This is a dish even fervent meat lovers will enjoy. This Roasted Chickpea Curry, or Chana Masala, has such a delicious depth of flavor and a great texture that you won’t even miss the meat!
The other day as I was boiling the chickpeas that had soaked overnight, I was thinking about…MEAT…and the amazing thing that happens to the flavor of meat when it’s seared brown in a hot skillet and then left to slowly cook. And then it occurred to me, why not do the same with these chickpeas? I had never heard of that done before and so I had never tried it, but the idea amused me and so I gave it a whirl.
I heated up some ghee in my Dutch oven and fried the drained chickpeas in batches until they were lightly browned on all sides. Then I browned the onions, toasted and round some whole spices and added those along with a few other ingredients, and before long my chickpeas were slowly simmering in a rich sauce that soon flooded my home with the most delicious aroma. Lifting the lid occasionally to give the curry a stir was a welcome task, because every time I lifted it another dose of that heavenly aroma would come wafting out.
Not only is this Roasted Chickpea Curry very filling and satisfying, it’s very nutritious. Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, are very high in dietary fiber and protein and also contain large amounts of manganese and folate.
This curry also makes for great leftovers, tasting even better the next day after the flavors have had time to meld.
A quick word about spices. If you’ve looked at any of my other Indian dishes you know how strongly I push using whole spices. If you want to achieve optimal flavor I really can’t overstate how important it is to use whole spices – it’s simply a must. When whole spices are ground they lose their oils at a rapid pace, and with that goes the flavor and aroma. Pre-ground spices from the store have been sitting around for months and have lost so much of their potency. Use whole spices, toast them in a small skillet to release their flavor and aroma, grind them immediately, and then use them within a couple of days and you will be in seventh heaven! And don’t freak out over the list of spices in this recipe. If you cook Indian food regularly, these are all staple spices and you will make good use of them again and again.
This dish is vegetarian, vegan (use oil instead of ghee) and naturally gluten free. A hearty, protein-packed dish that is filling and delicious.
Let’s get started!
Ghee is a great choice for high heat cooking and is a staple in Indian cuisine. Unless you’re vegan, I highly recommend ghee over oil for its flavor. I use and like Purity Farms Organic Ghee.
Heat the ghee in a Dutch oven or heavy stock pot and fry the garbanzo beans in batches until lightly browned.
While the beans and frying, prepare the spices. Heat a small, heavy skillet over medium heat and dry roast the whole spices for 3-4 minutes or until they become very fragrant, gently shaking the pan regularly to prevent scorching. Let the spices cool and transfer them to a spice grinder. I use and love my Krups Spice and Coffee Grinder. I’ve been using it for years and it’s still going strong.
Here are the whole spices you’ll need at reasonable prices and they’ll last you for a long time- just leave them whole until you use them and keep them stored in airtight containers in a dark place (eg, cupboard). These spices are ones you’ll use over and over in Indian cooking so don’t worry about them going to waste: Coriander Seeds, cumin seeds, green cardamom pods, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns. Another common Indian spice that I use in this curry but have included as optional is Asafoetida. Not only does it add a very distinct flavor, it also serves the purpose of decreasing…ahem…flatulence.
Grind the spices to a fine powder and set aside until ready to use. This can be made a day in advance and stored in an airtight container to retain its freshness.
Transfer the browned garbanzo beans to a bowl. Add some more ghee to the pan and then fry the onions for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. Add the garlic, ginger and chopped chilies and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the ground spices, turmeric and asafoetida, and cook for another minute.
Stir in the tomatoes and ketchup and cook for 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas, broth, salt and bay leaves, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add more broth if the curry becomes too dry. Add salt to taste. Stir in the cilantro and simmer for another minute.
Serve immediately or the following day after the flavors have had more time to meld. Serve with some fresh naan bread or jasmine rice and a cool cucumber or leafy green salad.
- 2 cups dried garbanzo beans, soaked in a pot of water overnight (covered by at least 3 inches of water), then rinsed and drained. Add the beans to a pot of lightly salted water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 to 1½ hours until tender. Set aside until ready to use. (Equivalent to about 3½ (15 oz) cans garbanzo beans)
- 2 tablespoons ghee (vegan: use oil)
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 green chili pepper, seeds and membrane discarded, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth (vegetarian/vegan: use vegetable)
- 1 teaspoons ground turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon asafoetida
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Spice mixture:
- 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon seeds from green cardamom pods
- ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- ½ teaspoon whole fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 small whole cinnamon stick
- To make the spice blend: Heat a small heavy skillet over medium heat and add all the whole spices. Toast for 3-4 minutes or until the spices become very fragrant. Remove from heat and let cool completely, then transfer to a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Set aside.
- Heat the ghee in a large Dutch oven or heavy stock pot and lightly brown the garbanzo beans in batches. Set aside.
- Add a little more ghee and cook the onions until lightly browned, 8-10 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and green chili and cook for 2 minutes. Add the ground spice mixture along with the turmeric and asafoetida and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and ketchup and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add the chickpeas, broth, salt and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add more broth if the curry gets too dry. Add salt to taste. Stir in the cilantro and simmer for another minute.
- Serve immediately or the following day after the flavors have had more time to meld. Serve with some fresh naan bread or jasmine rice and a cool cucumber or leafy green salad.