Chana masala...savory, nutty chickpeas stewed in a robust, piquant sauce... is one of my absolute favorite meals. It's almost magical how that one humble can of chickpeas lying in the shadowy corner of the pantry turns into a vibrant, incredibly satisfying dinner through the course of cooking. Perfect budget food too, I turn to it for comfort especially in the aftermath of a particularly spendthrifty spell (say, dearly departed Philly Beer Week). Once you've accumulated all the spices, it's simply a matter of buying a can or two of garbanzos and dirt-cheap bits of produce. I wish I would've known about this dish in my freshman year of college, as it would've made quite an excellent alternative to starving.
Makes 3-4 servings
Recipe jigsawed together from various sources and tweaked to personal taste, with additional embellishment courtesy of my husband's friend Ryan, who makes one mean chana.
*Half of a small onion, minced (I have to mince mine into near oblivion to appease the other household half, but feel free to chop to desired size, or add in the other half)
*2 cloves garlic, minced
*1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
*1 small red or green hot chili pepper, minced
*1 heaping tablespoon ground coriander
*1 scant tablespoon toasted and freshly ground cumin seed
*1/2 teaspoon cayenne, more or less depending on personal taste
*"Most" of a small can of crushed tomatoes (somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4s)
*1/2 cup water
*2 15 oz cans of chickpeas, drained
*1 teaspoon turmeric
*2 teaspoons paprika
*1 teaspoon garam masala (I highly recommend grinding out your own blend)
*Salt to taste
*1/2 lemon, juiced
*1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
*Cooked long-grain white rice
Heat a slick of oil in a large pan or dutch oven over moderate heat and saute the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli for about 8 or 9 minutes. Reduce the heat a little bit and add the coriander, cumin and cayenne and cook the spiced mixture for another minute or two while casually stirring and scraping the bottom. Add the crushed tomatoes, water, and drained chickpeas; stir in the remaining spices, some salt, and the lemon juice and brown sugar. Partially cover and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, before serving over rice.