Chickpea Masala without Onions

Karthik from Washington DC asks:

Sir, I was wondering if you had a recipe for for making channa masala without using onions? I have been thinking about avoiding onions in cooking for sometime now, but when I cook some North Indian dishes it makes me wonder if its possible to get the same kind of texture and flavor.

My reply:

Well you may not get exactly the same texture without onions, though I use fresh fennel bulb. It’s in season right now in Australia, and is an Italian vegetable, the bulbous root of the Florence fennel, pictured below.

fresh fennel:

It has a marvellous onion texture when cooked. I fry thin slices in butter slowly in a covered saucepan and it reduces wonderfully to what really resembles cooked onions. With the asafetida it has a delightful flavour. Though it is not in the recipe below, I suggest one decent fennel bulb cooked separately and folded through to add wonderful texture and flavour to the chickpeas.

And, of course, Asfetida is my garlic/onion flavour substitute. Here is my recipe. Give it a try.

Chickpea Curry (Chole)

This dish features chickpeas, with their faintly nut-like flavour and smooth texture. Chickpeas are rich in protein-nitrogen compounds. Cooked in this spicy sauce they’re great served with Puffed Fried Breads (Pooris), with capatis, or with hot Boiled Rice.

DAL SOAKING TIME: overnight
PREPARATION TIME: 15 minutes
COOKING TIME: 1 hour
YIELD: enough for 4 to 6 servings

chickpea curry:

1 1/4 cups dried chickpeas
6 cups water
1 bayleaf
the seeds from 4 cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
5 black peppercorns
one 5 cm (2-inch) cinnamon stick, broken into bits
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
4 tablespoons ghee or oil
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely minced
1 teaspoon hot green chili, minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon yellow asafoetida powder
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander or parsley

Wash and drain the chickpeas; then soak well-covered in water overnight. Drain.

Place the chickpeas, water, and bay leaf in a heavy 3-litre/quart saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer the chickpeas for 1 hour or until they are butter-soft but not broken. Remove from the heat.

Drain, reserving the liquid. Remove the bay leaf.

Place 1/3 cup cooked and drained chickpeas in a blender or food processor with a little cooking liquid. Process to a smooth puree. Remove the chickpea puree and place it in a bowl. Set aside.

In a coffee grinder or blender or with a mortar and pestle, combine and crush to a powder the cardamom seeds, whole cloves, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick, and cumin seeds .

Heat the ghee or oil in a heavy 2-litre/quart saucepan over moderately high heat. When hot, stir in the fresh ginger and green chili and saute for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cayenne, asafoetida, turmeric, paprika, and ground coriander. Add the ground spice powder, chickpeas, lemon juice, salt, the pureed chickpeas, and enough reserved chickpea cooking-water to make a gravy. Simmer for 6 to 8 minutes; then remove, garnish with minced fresh coriander, and serve hot.
Posted by Kurma on 12/8/07; 7:03:09 AM

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