This is the best chhole masala I've ever made and eaten :-) Yes, I know that's an extravagant claim to be making, but I can confidently say it because I've been making chhole or chickpeas for a very long time. One of the reasons I've never posted this classic recipe, is because I've never been satisfied with the taste of my usual chhole and despite trying very hard, something always seemed to be missing. And despite trying out every combination of spices, it just didn't taste right.
The best chhole masala I've eaten was made by this Punjabi lady who sells Indian food in the Terrace farmer's market. Yes, you read that right. This is Terrace, British Columbia, Canada we're talking about. I've eaten all sorts of chhole + bhature (a leavened and deep fried bread) everywhere in India, but the yummiest one was made by this lady. Isn't it funny, how sometimes the best Indian food can be made by expats? Maybe its because they truly want a taste of home, wherever they are. So every Saturday in summer she sells it at the market, and every time I am there I go to her stall, buy some and then mutter away because I never can understand why mine doesn't taste like that. Then I get grumpy, bah humbug, because I hate failing at anything. I will try out something ten times if I don't get it right the first. You can just take a look at my kiwi ice cream travails, if you don't believe me.
And then a few weeks ago, I think I cracked it. I make my own spice mixes, but I like to snoop around on the websites for major retailers and kind of check out what spices they have in their mixes. I am not trying to recreate their exact versions, but it gives me an idea of what to expect, and I then personalise those mixes to suit my taste. So anyway, I was on the website of this really big spice exporter, and I noticed that they had a recipe on for chhole masala, or they called it Punjabi chhole. Now I prefer this dark roasted spice version of Punjabi chhole, anyway, but I was intrigued to find that they recommended the use of chaat masala to finish their version of chhole.
Bingo, I thought! That's it, that's the missing element for my chhole. So I very nervously tried out the recipe, with my version of spices, but with the added chaat masala. And finally!! Success! I had built up my expectations so high, that I would have certainly been crushed if this version had not worked, but by jeez, did it ever work. Our whole family loved this version of chhole. It was delicious, and it had almost the exact taste of the chhole from the Terrace farmer's market. I was so happy, I was actually jumping up and down in my kitchen, channeling Dora the Explorer and going 'I did it, I did it, I did it, hurrah' (yes, yes, I am an incurably sad excuse of a person!)
I served these chhole with another classic Indian street snack, aloo tikki, the recipe for which is coming very soon. Meanwhile, enjoy this delectable Indian dish, and as its National Curry Week in the UK, from the 9th to 15th October, so what better dish to celebrate with?
Quick note, did you know I now have a Facebook page for Food, Football and a Baby? Do hop on over and 'Like' me sometime. I even respond to comments and recipe requests... rather promptly, just sayin' like...! Plus there's more pictures and outtakes on the page for you to laugh at.
1 medium onion, diced fine
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
2garlic cloves, crushed
2 hot green chillies chopped
1 cup ripe red tomato puree *see notes
540 ml tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed *see notes
Around ½ cup hot water
1 tablespoon unscented oil
½ tablespoon ground coriander
1½ teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon dried mango powder (amchur)
½ teaspoon (or to taste) hot chilli powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ tablespoon chaat masala (I use MDH brand, Everest is pretty good too or make your own)
Big handful chopped fresh coriander
In a heavy pot, heat the oil, then add the diced onions. Cook, stirring for about 7 - 8 minutes on a medium heat, until the onions soften and just start to colour.
Add the grated ginger, garlic and chopped chillies. Stir.
Add the spice mix to the above mixture, then cook on a gentle heat, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree and about ½ cup of hot water. Add the rinsed chickpeas.
Stir together, then cook on a low heat for about 5 - 20 minutes, until you can no longer feel the rawness of the spices.
Take off the heat, and whisk in the chaat masala and sprinkle over the chopped coriander to serve.
This chhole masala goes well with rice, naan, pulao and aloo tikkis.
- You can make tomato puree by blanching about 2 large, ripe tomatoes in hot water, then peeling the skins off and seeding them. Blend in a blender till pureed. The amount of puree depends on the size of your tomatoes, so you may have to add one more tomato, if necessary.
- For convenience, you can substitute 1 cup strained tomatoes, available at Italian stores, or 1 cup plain tomato sauce instead of the fresh pureed tomatoes.
- This recipe makes a lot of sauce, so you can increase the amount of chickpeas up to 800 ml (2, 400 ml cans) if desired