Happy New Year, my dear readers! I hope you have spent wonderful, palate-pleasing holidays. I bet many of you have made new year’s resolutions, just like I did, and probably some of them concern food too. I wish you all the discipline, the courage and the patience to stick to them! This Indian chickpeas dish illustrates two of my 2013 goals: cooking more legumes and using more often the fascinating cookery books I own and tend to forget, such as the highly reliable Classic Indian Cookery by Julie Sahni, where I found this excellent recipe. As for my sudden longing for Indian flavours, I owe it to Eva (Kitchen Inspirations), who dazzled me with her extraordinary Indian feast throughout half of December (it started here and went on for several impressive posts).
Khatte Channe can have different consistencies, going from a thick soup to a dish with moderated amount of sauce and this version falls into the latter category. I will not bore you with the detailed description of the subtle and complex mixture of flavours (I wouldn’t be able to do it anyway) and will simply say it is the best chickpeas dish I have ever had in my life. One more successful adventure with Julie Sahni’s book, proving that I should open it more often. (Another delightful dish I have prepared following Julie Sahni’s instructions and posted here was Butter Chicken, which, contrary to its name, wasn’t greasy or heavy.)
I have slightly changed the spices’ amounts and adapted the recipe to four servings. Of course, like many Indian dishes in sauce, this one can be made in advance and reheated (the fresh sliced onion and fresh chili should be added however only before the dish is served).
TIPS: If you cannot find tamarind, you might use some lemon or lime juice instead. If you can find it, buy it because it keeps forever in the fridge and apart from the tanginess, brings a very particular taste. Tamarind is sold in Asian shops (not only Indian), usually in blocks (about 200g/ 7 oz) containing both the pulp and seeds and has to be dissolved in hot water.
Julie Sahni emphasizes the importance of the long onion browning stage in many Indian dishes and I must confess I first tried short cuts, i.e. quickly softening onions instead. I quickly realised the final result obtained with browned onions is well worth the effort of constant stirring for 20 minutes.
Preparation: about 1 hour
Ingredients (serves four as a side-dish with rice and for example a meat dish):
2 x 400 g (about 2 x 16 oz) cans chickpeas or cooked chickpeas + 125 ml liquid from the cans or cooking liquid
1 big onion
2 medium garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 cm (0,8 in) piece of block of tamarind paste
1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
200g (2/3 or about 7 oz) small can of chopped tomatoes or 200 g (7 oz) fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1 heaped teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon roasted and then ground cumin seeds
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 fresh green chili pepper finely chopped (I have used red chili pepper and only sliced it)
Drain the chickpeas, keeping the liquid aside.
Dissolve the tamarind paste in 190 ml (about 6 oz) boiling water, squashing it with a fork. After a couple of minutes strain the juice thus obtained, getting as much as you can out of the paste.
Slice the big onion.
Chop the garlic cloves.
Heat 2 – 3 tablespoons oil in a pan. Fry the onion, constantly stirring for about 20 minutes until they become “caramel”, as the author calls it. Add the garlic and stir-fry it for 2 minutes.
Add turmeric, cayenne pepper, tomatoes and the ginger.
Cook the sauce at medium heat for 5 minutes.
Add the tamarind juice and and the chickpeas liquid.
Let everything simmer covered, at low heat for 15 minutes.
Finally add the drained chickpeas, garam masala, the cumin and cook for 10 more minutes.
Season with salt and serve sprinkled with sliced fresh onion and chopped or sliced fresh chili.