easy Indian Food

44 comments on “Cookie Monster and Tummy Trances: Channa Massala

  1. abeautifulday
    October 22, 2012

    would love to try this sauce for a party on coming up holiday parties. i love indian food.

  2. petit4chocolatier
    October 22, 2012

    The ingredients and your pictures are gorgeous! What you do with chick peas is remarkable. I absolutely love this!

    • Kiran
      October 23, 2012

      Thank you so much! That’s really kind as always.

  3. Nat Yusop | imabakeslave
    October 23, 2012

    I wish this computer screen was Willy Wonka-esque Touch and Taste enabled.

  4. crayonsandcroissants
    October 23, 2012

    This looks wonderful, thank you for sharing!

  5. Delicious Pot
    October 23, 2012

    looks yummy

  6. Cook-a-licious
    October 23, 2012

    I have always wanted the perfect authentic recipe that I could keep coming back to while making the channa masala: now I have it.. 🙂

  7. Angela Hunter Geiss
    October 23, 2012

    OMG! I could be that Cookie Monster person…This has to be one of my all time favorite dishes across all cultures. I am making this! Yum…Thank you for the wonderful post! My family will be lucky if I share…:-)

  8. Skuggs
    October 23, 2012

    This looks amazing. I’m guessing I’ll need to trot down to my local Asian supermarket for a couple of the ingredients. I can’t see Sainsburys coming up trumps. Love the Cookie Monster!

    • Kiran
      October 23, 2012

      You should find most of the ingredients at Sainsbury’s – the amchoor might be harder work – but definately should be able to find it an an asian store! Hope it works out – thank you!

  9. tableofcolors
    October 23, 2012

    This looks wonderful!

  10. silverblackbird
    October 23, 2012

    This looks beautiful! I’ll give this a try today or tomorrow I think, once I’ve soaked some chickpeas 🙂 I have everything except the amchoor powder, which they might have in the corner shop – how important is that flavour? I had a slight panic at the ‘haldi’ – but according to Wikipedia it’s another name for turmeric so all’s well!

    • Kiran
      October 23, 2012

      Oops! Thank you – haldi is turmeric powder 🙂 Amchoor is pretty key together with the Garam Massala – hope you can find it at a local Asian store, or online at a push. Thank you also for the lovely comments!

  11. anyone4curryandotherthings
    October 23, 2012

    now I know why on earth a doubled the amount of channa last night for soaking!!!
    Of course will have to try out YOUR version now – and what a lovely idea with your leafy pot – charming! And thank you.

    • Kiran
      October 23, 2012

      Would love to know how it goes!

  12. lubna yaqub
    October 23, 2012

    Being out in Dubai this is exactly what I need to help me cook! perfect! x

    • Kiran
      October 23, 2012

      Lubna! How lovely to hear from you! Hope you and the kids are settling in well xx

  13. ania
    October 23, 2012

    My mistake was reading this right after getting to work — I’ve been suddenly overcome with the desire to leave immediately and get cooking!

  14. Doggy's Style
    October 23, 2012

    Sounds delicious.

  15. Allison
    October 23, 2012

    That’s so funny. I can totally see going as crazy for channa masala as Cookie Monster does for cookies… and yours looks great!

  16. Our Growing Paynes
    October 23, 2012

    What a beautiful presentation. I always enjoy your photos as well.

  17. stephala
    October 23, 2012

    I would love an authentic naan recipe from you!! I’ve tried searching on the internet for recipes but they are all different.

    • Kiran
      October 23, 2012

      Thank you – it’s coming soon 🙂

  18. Gautam Sharma
    October 23, 2012

    Awesome pics, great recipe 🙂

  19. df
    October 24, 2012

    The whole recipe sounds so wonderfully delicious, but I’m also awestruck by the leaf bowl. So lovely.

  20. mredible
    October 24, 2012

    Looks delicious, how did you make the leaf bowl in the pic?

    • Kiran
      October 25, 2012

      Thank you! I’ve posted a description below and a photo of the empty bowl above. Hope it makes sense 🙂

    • mredible
      October 26, 2012

      Thanks, it looks sensational.

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  22. scroungelady
    October 25, 2012

    Yes – leaf bowl please!

    • Kiran
      October 25, 2012

      Thank you – description below and a little photo above. Hope it helps.

  23. Kiran
    October 25, 2012

    Was really easy – honest! I think I had around 8 leaves laid out on a table to form a kind-of-circle. I pinned these together with extra leaf stems to secure. Then I gathered it up and pinned it some more. I lined it with cooking paper before adding the Channa Massala 🙂

  24. c to c friendspirations
    October 25, 2012

    YUM! I love chickpeas, or should I say Channa 🙂 I should try this recipe. Thank you for sharing it. I’ll let you know if I do make it.

    Thank you, CAT

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  26. marymtf
    October 28, 2012

    Lots of superlatives, don’t know where to start. I’ll just say fantastic site. Bloggers are so generous. Thanks.

  27. ideflex
    October 30, 2012

    Just divine! I can taste it through your beautiful photos. BTW thanks for visiting!

  28. laceyjbrown
    October 30, 2012

    Ok, I am making this tomorrow. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at chana masala! We were once told by a server at one of our favorite Indian restaurants that chana masala is like American Thanksgiving food. You only have it on really special occasions.
    Also, this makes me want to hop a plane to Oxford and learn everything you know! 🙂

    • Kiran
      October 30, 2012

      Thank you 🙂 Hope you enjoy it! Yeah – it’s special because it’s pretty rich in spice. But so good you could eat it every day!

  29. Promenade Claire
    November 3, 2012

    I can see why you would feel homesick, chana masala is fabulous – and I had forgotten about serving it with tamarind, thank you so much for that reminder as it transforms the chana and takes them to another level !!

  30. katieatthekitchendoor
    November 8, 2012

    Chana masala is one of my absolute favorite foods. So excited to try this recipe – I’ve been searching for an authentic recipe to save me on the nights when I don’t want to walk to get take out! Thanks for sharing.

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