20 December 2006

Kaala Chana - North Indian black chick peas curry

I have been tinkering with my blog template and have got some of the desired results. So please don't be surprised at the new look - wanted to surprise you with the cute reindeer wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a wonderful new year ahead. This will be my last recipe for you before I leave for holidays.

Black chick peas - Dry

I have learnt of this recipe from a dear friend who is relocating to Riyadh this week. She learnt it from her friend. And that's how traditional family recipes go around from a Punjabi kitchen into a Tamilian kitchen. S had a tough time explaining to me what Kaala chana - the base ingredient was. I asked her if it was Sundal chana and she said NO. It is just kala chana.

I take pride in the fact that I have a fair knowledge of most Indian and quite a few global ingredients. And that I couldn't place this bean was just not an easily digestible fact. On my way back from her house, I stopped by at a local 'kirana' (grocery) store and asked for 250 g of 'Kaala chana' - the bigger variety. There are two sizes of the same beans.

I also bought two of the other main spices that go into this uniquely Punjabi recipe. My friend's mom also brought to light the fact that it is this chana that is served on the way to Vaishno Devi temple before the crack of dawn. The piping hot chana on a dark cold morning is indeed a welcome treat. That too when offered as a prasad, it is relished even more.

The recipe will come up in a while, but until then can you guess which are the two all important spices - in fact the only two whole spices that will be used in this one.

Folks - this is one such time, no one's guessed right. The two magical spices are black cardamom and Shah Jeera.
More about black cardamom here with the pictures of this camphor like spice. Shah Jeera or Caraway seeds are used here along with black cardamom to give this chana a distinct flavour.

Kaala Chana (Black Chick peas)

Time taken - Overnight soaking plus 1 hour cooking time
Category - Beans & peas, Indian curry, North Indian cuisine
Serves 2 people

1/2 cup dry kaala chana (black chickpeas) - around 100 g
Pinch of baking soda
Pinch of asafoetida (optional)
2 black cardamoms
1/2 tsp of Shah jeera (Caraway seeds)
1 tsp ginger garlic paste - roughly ground in mortar pestle would be best
2 medium sized onions - very finely chopped
Water 2 cups
2 green chillies slit
1 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
Mint sprigs or coriander leaves and slices of a tomato for garnish
Special Equipment:
A small pressue cooker is almost a must-have for this recipe, or else these tough beans could take almost 2 hours of boiling to get cooked. A slow cooker would be the other best option.
In a large pot, fill lots of water. Put in the dry chick peas with a pinch of baking soda. Soak overnight. They will swell up to almost 3 times their original size by morning. Drain and keep aside.
1. Place the drained chick peas in a pressure cooker and cover with 5-6 cups of water with a pinch of baking soda and asafoetida. After 4 whistles, keep the flame at Sim for around 10 minutes and remove cooker from flame. Open after 1/2 hour after the cooker has cooled off.
2. In a heavy bottom cast iron pan / kadai (Don't use non-stick pan here if you want the best results) - heat a tbsp of oil. Throw in the black cardamom and shah jeera. After 30 seconds, put in the ginger garlic paste and saute till golden in colour. Put in the finely chopped onions.
3. Now comes the call for patience. Keep the flame between medium-high. Let the onions get brown and as they just start sticking to the bottom, add a few tsp of water to 'deglaze' the pan or loosen up the burnt bits. Let the flame be on medium high and keep repeating this procedure of letting the water evaporate, onions starting to stick to the pan and deglazing with water some 5-6 times. You would be using roughly 1/2 cup of water during the entire process which will take upto 20 minutes.
The result of this process will be blackish brown caramelized onions, turned extremely soft and superbly RICH in flavour - both from its own caramelization and infusing the flavours of the spices used. Using a non-stick pan will not give you the depth of flavour that is the cornerstone of this recipe.
4. By this time, the chana in the cooker would have cooled off. Open the cooker lid and check if the Chana are cooked to a soft consistency. They should crush easily between your thumb and index finger with a slight pressure. Black chickpeas are quite thick skinned so they will never cook to a mush, which is why you can safely overcook them in a pressure cooker without expecting a slush in the end.
Drain the cooked chana. Reserve the liquid. Add the cooked chana to the onions. Also put in the slit green chillies and salt. Keep the flame on medium high and let the chickpeas cook some more with the onion mix. Add the reserved liquid little by little if you find the curry going too dry. In all, let them all simmer together happily for some 15 minutes. If by chance the chickpeas were old and they didn't succumb to pressure cooking, you can do one more round of the whole curry in the cooker for around 5 minutes.
5. Remove from flame. Garnish with some fresh mint leaves. Serve hot with fresh tomato slices and some puris or phulkas or any bread you choose. Anita says you must have halva by the side too. I take her word for it.
A few more words:
  • Please don't skimp on the onion sauteeing time or the second simmering time. Trust me, slow cooking brings out some amazing flavours. And I'm surprised the hasty cook in me is actually telling you this. The long cooking time makes up for the lack of too many ingredients and spices. This is simplicity at its best. Although this is the first time I've made this one, it's definitely going to be a regular in my home. Try it and you'll be happy you made this. So will your guests.
  • I'd also like to reiterate 'No non-stick pan for this one please'.
  • You could easily try this in one of those slow cookers, plug it in and wake up to a beautiful breakfast. If you do try that way, please let me know the results.
  • The chickpeas are a tad heavy on digestion if you eat it for dinner. Breakfast or lunch are the best times so that it gets digested by the time you go to sleep.
Shammi of Food in the main has also blogged about her version of the Kaala Chana curry here.


Nabeela said...

bay leaf and cinnamon?
P.S: I love your new template!

Anonymous said...

Good Morning nandita, My guess is anardana and javitri (mace). Just a wild guess.

Anita said...

Is it cinnamon and cloves?

I love this with halva-poori,traditionally also made on Ram Navmi in Punjabi households. The chana would get mixed with the halva, and the salty-sweet taste was devine...brings back childhood memories. Quick with the recipe...gotta make this.

Nandita said...

Recipe is up..and the secret spices are....(check the post for that now)

rooma said...

I love this Nandita!!!! But your version is a little different.... must try it out :) The new look is good :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Nandita,thanks a million for posting this recipe.I just soaked some black chana yesterday and not knowing what to do with it,decided to make sundal with it(Just simple tempering and addition of fresh coconut.Now I have one more recipe to look forward to with black chana.:)

Anonymous said...

Hi Nandita

Nice recipe. I have saved it. Will surely try it out.

Paz said...

I love your holiday template. Looks great!

I love this recipe, too! Lovely photos!

Have a good trip and Happy holidays!


Anonymous said...

Nandita: are these the same black chana dal used in southern/Kerala cuisine to make "Varatha aratchi kadala" that goes with puttu? with some coconut and a spicy sauce...

Anonymous said...

Wish u and ur family a very hapy holiday!HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Anonymous said...

Yum.. Nandita.. That curry looks delicious. Have a very Happy Holidays. See you in the new year.

Anonymous said...

nandita, I just saw that I didn't respond to your comment/query under my cranberry pudding post. I am sorry for the delay. Regarding substituting molasses with jaggery, I have no experience with that. But that sounds like a good idea. Let me know if you try it. Are cranberries available there? I don't remember seeing it in india. Well, actually I haven't done any grocery shopping in India, so I don't know what they have or don't have. :) Good luck!

Black chana looks great. I love black chana.

Meenal Mehta said...

Hey Nandita,

jsut dropped by to say hello and compliment u on your blog which is very nice ...

wish u and your family a merry xmas and a happy new yr

Anonymous said...

Wishing you and your hubby a very Happy New Year

sailaja said...

Enjoy your vacation, Nandita.

May the new year bring in cheer, happiness and blessings to you and your family!

Happy New Year!!

Btw, that's a nice recipe using kala channa.

Priya S&S said...

Wishing peace, health, and happiness in 2007 and always. Happy New year to you and your family !

Anonymous said...

WIsh you an incredibly HAPPY NEW YEAR. Enjoy !

Anonymous said...

Here's Wishing you a very Happy New Year Nandita. May God bless you and your family with all the happy things in this coming year.

Cheers, Nidhi.

Sumitha said...

Nandita wishing you a new year with lots of happiness,health and prosperity!

Aparna said...

Hi Nandita,

miss you!

Wishing you a very happy new year!!


Bhargavi said...

Have A Blessed New Year to u n ur family.
Good daY!

Vani said...

Happy New year, Nandita!

Just tagged you for a meme. Take it up once you're back and only if you want to! :)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Zahabiya. said...

hey nandita,

Thanks for this superb and very tasty recipie... i tried it only last night... I have a few queries, though, before that i must say, i made a few changes in this recipies myself... while cooking chana i added whole garam masala, and since i didnot have iron skillet i made it in an aluminium kadai... the result was awesome... but about deglazing the onions and turning them in to blackish brown, my didn't turn so... i cooked onions for almost half an hour... then my patience gave up and i added chana... i am not sure what did i do wrong...

Nandita said...

Hi Zahabiya- Welcome to ST!
I did it in an aluminium kadai myself. Did you take just the reqd amount of oil / ghee, too much oil and they will never burn. Besides did you add a bit of sugar to help caramelize?

Anyway, if it tasted good, it is perfect. Thanks for trying out!

Poornima said...

Just stumbled upon your kala channa recipe. The trouble you have taken to explain it is awesome , now for just that I am trying it out today.Thanks so much

Aaron said...

Thanks for the recipe. I tried out your recipe with whatever ingredients I had and mixed in some others. I did use a non-stick pan though, sorry :-), but it still came out nice.

Pragyan said...

Hi Nandita, What a collection of recipes! Thanks for sharing. I tried the kala chana recipe last night. Turned out great. What can go wrong with the detailed instructions and accurate measures. I will post it later today on my blog. Thanks again.

Poornima said...

Hi, Nandita finally got around to trying out your kala channa recipe and-WOW!My family just loved it.All you food lovers, you must try this one out. Thanks ever so much .

Lalitha said...

Thanks, Nandita, for your recipe. I tried it out today and everyone in my family, including my picky son, loved it.

Saudi Sambhar said...

Hi Nandit

Thanks for the plug.. never thot u would post one of my recipies... makes me think of asking for royalties....


susannah said...

I've had a tin of Kana Chana in the cupboard for ages and have been wondering what to do with it, so thanks for the recipe.

worldthrumyeyes said...

U r a life saver... m gonna make this tomorrow to surprise my husband :))))

leh said...

Thank you! I recently bought 5 lbs of these chickpeas, without ever having even heard of them before. I wanted to make them tonight, so I came online to find recipes, and saw yours. I've just finished cooking and I love it-- so unlike anything I've ever tried before!

Anonymous said...

today i tried your recipe and it came out great!! thankyou for posting this..

Anonymous said...

amazing results, great detail in recipe. thanks much

arjuna said...

white chana was the food of roman soldiers. black chana is even more nutritious. very less flatulence.

jbruce said...

Hi there, I'm the photo editor at The Daily Meal and we'd like to use your photo of black chickpeas for a piece we're doing on black and orange foods. Please let me know who to credit it to. Email me at jbruce@thedailymeal.com. Thanks!!

Ms. S said...

I tried this out today and got lots of compliments...yes the onions were a pain but the pot was cleaned out:)

Dipumo said...

The 'caramelizing onions' idea is super cool.. I tried that with little variation in spices, turned out yummy.. Thanks for sharing recipe ! 

sofia sana said...

so many things to talk about for this post..

.let me first compliment you on the beautiful recipe ,

i loved it to the core, am bookmarking it,

will make it exactly the way you did,

Wonderful blog & good post.

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