Stovetop Chana Masala - Slow Cooker Chickpeas & New Year's Resolutions

January 01, 2012 5 Comments

Chana Masla is the most requested meal in our house.

But, before we discuss that, let's first talk process. Simply put, the method in which you do something - anything. For me, it's the hours, sometimes days it takes to perfect a recipe. Or, the months it takes to write a book - nights of giving up socializing with the other school moms, or lost play dates for my kids. Or, the struggle to lose my last 10 pounds, which seem to be stuck to my middle and holding on with dear life.

I've realized that to attain any goal you have to go through a process. It can be a lengthy one. It can be a short one. But there are steps and it's never easy.

Like when I used to surf in Hawaii. Sure, it's fun to say you surf (and dress the part) - but paddling through the waves to get to the one you finally stand up on is the process. And, it typically takes about 90 percent of your surfing session. So to say you love surfing is one thing - but to say you love paddling through the whitewash to get that wave is likely more accurate.

In the last year as I've struggled to finish my second book, Vegan Indian, I've realized that if you don't enjoy the entire process - you'll never truly enjoy the get. My book will be published - it will be on Amazon, and we hope it will be the success that the first one was. But, I feel like I've already succeeded. I've become a better recipe tester. I've learned to be more efficient in the kitchen testing recipes. And, I've become an even better writer. Truth-be-told I've become a better dishwasher too, but that's not part of the process I can say I'll ever truly enjoy.

As we all head into the New Year keep this in mind as you make your New Year's resolutions. Mine - like many of yours - is to lose weight and eat even healthier than I already do. But that's not going to happen overnight.

Here's what will happen:

  • I will stop eating when I am not hungry.
  • I will drink more water.
  • I will continue to work out with bootcamp three times a week, a swim once, and yoga in between.
  • I will eat more Vegan meals, and I will eat out less.
  • I will also stop buying Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered peanut butter cups. Yes, they are delicious, but I'm starting to believe they might have a little conspiracy going against my gut.

Most importantly, I will eat homemade food - mostly Indian - 90 percent of my meals. Why? Because when I eat healthy, homestyle Indian, I find that I actually feel better, healthier and lose weight. It's some of the best food on the planet - I know it because I grew up on this type of eating (99 percent vegetarian - no cream - little oil and heart healthy spices). And now, many of you know it from using my first book. (The emails I still receive daily prove it.)

So, as you set your goals for the New Year - don't just think about the get. Think about the day-to-day struggle. Embrace it for what it is. Know that it will make you a stronger person. And know that you may fail your battle one day only to win the war later. And..remember we're in this together!

Now onto Chana Masala.

In Hindi, Chana means chickpeas. Masala means a mixture of spices. Put it together and you have the name of the spices used to spice the dish with the same name. Confusing? Maybe. But, it all begins to make sense eventually. And, it's all delicious so that's all that matters anyway.

For my next book Vegan Indian (to be released June 2012) I have been determined to take a step back from boxed mixed spices and canned beans (don't even get me started on why you should NOT be eating canned foods), showing you how to make things from scratch. So, the process for chana masala (the dish) will be a three-step approach but don't worry, it's worth it.

Chana Masala (the spice):Granted, you can purchase this mixed spice blend from an Indian grocer store or from this website for that matter (I launched indian as apple pie spices in 2011), but it's fun to make your own. When purchasing pre-made blends, keep in mind that they do sometimes add salts and other additives - definite red flags in my household - and something I avoid in my blends. The key to chana masala the spice is that it uses dried wild pomegranate seeds and some black salt for its extra tang. For both  you'll need to head to an Indian grocer.

1/4 cup cumin seeds
1/4 cup coriander seeds
1/4 cup dried pomegranate seeds (anardana)
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
10 whole cloves
2 black cardamom pods
4 green cardamom pods
3 3-inch cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
1 teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain)
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorn
5 medium cassia leaves, broken into pieces (or bay leaves)
10 whole dried red chiles, broken into pieces
1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
2 tablespoons dried mango powder (amchur)
1 tablespoon dried, ground ginger
1 tablespoon black salt (kala namak)

1. In a shallow, heavy pan, dry roast all ingredients except the powders (mango powder, ground ginger, and black salt) over medium heat. Stay close, and keep shaking the pan to prevent the spices from burning. They will become reddish brown and aromatic when done. After about 4 minutes of roasting, transfer to a plate and cool for 15 minutes.
2. Once cool, put ingredients in a coffee grinder reserved for spices or the dry jug of a Vita Mix blender. Add mango powder, ginger, and black salt and process into a fine powder. Sift for a finer blend. Store in an airtight container for up to six months. * Cassia leaves are often mistakenly called Indian bay leaves. They come from a different tree and are actually unrelated, though the two can be used interchangeably. Cassia leaves are larger, more brittle, and have a muskier taste than European bay leaves and are found in most Indian grocer stores. 

Cooked, Plain White Chickpeas
Slow cooker: 3 1/2-quart, cooking time: 4 hours on high, Yield: 7 cups

I know it's so easy to run out and grab a few cans of chickpeas. But, canned beans typically taste mushy and often include added salt and other additives (Not to mention the BPA issues lately). I tend to opt to cook beans and whole lentils in a slow cooker with just water, and then keep them up to a week in the refrigerator or up to three months in the freezer. They can be used on salads, added to soups, or used for quick stovetop Indian curries. The possibilities are truly endless and so much more nutritious.

3 cups whole, dried white chickpeas, cleaned and washed
5 cups water

1. Put chickpeas and water in the slow cooker.
2. Cook on high for 4 hours.
3. Rinse beans in a colander with cold water to stop the cooking process and drain any excess liquid.

To make in a five-quart slow cooker, double the ingredients and cook for four hours. A double recipe makes 14 cups. 

Chana Masala (the dish):
[figstart]I love chana masala. It's so easy to make, amazingly delicious, and with everything above prepped minutes away!

2 tablespoons oil (grapeseed, canola, vegetable)
1 heaping teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons chana masala
1 large yellow or red onion, peeled and diced (2 cups)
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated or minced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and grated or minced
2 medium tomatoes, diced (2 cups)
1 - 3 green Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed, chopped
1 teaspoon red chile or cayenne
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 cup water
4 cups cooked chickpeas

1. In a deep, heavy pan, heat oil over medium-high heat.
2. Add cumin, turmeric, and chana masala and cook until the seeds sizzle, about 30 seconds.
3. Add onion and cook until softened, another minute.
4. Add ginger and garlic, cook another minute.
5. Add tomatoes, chiles, red chile, salt, and water.
6. Bring to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes until all ingredients blend.
7. Add chickpeas and cook through. Serve over brown or white basmati rice or with roti or naan.

For all of you who are interested in starting the year off right with healthy, homestyle Indian, I'm offering a New Year's special. Head to the 'Spice Tiffin' link on this page, and order one of my patent-pending Tiffins for your spices and I will send you the basic set of 6 Indian spices (cumin seeds, coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chile, mustard seeds, and garam masala) on me. That's actually a $40 value. Orders must be placed before January 17th - when I head to South India to start working on my cooking show! 

Good luck with all of your resolutions. Please post how you are doing - can't wait to hear how you do!

5 Responses

kitchenware dinnerware
kitchenware dinnerware

April 28, 2012

Hi there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok. I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.


January 03, 2012

Hiya! I’m very excited to start using your cookbook, and am trying to locate the spices I’ll need. Did you say that you sell spices online? If so, I can’t seem to find a link, besides to the Tiffin itself. (I live in a tiny town, and am still trying to find an Indian grocery that isn’t 3+ hours away.) Thanks. :)


January 06, 2012

Thank you for posting these recipes and showing us how to cook the chickpeas using slow cooker.

My family loves Chana Masala so I will try your version and I will let you know how it turns out.


January 30, 2012

I recently made two batches of your black lentil recipe with good feedback from the family, so I’m looking forward to giving another of your recipes ago. So I’ve been to the local Indian grocer and armed myself with most of these ingredients (boy are they ‘aromatic’ – our pantry smells like an Indian restaurant without cooking a thing). One question before I start, the only pomegranate seeds available were in powder form. I’m guessing I wouldn’t need 1/4c of it – how much would you suggest I use instead?
many thanks,
(Melbourne, Australia)

Gloria Lopez
Gloria Lopez

January 02, 2012

Happy New Year, and thank you for all the wonderful tasty meals you have shared with our family. I always spice it up even more.
I have your cookbook on my wish list, so maybe my honey will get the hint.

Happy Cooking.
Gloria Lopez

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