Meera Sodha's Chana Masala recipe

Chickpeas in a warm and spicy tomato sauce

Meera Sodha’s recipe for chana masala makes a good case for cooking dried chickpeas rather than using the tinned variety but I could never be bothered. I used tinned chickpeas for years until one day I had chana masala in a restaurant and couldn't believe chickpeas could be so soft and creamy. Since then I've always cooked dried chickpeas for this dish although I still use tins for other recipes because sometimes I value convenience over texture.

Meera advises soaking the chickpeas for at least 6 hours in water with bicarbonate of soda then cooking them for around 45 minutes. That never seemed to be enough for my chickpeas and hunger would often win out so although the chana masala was good, it was never unbelievably soft and creamy good. 

Then I read Samin Nosrat’s book Salt Fat Acid Heat where she debunks the myth that salt hardens legumes. This was something I’d believed for years but Samin’s advice hasn’t steered me wrong yet so I soaked 400g of dried chickpeas in salted water for 24 hours, cooked them in a 6 litre pot for 2 hours (in salted water) and finally, soft and creamy chickpeas! 

The original recipe involves pounding ginger, garlic and green chilli with salt in a pestle and mortar but I don’t have one large enough to house all the ingredients so I chop them finely instead.

Despite being a household of two I double the recipe as it freezes well and is great reheated with some naan bread, yoghurt and mango chutney. Using tinned chickpeas is perfectly fine but the chickpeas are the main event here so if you can be bothered to soak and cook them then this dish will be all the more joyful for it.

Ingredients

Serves: 8

  • 400g dried chickpeas (or 4 x 400g tinned chickpeas, drained)
  • salt
  • 3-4 tbsp light olive oil or rapeseed oil
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 6cm chunk of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 green chillis, chopped
  • 2 tins plum tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric

Method

  1. Chickpeas: Add 400g of dried chickpeas and 1 tablespoon of salt to a large bowl or saucepan (I use a 6 litre saucepan). Fill to the top with water and leave to soak for at least 6 hours (24 if possible).
  2. Drain the chickpeas, cover them with plenty of cold water, add 1 tablespoon of salt then boil for 1-2 hours, occasionally skimming off any scum that forms on top of the water. Cook until the chickpeas are very soft.
  3. Chana masala: While the chickpeas are cooking, add 3-4 tablespoons of oil to a saucepan and fry 3 diced onions for around 10 minutes.
  4. Add a 6cm chunk of peeled and chopped ginger, 4 chopped cloves of garlic and 2 chopped green chillies to the saucepan. Cook for a few minutes until the garlic starts to colour.
  5. Add 2 tins of plum tomatoes to the saucepan, breaking them up with a wooden spoon, then add 2 tablespoons of tomato purée and cook for around 10 minutes until the tomatoes thicken.
  6. Add 1½ teaspoons of fine salt, 2 teaspoons of garam masala, 1½ teaspoons of ground cumin, 1 teaspoon of chilli powder and ½ teaspoon of ground turmeric to the saucepan and stir. After a few minutes add the cooked chickpeas and around 150ml of water to loosen the sauce a little.
  7. Cook for another 5 minutes or longer if you can spare the time, then taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Transfer to a bowl and serve with yoghurt, rice, naan or chapatis.

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