Rich, dark, spicy and tangy northern Indian chickpea curry recipe for Punjabi Chole Masala
1 1/4 cups dried chickpeas
1 black tea bag (optional)
2 black cardamom pods
2.5cm piece cinnamon stick
4 or 5 black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
small handful of dried curry leaves, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon ajwain seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 or 3 dried Kashmiri chilies
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1-inch fresh ginger, grated or minced
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon amchoor (dried mango) powder
1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon anardana (dried pomegranate seed) powder (optional)
2 or 3 fresh green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
1 medium or large tomato, finely chopped
2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (optional or to taste, especially if you use amchoor powder as it contributes a sour taste to the chana)
small handful of fresh cilantro, trimmed and chopped
finely chopped onion
Rinse the chickpeas and soak for 8 hours or overnight in several inches of water. Drain and rinse, then transfer to a large saucepan and cover with fresh water. Add the tea bag and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until buttery soft, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove from heat and discard the tea bag. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water, and set aside.
Meanwhile, combine the masala ingredients in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Dry roast the ingredients over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the contents of the pan darken a few shades. Be careful not to burn, but continue to dry roast even after they begin to darken and are fragrant. Remove from the heat, let cool for a bit, and then transfer to a spice or coffee grinder and process into a fine powder. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and sauté for 6 to 8 minutes or until the onions begin to brown. Toss in the garlic and ginger and stir for another few minutes. Now add the ground powdered masala, turmeric, amchoor, Kashmiri chili powder, garam masala, mustard powder and anardana if using. Stir for another minute until fragrant.
Add the fresh chilies and tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have softened and begin to thicken. Pour in the cooked chickpeas and stir well to coat.
Pour in the reserved chickpea cooking water and add the salt. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water if desired, or mash a few of the chickpeas to achieve your desired consistency. The chole masala should be brothy but not too watery.
Stir in the lemon juice, taste for seasoning, and serve hot garnished with fresh chopped cilantro or chopped onion if desired. The chole masala goes well with hot fresh cooked white rice or Indian flat breads.