Chana masala is one of my favorite comfort foods, and I’m so excited to have tweaked a recipe to the point where it’s reached perfection.
Make it on the first day that feels like fall, and you’ll barely miss summer. lv, molly
Adapted liberally from Orangette
Serves 4-6 (with leftovers! yes!)
Good-quality olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
2 Tbs cilantro leaves, roughly torn, plus more for garnish
A pinch of cayenne, or to taste (I like mine spicy, so I add more)
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6-8 Tbs plain whole-milk yogurt or 4-6 Tbs cream (I prefer cream… some prefer yogurt. Whatever you fancy, readers)
Optional: a few lemon wedges. If you’re vegan and are omitting the dairy, be sure to serve with lemon.
Film the bottom of a large saucepan—preferably not nonstick—with olive oil, and place the pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until it is deeply caramelized and even charred in some spots. Be patient. The more color, the more full-flavored the final dish will be. This can take 20 minutes or so.
Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, stirring, and add a bit more oil if the pan seems dry. Add the cumin seeds, coriander, ginger, garam masala, and fry, stirring constantly, until fragrant and toasty, about 30 seconds. Add ¼ cup water, and stir to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water has evaporated away completely. Pour in the juice from can of tomatoes, followed by the tomatoes themselves. Add the salt.
Raise the heat to medium, and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the cilantro and cayenne, and simmer the sauce gently, stirring occasionally, until it reduces a bit and begins to thicken. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Add the chickpeas, stirring well, and cook over low heat for about five minutes. Add 2 Tbs water, and cook for another five minutes. Add another 2 Tbs water, and cook until the water is absorbed, a few minutes more.
This process of adding and cooking off water helps to concentrate the sauce’s flavor and makes the chickpeas more tender and toothsome. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary. I kept mine cooking for close to an hour because my guests preferred drinking wine to eating dinner, so I added a few Tbs of water every 20 minutes or so to keep the chana masala from getting too dry.
Stir in the yogurt or cream, if you like, and garnish with cilantro. Serve with rice, preferably brown because it’s healthier + tastes better, I think.
Note: the best way to clean cilantro (or any other fresh herbs) is to soak it in a bowl of cold water. All of the dirt and sand will fall to the bottom, and voila! Clean herbs!
And for the vegans… This is what your chana masala will look like– a beautiful bright red.