This version of chana masala, a dish of chickpeas braised in a gingery tomato gravy, is for those of you who love having a deeply seasoned sauce to sop up with naan or ladle over rice. It's for you if you crave big flavor from a vegetarian dish, and this recipe is especially for you if you're looking for a slow cooker recipe that's going to take you past the eight-hour mark into 10-hour territory.
"Sometimes I think the slow cooker was built specifically for dishes like this one," Neela says. Its slow heat transforms dried chickpeas into tender beans that don't lose their shape, even after 10 hours of cooking. And better yet — no soaking required. "One can rest assured that after 10 hours of stewing without attention, the chickpeas are cooked to perfection."
Most of the ingredients used in the tadka for this dish are easily found at the grocery store; you might already have them on hand. Green mango powder, also known as amchoor, is the exception. This fruity powder is made from unripened green mangoes, and gives dishes — including this masala — a sour, citrusy depth. It's the sort of flavor you might not notice if you left it out, but add it once, and you'd never be able to go without. If you can't find green mango powder at your local Indian grocery store, take to the web.
As Neela explained to me when I asked her about substitutions: "If you're going to cook Indian food, take the time to find all the ingredients you need to make it." Then she mentioned that green mango powder is fantastic on popcorn, and that was all the convincing I needed to head to the store to pick some up.
Let's Talk Tomato (and Mangoes)
Having made this recipe numerous times — I can tell you it's a keeper not only for its ability to cook effectively during an reasonable amount of time out of the house (10 hours!), but also because it's so well seasoned. Since running this recipe, we've seen a few questions on the tomato called for and on the green mango powder. Regarding the tomato: We've updated the recipe to call for 3 peeled tomatoes. You can use fresh or canned. Alternately, you can use one 8 ounce can of diced tomatoes.
As for the mango powder — it does create a very distinct sour element in this recipe, but by all means, if you only have a lemon or lime on hand still make this recipe and use that as a substitution. It's no less delicious because of it.
Slow-Cooker Chana Masala
1/4 teaspoon ground Indian red chile
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt
For the masala:
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 large yellow onion, diced small
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped, about 1 tablespoon
3 whole peeled tomatoes (canned or fresh) or 8 ounces diced canned tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground Indian red chile
3/4 teaspoon green mango powder
1/2 teaspoon black salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 serrano chiles, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup water
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Pick over the beans for foreign objects. Add the chickpeas, water, cardamom, cassia, cloves, bay leaves, turmeric, ground red chile, and salt to the cooker. Cover and cook on high while preparing the masala.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan on medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry until golden-brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. While the onions are browning, purée the garlic and ginger with a little water in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl.
Purée the tomatoes in the same blender jar without rinsing. Once the onions are golden-brown, add the garlic-ginger purée and the coriander, cumin, turmeric, ground red chile, mango powder, black salt, and black pepper and fry with the onions for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the puréed tomatoes and cook for 2 or 3 more minutes to incorporate all the spices. Add the serrano chiles, and then add this masala to the slow cooker.
Pour 1/4 cup of water into the pan to deglaze, and add that also. Cover and cook for 10 hours on low.
Remove the cardamom, cassia pieces, cloves, and bay leaves, garnish with chopped cilantro, and serve hot.
Reprinted with permission from The New Indian Slow Cooker by Neela Paniz, copyright (c) 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press.