Channa masala (spicy chickpea curry)

A staple in Indian Vegetarian cooking, these chickpeas in a dry masala should be scooped up with hot Indian breads
By Gary Rhodes
Channa masala (spicy chickpea curry)
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time:
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes plus soaking
  • Effort: easy


  • 250 g dried chickpeas
  • pinch bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 tsp ghee

For the spice bundle

  • 6 brown black cardamom, available from Indian shops
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 cm ginger, roughly chopped
  • 2 Assam tea bags
  • 1 large handkerchief-sized piece of muslin

For the masala

  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 3/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder, available from Indian shops
  • 250 g tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves, (kasoori methi), available from Indian shops
  • 2 tsp pomegranate powder, (anardaana), available from Indian shops
  • 1 black cardamom, seeds removed and crushed
  • ½ tsp dried mango powder, available from Indian shops
  • 1 lime, juice only
  • 3 cm ginger, cut into matchstick strips

For garnishing

  • 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 onion, cut into thin rings
  • 2 green chillies, slit, seeds removed
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges


1. Tip the chickpeas in to a large pan, cover with cold water, add the soda, and leave to soak for an hour. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Cover with a lid and set aside for a further hour.

2. Drain the chickpeas, discard the cooking water, and return the chickpeas to the pan. Cover with a litre of fresh water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer, skim off any impurities from the surface, and stir the ghee. Leave on one side while you make the bundle of spices.

3. For the spice bundle: put the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and tea bags in the centre of the muslin cloth. Make a bundle of spices and secure with string. Add this pouch to the chickpeas and simmer until the chickpeas are tender but still keep their shape. Add more water if they dry out as they cook. Discard the muslin spice bag once the chickpeas are tender,

4. For the masala: heat the ghee in a karahi or wok, toss in the cumin seeds and swirl them around for a few seconds. Stir in the onions and chopped garlic, followed by the ground coriander, turmeric and chilli powder.

5. Stir in the tomatoes and fry until they cook down and darken in colour - about 10 minutes. Add a dash of water if it begins to catch on the bottom of the pan.

6. Crush the fenugreek leaves with your fingers and add them to the tomato masala along with the ground cardamom seeds, pomegranate powder and mango powder.

7. Tip in the cooked chickpeas, add lime juice to sharpen, and add the shredded ginger. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes to meld all the flavours together - you may need to add a dash more water to moisten.

8. Scatter with tomato wedges, onion rings, slit chillies, and lemon wedges and serve with Indian breads.

About Marut Sikka
Marut Sikka is a restaurateur and food writer whose interest lies in the finer nuances of Indian food. Marut has launched 27 Indian restaurants in his career, each with a unique focus. He is the author of "Indian Flavours", "Kama Bhog - Foods of Love", and is soon to release "A Culinary Journey through India's Seasons".

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