When I was little girl, the auntijees in our neighbourhood would always invite me to their homes to eat specially prepared “kala chana” or black chickpeas with puris and semolina halva for the festival of Kanjak. This is a festival on the eighth day of the Navratri season around September/October where pre-pubescent girls are worshipped as goddesses. The implications of this for grown women’s status in society notwithstanding, all I can remember is tucking into delicious mouthfulls of contrasting savoury and sweet heaven.
Black chickpeas are the darker and smaller cousins of the “kabuli chana” or chickpeas from kabul. The name suggests that these were brought in by traders from Afghanistan. These are in fact the type that most of you will be familiar with but kala chana is preferred for this ritual probably because it is indigenous to India. Black chickpeas have more texture and taste quite different in my opinion so do make this recipe with black chickpeas only. These are available easily in Asian shops.
Cooking Time: 2 hours (30 min if using pressure cooker) plus soaking time.
You will need:
200 g black chickpeas
1 tbsp cooking oil
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder or hing
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp dry mango or “amchur” powder
Small bunch of chopped green coriander to garnish
Soak the chickpeas in plenty of water 2-3 days before if you want them sprouted. Otherwise overnight is enough. Place the chickpeas in a pressure cooker or heavy based pan with lid and cook until very tender. You can test whether they are done by picking one up between your thumb and index finger and pressing it gently – it should mash very easily. if even slightly tough – cook longer.
Heat the oil in a wok or karahi. Add the asafoetida and stir, immediately add the turmeric and stir. Before this gets the chance to burn, pour the cooked chickpeas and some of the liquid, say one cup full, into the wok. Now add all the other ingredients. Take a potato masher or a ladle and mash a few chickpeas at the bottom of the wok/karahi to thicken the sauce. Let this simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the chopped green coriander, stir and serve.