Chana Masala – chickpea curry

Warning for any crazy people on vegan bets. Change the ghee to vegetable oil, I really think grapeseed is best, neutral taste, high burning point. And, of course, no yoghurt for you. Honestly, what sick little puppies you are.

Chana Masala – chickpea curry

Much as I love what the Indians do to meat, what they do to non-meat is truly amazing. It is the only cuisine that really makes vegetarian taste good – good enough that you don’t miss the meat even if you are a dedicated carnivore. If you’ve only eaten vegetarian in Indian restaurants you might not believe me as it is often badly done, and while meat badly done is still edible, the rest isn’t.

Perhaps this problem explains what restaurants do to vegetarian food -all the effort you put into making a meat curry pays off. I often make double quantities, I freeze lots of meals from what I make, on a meal by meal basis that time disappears. Vegetarian curries just aren’t the same. They mostly need to be made fresh, freezing doesn’t work. I have, however, tried freezing this one and it, well, it’s okay.


1 large onion chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or finely chopped
1” piece of ginger, ditto
3 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsps cumin seeds
a little cayenne pepper to taste
1 teasp turmeric
2 teasp ground cumin
1 tbsp amchur (ground mango powder). Use lemon juice instead but it is simply nothing like the correct ingredient which you will get an an Indian grocer
400g canned tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 cans of chick peas, drained and rinsed, ie about 680g net (half if dry)
1 teasp garam masala
half a teasp salt
1 fresh green chilli finely chopped


Cook the onion, garlic and ginger in the ghee until soft. Add all the spices and fry on low heat for a couple of minutes stirring and then add the tomatoes with their juice, and finally, the chick peas. Simmer for 30 minutes or so. Check they are ready. Add the garam masala, salt, chilli, stir well, serve.

So far this is what Rosemary Moon suggests in her Classic Indian Cuisine. It makes a good addition to a meat curry meal, but with rice on its own it does too. Nonetheless, to beef it up as a vegetarian meal (so to speak) you can add chopped spinach not long before you are serving, it just needs to wilt and blend in and also, if you please, yoghurt. I like making a sizeable quantity and doing this day two after having the plain version first.

In my opinion this souped up version does NOT freeze well. Spinach and freezers hate each other. I don’t see how frozen spinach is useable unless you are doing something to it which so utterly disguises what it is that you might as well be chucking in anything. Hence, if you are planning to freeze some, or have it over more than one meal, only add spinach to what you are eating now. Leave the rest plain and add spinach to it again when cooking it, if spinach version is your plan.


8 thoughts on “Chana Masala – chickpea curry

  1. Nice recipe … from someone whose parents owned an Indian restaurant. Have you tried a garnish of fresh coriander with this – I think it will go perfectly.


    • I haven’t, Chris, but I shall now that you mention it. You are so lucky – assuming that you got to eat Indian a lot. Or is it a bit like how the dentist with bad teeth and the lawyer doesn’t get around to his own will – maybe you had to make do with tinned spaghetti? 🙂


      • Fortunately I’ve acquired many tricks of the trade along the way, and when I’m in doubt, I just ask my Mum. 🙂

        When we were younger we ate Indian a lot and I still cook it a fair bit … but I never go out for it.


  2. Nor do I. Indian restaurants invariably disappoint once you are a reasonable cook of it. That applies as much in the UK as it does in Australia.


    • Yes, I do think this is on the stodgy side. I guess it is supposed to be a side dish in principle, so you are only eating a bit of it in conjunction with all those good things like M-E-A-T.

      Personally, I prefer lentils to chickpeas, but the latter make a nice change. I did take quite a few skins off, I don’t know if that helps.


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