Perfectly cooked firm kala chana (black chickpeas) with meltingly soft potatoes in a thick and rich, spiced, tangy, slightly sweet, tomato sauce. Doesn’t that just make your mouth sing with anticipation? It’s such an amazing (and simple) blend of textures and flavours, and it comes together pretty easy and quick as well. This dish is totally at home playing key note as the main dish, as a side, or served as chaat with a little embellishment. If you’re not very familiar with indian cooking or kala chana, this is a pretty good place to start, it’s not a very fussy recipe and the kala chana really shine in this. The finished picture here is topped with some simple bhel puri and sprinkled with aloo sev, which is simply delightful all on it’s own as a light meal, snack, or appetizer.
350g | 2 cups dry kala chana (black chickpeas) unsoaked, or soaked overnight
300g | 2 cups diced yellow potato (or any fine fleshed potato)
30g | ¼ cup rough chopped jalapeno, stems and seeds removed)
12g | 4 cloves garlic, rough chopped
10g | 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, fine chopped
30g/ml | 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
150g | 1 cup chopped white/yellow onion
10g | 2 tsp garam masala
1.5g | ½ tsp turmeric powder
10g | 2 tsp brown mustard seed
3.5g | 1 tsp cumin seed
400g | 1 ½ cups fire roasted tomatoes (or fresh oven roasted tomatoes)
75g | ¼ cup tamarind+date chutney
1400g/ml | 6 cups water
13-26g/15-30ml | 1-2 Tbsp ghee or coconut oil (refined or unrefined, dealer’s choice)
3g | ½ tsp salt (or to taste)
blend jalapeno, garlic, ginger, salt, and lemon juice into a fine puree/paste (add only enough water to facilitate blending)
separately, puree tomatoes
on sautee mode (normal/medium) heat ghee/oil until hot, throw in cumin and mustard seeds, stirring until they start popping
add in garam masala and turmeric powder, saute for just a few seconds and add onions, stirring to coat with spices
sautee just until onions start to turn translucent and add in jalapeno paste continue cooking until onion is completely translucent and soft, then remove from pan and set aside
place kala chana and 6 cups of water into pot, close lid and set for 50 minutes on high pressure if unsoaked or 20 minutes if soaked
allow to release naturally drain chana and reserve 2 cups of the liquid, return chana to pot (with reserved liquid)
stir in potatoes, tamarind+date chutney, and onion mix pour tomato puree on top of everything, don’t stir it in, replace lid and set for 5 minutes high pressure
wait 10 minutes before releasing remove lid and stir well
turn turn pot to low sautee (less) and simmer until it reaches the thickness you want (i only do this about 5 minutes)
serve right away or allow to cool for use in chaat (you usually want it to be around room temp for this)
will keep about 5 days in the fridge, and it freezes well (if you plan on freezing i suggest going for a wetter masala, they tend to reheat much drier) for up to 6 months
if you’re doing this on the stovetop, soak your kala chana overnight, and cook until tender, then sautee your ingredient over medium heat, add to the chana along with everything else, and simmer until potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes)
you can substitute regular chickpeas for black with the same amounts, but reduce initial cooking time for beans to 40 minutes (15 if soaked). To use canned/pre-cooked beans, simply skip the bean cook step, and add in 2 cups of cooking liquid, water or broth (don’t use the liquid from the beans unless they’re home cooked). If you’re using pre-cooked beans, this recipe is insanely quick to put together and perfect when you’re in a rush. if subbing tamarind concentrate, amchoor, amla, or lemon for the chutney, start with a tsp of the concentrate or a Tbsp of the others and adjust up from there, also add in about 2 tsp of sugar to compensate for the lost sweetness.
For such a complex tasting dish, it has some pretty simple ingredients, kala chana can easily be found at any indian grocery, as well as easily picked up online. You could sub regular chickpeas (making it chana aloo masala) but you’ll need to reduce the cooking time of the beans, or sub out some canned chickpeas if you’re in a rush and skip the initial cook. (There will be info on doing this in the notes after the recipe) If you’ve never had kala chana before, they aren’t just different in skin color, the flavour and texture are also quite different, they are firmer and drier than white chickpeas, with a nuttier, meatier, more earthy flavour….the firmness may lead you to believe they aren’t fully cooked, but they are, don’t worry. A simple trick to test for doneness (that usually works pretty well, but you should always taste test to be sure) is to blow on your beans, when they are done the skins should wrinkle, crack apart, and curl up when you blow on them, if they don’t, then they’re probably not done.
Okay, back to ingredients, so we have the kala chana and they’re lovely earthy meatiness, we have cubed yellow potatoes which bring in some bursts of creaminess, onion for sweetness and vibrance, canned fire roasted tomatoes (you can easily sub some oven roasted fresh tomatoes if you prefer, we’re just going for fast and easy here) for richness and to provide the bulk of the sauce. We make a paste of jalapenos, ginger, garlic and lemon as our flavour base, along with garam masala for spice, turmeric to really highlight the earthiness of the kala chana, mustard seed for little pops of crunch and richness, and cumin to intensify the tomatoes and meld everything together. Now, to add some tartness and sweetness we throw in some tamarind+date chutney, there is something magical that happens when you mix tamarind and tomatoes, there really is, and the sugars in the chutney help to further sweeten the dish and highlight the flavour of the tomatoes. If you’re in a rush, and you have been naughty and didn’t make extra tamarind+date chutney for freezing (for shame!) you CAN substitute some tamarind concentrate, amchoor, amla, or lemon juice (+some sugar) and still end up with an amazing meal. BUT, none of these will provide you with the same depth and richness the chutney provides, so do try and use it.
The first step is par cooking our kala chana, and while you CAN just cook everything together with the dried beans, the acidity of the dish will increase the cooking time and can leave you with overly al dente and chewy beans and a total mushy mess of potato. Obviously if you’re using canned beans, this part doesn’t apply and you can happily skip this step and just throw your beans (and some broth or water, don’t use the liquid from the canned beans) into the pot after the sautee step.
To achieve our goal of a thick, rich, fully flavoured sauce, we start by blending up the ginger, garlic, jalapenos, and lemon (+as much water as you need to get it blended, though, try not to use any more than you have to) which will get sauteed with our toasted spices and onions after the onions have turned translucent and are soft. Then it’s simmered for a bit and removed from the pot to add later after the beans are cooked (or left in and cooked beans added, whichever way you’re doing this)
This is what you’re left with after the sautee, an incredibly delicious and intoxicating mix of onions and spices, go ahead, taste it. It. Is. Amazing. Seriously, it’s hard for me not to just eat this by itself, BUT don’t do it. There will be a recipe soon for onion chutney that is even more amazing than this (but very similar) so just hold out shoving this all down your food hole and continue merrily on.
After the kala chana is done cooking, drain off all but 2 cups of the cooking liquid (you can save the extra liquid to add back in later if you want a wetter dish, or use it for other purposes) and stir in our potatoes, chutney, and onion mix. Don’t stir in your tomato puree yet! Even though the cooking time is short, mixing the tomatoes into everything at this point increases your risk of scorching, so they are gonna sit on top for now.
Like this! just pour them on top and resist the urge to stir, don’t worry, the flavours will all snap together in the end.
A short burst of cooking (assuming you’re using an instant pot/electric pressure cooker) and a brief open simmering and voila! Now it may seem a tad on the wet side (which you may prefer) but, it thickens a LOT when cooled and becomes very thick when refrigerated. It’s delicious however you have it, if you are eating it right away, just simmer uncovered until it thickens to where you want it, if you like it wetter, than add back in some of the bean cooking liquid, water, or broth. All up to you. Also, this dish doesn’t take much prep work, there’s very little to cut up, so that’s a pretty nice added bonus too.
Serve this along with rice as a main, or serve it as a side, or gussy it up with some bhel puri and/or aloo sev and a sprinkle of chaat masala for chaat style, or put on puri or rice crackers for yet another chaat….Don’t stop there though, this dish also pairs amazingly well with mexican and texmex foods, on nachos, in tacos, over quesadillas….BUT WAIT, it’s also amazing on french fries a la chili fries….no kidding. Play with your food folks, play with your food.