GOLDEN CHANA MASALA

golden chana masala // via thefirstmess.com my yellow tomatoes // via thefirstmess.comgolden chana masala // via thefirstmess.com
When the tail end of tomato season and sweater weather collide? It’s pure magic if you’re asking me. I’ve still got a bunch of things to pick/pull out of my veg garden, the farm stands are packed, there’s no urgent need for a/c, my somewhat expensive La Croix habit can finally subside, jeans can be worn with total comfort, the cozy-crisp duvet has emerged from the closet, and I can sip a hot beverage at any point of the day without getting a hot flash (I’ll take 6 coffees, please). Wins on wins.

We’re heading to Montreal this weekend with friends. There’s some Fall projects around the house that also need squared away before things get too brisk. Even if I spend full days cooking, I still make an effort to just clear the decks and start dinner from a clean slate. No recipes or plan aside from using up what we have and getting the vegetables in. Structured spontaneity sort of?

I hauled the slow cooker up from the basement and let some chickpeas simmer away on the counter the other day. This slow-cooking method from The Kitchn has become my go-to for all manners of beans. It’s low maintenance, easy to micro-manage if need be, and it doesn’t take up precious stove real estate. So I had buckets of chickpeas to use up. While there’s a lot of recipes for them here on this site, I think a lot of us can agree that the queen bee of chickpea dishes is chana masala. I think it was one of the first definitively vegetarian foods I ate as a youth.

Chana masala is most popular in northern India, but it is enjoyed across the country. Vegetarian dishes like this are popular in India due to religious beliefs pertaining to animal consumption in Hinduism and Jainism. It seems that traditionally, chana masala is on the drier side than what I’ve presented here. It also tends to have a sour note from amchoor, a dried mango powder. I do not use that in this recipe.

My dad’s been growing these beautiful roma/plum-style yellow tomatoes for a couple years now. They’re so mellow, lightly sweet, firm, and plenty juicy. I have some type of golden/blush heirloom tomato variety out back at my house, but I like his better. They have a sharper acidity that works when there’s some heat application in the works. I thought about using them in a slightly soupier version of a typical chana masala, bumped up with an extra bit of turmeric to really bring out that deep gold. Some minced lemon peel and juice rounds out the flavour with sourness and a slight bitter edge.

Like I said, my version is definitely a touch more soup-y than what is typical. I made some quick pan-fried flatbreads from my favourite spelt dough to serve along with. This stew has so much good stuff going on, all at the same time. It’s spicy, sour, earthy, herbal, and even meat-y at times. Hope some of you get to make it before the tomatoes go away for another year ;)

for golden chana masala // via thefirstmess.comvia thefirstmess.comgolden chana masala // via thefirstmess.comgolden chana masala // via thefirstmess.com

Golden Chana Masala recipe
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen via Madhur Jaffrey, The BBC, and Slate.
Print the recipe here!
Serves: 4
Notes: Fresh yellow tomatoes give this stew that “golden” hue, but if you’re making it out of season, some canned + diced tomatoes will work just fine. I tend to prefer the fire-roasted ones from Muir Glen.

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon refined/unscented coconut oil
1 cooking onion, fine dice
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled + minced
1 small fresh chili, seeded + minced
1 strip of lemon peel (white pith and all), minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 cups diced fresh yellow tomatoes (or red!)
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about 1/2 a lemon)
chopped cilantro, for serving
warm brown rice or flatbread, for serving

In a dry, medium soup-style pot, toast the cumin and coriander seeds over medium heat until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Dump the toasted spices out of the pan into a spice grinder. Grind up the toasted spices to a coarse powder and set aside.

Return the soup pot to the heat with the tablespoon of coconut oil. Add the onions to the pot and stir. The pot should be quietly sizzling. Sauté and stir the onions for a good 6-7 minutes, or until very soft and translucent.

Add the turmeric, curry powder, and ground cumin and coriander mix to the pot. Stir it around to get the spices fully mingled with the oil and onions, for about 1 minute. Add the garlic, ginger, minced chili, and minced lemon peel to the pan. Stir the pot for about a minute or until the garlic is very fragrant. Add the tomato paste and stir a few more times.

Dump the diced tomatoes into the pot and stir, scraping up the traces of spice on the sides of the pot. Then, add the vegetable stock and chickpeas. Bring the chana masala to a boil, and then lightly simmer for about 40 minutes, or until the tomatoes have broken down significantly. You can help this process along by smushing the pieces of tomato with the back of your spoon here and there.

Right before serving, stir in the fresh lemon juice. Garnish the chana masala with chopped fresh cilantro. Serve hot with cooked rice, flatbread etc.

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