My family is Punjabi – I grew up eating Punjabi food. Sadly – when my mom – who is a wonderful cook, tried to teach me to cook, to teach me the basics and foundations of truly good Indian food – I resisted. Now as an adult I regret not learning as a child and teen, but as they say – it’s never too late. In fact, during a recent visit to our place in Seattle, my mom cooked up a huge pot of Channa or Chole for my son’s 4th birthday party. The pot was pretty much licked clean and many friends asked about how to make the dish. The next thing I knew – we had organized a cooking class.
While not difficult to make there are a few key techniques to take your Indian food to the next level – like cooking your base of onions, ginger and garlic well and finding the right garam masala mix. My mom makes her own blend, she dry roasts spices then grinds them up in small batches. Store bought works in a pinch of course. Making Indian food is very much a “to taste” endeavor and every cook has their own twist – here is my Mom’s!
canola oil or other vegetable oil
medium to large cooking onion chopped fine
fresh minced garlic
fresh minced ginger
fresh small green chili, chopped
fresh large tomatos, diced OR
dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and pressure cooked OR
In a medium/large saucepan over medium-low heat, heat oil and add cumin and cook until fragrant and add onion. Sauté until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cook for a moment and then add ginger and chili, and continue to sauté, about 3 or 4 minutes. You want this mix to start to reduce and caramelize, so that the oil is really infused with flavor. Take your time here! Add tomatoes cook until almost dry and you see the traces of oil separating out with an orange colour.
Add paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, the garam masala, and turmeric and give it a good mix.
Add chickpeas, stir and add a cup of water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. You may need to add a bit more water if it seems too dry. Note: While canned chickpeas work perfectly well, if you have never tried dried chickpeas, i recommend you do - they plump up wonderfully and have noticeably better flavour and texture.
Cover and simmer until sauce is thick and chickpeas are soft, 30 minutes. Stir pan about every 10 minutes while cooking and add water as needed. When just about done, add lemon juice.
When ready to serve, sauce should be thickened. Mash about a third of the chickpeas up with a masher or against the side of the pot. If necessary, uncover pan and allow sauce to reduce for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until desired consistency is reached. Stir in cilantro, adjust salt as needed and serve with basmati rice or fresh roti/chapatti/puri/naan.