I grew up in a house where onions and garlic were banned. My mother relaxed the rule a bit and let us eat onions once in a while. So, to be honest, I cooked with garlic when I was 24. Till then, I had not even touched it. Weird, isn't it? Anyway, after eating this chana masala in almost every Indian restaurant's buffet, I never developed any affection towards this dish, until I tasted my sister-in-law's preparation. I can't say it is her recipe since I have tweaked it so much over years and when it comes to Indian cooking, things change every time at the same person's hands. So, here is my version of this pretty satisfying side dish.
Eggless Cardamom Cookies
Chickpeas - 3 cups dry (Or you can use about 4 - 5 cans of chickpeas)
Red Onions - 4 small or 2 large quartered
Garlic - 3 cloves
Ginger - 1" piece peeled and coarsely chopped
Salt - to taste
Red Chilli powder - 1 - 2 tsp as per taste
Turmeric - a pinch (optional)
Chole Masala - 1 TBSP or as per taste (you get this in Indian stores)
Tomatoes - 4 medium (Or you could use crushed tomatoes from can about a cup)
Amchoor powder / dry mango powder - 1/2 tsp
Cilantro - 4 TBSP chopped
Nigella seeds / Carom seeds - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 5 TBSP
Soak chickpeas overnight in enough water. Rinse well and cover with enough water and pressure cook till soft. Set aside. Bring a pot of water to a boil. When it starts boiling, add the tomatoes and after 3 minutes, take them out and immerse in cold water. The skin will shrink and you can peel them off. Crush the tomatoes and set aside.
In a blender or a food processor, take the garlic pods, ginger and quartered onions. Blitz to mince them. You do not need any water and don't add any. When done, heat oil in a pan. When hot, add nigella seeds. They will pop. Add the ground onion, garlic and ginger mush and stir. Add turmeric, a pinch of salt and keep stirring. It has to be cooked through. It will burn very easily. So, keep an eye on it and keep stirring. You can avoid the burning by using more oil, but I prefer less. When the raw smell of the onions is gone, add the crushed tomatoes, chilli powder, amchoor powder and stir. Meanwhile, take out about 1 cup of cooked chickpeas in to the blender. Use the water that you used to cook it and make a puree out of it. Add the remaining chickpeas into the pot. Reserve the water to add for later if needed. Add the pureed chickpeas, chole masala and stir. Add water as needed to get the gravy consistency and check for the seasonings. Adjust if needed. When it starts simmering, add the cilantro and mix well and turn off the heat. Serve with naan, roti, chapathi or even bread.
This freezes beautifully. I make more and pack them in individual ziploc containers. When I have no time, we take it out and transfer to a ceramic dish and microwave for 4 - 5 minutes and eat with rotis. I used to make the chole masala myself many years ago, but I find that the store bought ones are pretty good. I have started using them now.