Split Chickpea Stew

Channa Ni Dar

Channa, easier to say than “split chickpea,” is one of India’s most common and democratic foods. A smaller variety of what we know as chickpeas or garbanzos, roasted channa is sold by street vendors all over the country and relished by rich and poor alike as a good “time-pass item” (as someone on a train described it—a very endearing way of thinking about munch). Parsis use ground roasted channa in curries to give them richness and body. Husked and split, channa turns into a really tasty legume used as part of the dal lineup for dhansak, our big Parsi dish; and on its own, it makes this delicious stew.

Serve with crusty bread or Chapatis, a cabbage or cucumber and onion salad, and a bowl of yogurt. This makes a perfect dinner for fall through early spring. Like its sister dish, masur, channa is very good at room temperature, served as part of an hors d’oeuvre or snack with soft cheese, cucumbers, and flat bread. You can find fabulous flat breads at Middle Eastern groceries. Some look like bath mats, others like hallway runners. They’re all good. Warm them in the oven, then wrap them in a thick napkin and let people break pieces off to use as scoops or platforms.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups split chickpeas (channa dal)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 green chiles, slit to the stem
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped or grated
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) salt
  • 2 to 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons Ginger-Garlic Paste
  • 1 teaspoon Sambhar Masala
  • ½ teaspoon Dhana Jiru
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or Indian chilly powder
  • ½ cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves and stems, plus extra for garnish

Method

  • Inspect the chickpeas for gravel and wash thoroughly to get rid of chaff. Put them in a saucepan and add enough water to cover generously. Let them soak at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Drain the channa and put it back in the pan with half the chopped onions, reserving the rest for finishing the dish. Add the chiles, tomatoes, turmeric, and salt. Cover with water. Bring to a boil; lower the heat, cover loosely, and simmer about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the channa is tender. Halfway through, add the potatoes. They are supposed to be a bit mushy, so don’t fret about precise timing.
  • When the channa is cooked, heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the rest of the onions and cook until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add the paste, sambhar masala, dhana jiru, and cayenne and stir the mixture over moderate heat for a few minutes, adding small splashes of water to prevent sticking. Tip the contents of the skillet into the channa. Deglaze the pan with half a cup of water; add that as well, along with the fresh coriander.
  • Bring the legumes to a boil again; reduce the heat and simmer gently until the oil floats to the top, about 30 to 40 minutes. The consistency should be something like baked beans. Add water as necessary. Adjust the salt. When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle the top with coarsely chopped fresh coriander.
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