This past weekend demoing at the Whole Foods in Willowbrook, I showcased one of the best-kept Indian food secrets - kala chana, or black chickpeas, high in protein and meatier in texture than their white counterpart.
Not one person knew what they were trying, but once they did, they were sold! Here's an easy recipe for kala chana made with my Punjabi Masala, which is just onion/ginger/garlic/turmeric ground down into a paste.
Kala Chana Chaat with Punjabi Masala
Makes 6 cups
2 cups dried kala chana, cleaned and washed
½ onion, finely chopped
2 – 3 Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed and finely sliced (optional)
2 tablespoons Punjabi Masala
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon chana masala
½ teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne (optional)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (optional)
2 tablespoons ghee or oil
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 large lemon, juiced
1. Soak kala chana in ample water overnight ideally (see note below) and drain. Add to a pot along with 7 cups water and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drain and return to the same pot. I save this broth to add to vegetable soups and other curries. Store in a container in the fridge or in ice-cube trays in the freezer.
2. Make a little well with the back of a spoon in the cooked chickpeas.
3. In the well, add onion, chiles, Punjabi Masala, salt, chana masala, red chile powder, and cumin seeds.
4. In a separate, shallow pan, heat your ghee or oil until very hot. Test your oil by placing one single cumin seed in it. If the oil is hot enough, the seed will sizzle and rise to the top immediately.
5. Carefully, add hot oil to your pot of chana and other ingredients.
6. Add cilantro and lemon juice. Mix well. Serve immediately as a salad, with Indian bread like naan or roti, over rice, or blend down in a food processor and serve like a hummus with naan chips.
* There are a few ways to cook kala chana. First, there’s the question of ‘to soak or not to soak?’ I say, if you can find the time to do it, do. It helps move the process along and it also helps pull out any ‘antinutrients’ – what may cause slight gassiness later. Ideally, soak overnight, but it’s okay to soak at least 2 hours. I recommend using boiling water if you don’t have the time to soak overnight as that just speeds everything along.
You can also make these in the slow cooker. The ratio for a 5-quart slow cooker is 3 cups dried kala chana, 7 cups water, cooked on high for about 9 hours (no need to soak, but again you can). Once again, use boiling instead of room temperature water to reduce the cooking time by 1-2 hours.