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Monday, November 24, 2014

Kadai Chole (Punjabi Chickpea Curry)

I rarely ever use normal white chickpeas in an Indian dish unless they're split chana dal.  I don't know why, because I really enjoy chickpeas.  For some reason, whole white chickpeas were always reserved for hummus, falafel, or couscous, whereas black chickpeas (kala chana) were always for Indian food.
I've made Chole Masala before, but it's probably the only other time I've used whole white chickpeas.  Chole is very popular in Punjabi cuisine.  It comes out to play for every big event, and when done properly can really knock your socks off.  What attracted me to this recipe was the broth and the ajwain.  Usually, beans are slow-cooked in plain water and then a curry is made around them.  In this recipe, the beans are cooked in water infused with whole spices and .. what.. black tea!  I had to use black tea for lack of alma (which I've never seen with my current eyes).  I first thought it was an aesthetic aspect, but after tasting the broth before adding it to my curry, I found it sacrifices something of its inner self when transformed into this Kadai Chole.  It no longer serves its purpose as just tea, but now has become something essential in my secret box of kitchen tricks...
Borrowed from VegRecipesofIndia.
Serves 5-6
1 cup chickpeas, rinsed and soaked 12-24 hours
1 inch stick cinnamon
1 black cardamom
3 cloves
2 pieces alma (sub 1 black teabag)
1 Indian bay leaf
2 Tbsp oil
3-4 slit green chiles (I sliced 1 green and 1 red Moroccan chiles)
1/4 tsp ajwain seeds (carom seeds)
1 onion, minced
1/2 inch ginger, grated
4-5 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 tsp turmeric
chile powder to taste (mine didn't need it)
1 tsp garam masala
1 can tomato pulp (or 2-3 chopped tomatoes)
1 tsp amchur mango powder (or pomegranate powder)
salt to taste
plain yogurt for garnish (optional)
chopped cilantro for garnish (I didn't have any)
1.  Cook the chickpeas.  Make sure to rinse the chickpeas well and change the water 2-3 times during the soaking period.  Place the soaked chickpeas in a slow cooker with 4-5 cups water, the cinnamon stick, black cardamom, cloves, bay leaf, and alma or tea bag.  Cook on low for at least 8 hours.  You want the chickpeas to be very well cooked with little resistance when pinched between your fingers.. or smashed against the roof of your mouth with your tongue.  When done, remove the whole spices and teabag.
2.  Make the curry.  Heat the oil in a wok and add the ajwain.  Cook until fragrant.
3.  Add the sliced chiles and onions.  Cook until translucent.
4.  Add the ginger and garlic.  The raw smell of ginger should come tickle your nostrils, then leave you with a distant memory.
5.  Add the tomato, turmeric, and garam masala.  Stir and keep cooking on high.  Now is the time to decide if you are going to add the chile powder or not.  I just took a taste and decided not to, because it was already spicy enough.  Cook until it all comes together as some sort of thick paste, and oil will seep out.
6.  Add the cooked chickpeas and about half the cooking liquid.  Stir well and add the amchur.  Bring to a boil, then simmer.  It will thicken.  Add more of the cooking liquid to thin it out.  I ended up adding most of the cooking liquid.  Let simmer for about 10 minutes on low heat.
7.  Taste and add salt if needed.  Adjust the spice as well.  At this point, it was pure perfection.

Serve with basmati rice and top with some plain yogurt if you so desire.  
Do add cilantro if you have it.   I used it all and haven't replenished my supply.

This is a wonderful meal on its own, but of course, it would be perfect in a thali.  I've been in a simple state of mind lately.
The ajwain really gives this dish character.  I'd only ever used it in samosas, but it works well as a kadai seed fry base for a curry as well.  Its flavor is so distinct that I almost want to rename this Ajwain Chole.
The creaminess of the long-soaked chickpeas make this just as much of a comforting meal as it is a healthy meal.
If only it could heal all my wounds...
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