Black chickpeas are a staple in my pantry. They are versatile and can transform themselves into several dishes once they are soaked and cooked. You can throw them into salads to bulk up the greens, you can add them into soups for a nice ‘bite’, you can make sundal or usli (a South Indian delicacy that can be served as a side or a snack), you can sprout them, or you could make this ultra-yummy curry – which by the way, can even transform itself into a friendly and hearty soup, should the need arise. OK, without further ado, let’s get on with it…
This is the “bad news” part of the “I have good news and bad news” part of the story. I admit it – this dish cannot be made if you have a sudden craving (we have several recipes like the Spicy, Sweet, Tangy Pineapple Gojju or the Snake Gourd Coconut Saute or the Drumstick (Moringa) Curry that have no latent time). Reason? The beans are rock-hard and need some TLC. First, they have to be washed and soaked in water for 8-10 hours. Next, =they need to be pressure cooked for at least 30 minutes. I use an Instant Pot, but a regular pressure cooker does the job just as well (don’t try to cook these suckers on a stovetop; I guarantee you that you’ll be mad as a hatter!). If these beans need to be sprouted, then add an additional 2-3 days!! Sounds like too much work? Please don’t leave yet…read on.
The Good News
Don’t they say that ‘patience pays’? It does!! When you are done with the TLC described above, the actual time it takes to make this dish is pretty insignificant – 15 minutes tops. Quick and rough chopping and dicing of spinach, onions and tomatoes, quick sauté, throw in the spices with abandon, toss in the greens, and the dish is calling out “eat me, eat me” in no time. The aroma of roasted spices is truly a marriage made in Heaven. After all the labor of love, when you scoop this delicacy into your mouth, your palate will say – yummmmm. Not too bad for a little bit of labor, eh?
Let’s talk about the seemingly looong list of spices in this recipe. They are all my favorites and I’ve chosen to add them to this dish. But don’t let this intimidate you. The dish can be made with all the herbs and spices or with just a few. If you don’t have black garlic (kalonji) seeds, feel free to skip it. No spinach in the fridge? No worries. Substitute it with fenugreek leaves. Or skip entirely. No coriander powder? No worries. No Kashmiri chilis? Add some cayenne pepper powder. The dish is entirely forgiving. However, I strongly urge you to NOT skip the ginger and the garlic. These two workhorses have the ability to compensate for many of their missing (but wonderfully healthy) colleagues that you decided to eliminate from the curry.
Writing about this curry makes me crave to eat it with Methi Parathas.
Do you love, love to make similar dishes or want ideas for pairing this dish? Then, look no further. Here are a few great suggestions:
Where do I start with the health benefits? Ginger, turmeric and garlic: antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, gut-healing agents that can help with oxidative stress, cholesterol, diabetes and blood pressure regulation. Black chana: filled with protein, soluble and insoluble fiber. Tomatoes: rich in lycopene, Vitamins C and A. All-in-all, this dish is certainly food that can be considered ‘medicine’.
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Kala Chana-Spinach Curry
- 1 Cup Black Chana Soak for 8-10 hours and pressure cook
- 2 Teaspoon Avocado Oil
- 1/2 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds
- 1/2 Teaspoon Black Garlic (Kalonji) Seeds
- 1 Teaspoon Garlic
- 1 Teaspoon Ginger Grated
- 4 Kashmiri Chili Or to taste. Green chili also works
- 1/2 Cup Onions Chopped fine
- 1/2 Cup Tomatoes Diced
- 1/2 Teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon Coriander Powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon Cumin Powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon Dry Mango (Amchur) Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Himalayan Pink Salt Or to taste
- 1 Cup Spinach Leaves Roughly chopped
- Wash and soak black chana for 8 hours with sufficient water to cover the beans. Drain and pressure cook with 1 cup water for 30 minutes (I use the Instant Pot). Save the water!
- In a thick bottom dish, heat oil. Splutter kalonji (black garlic) and cumin seeds
- Add chopped garlic and allow it to brown lightly
- Add grated ginger and stir for 30 seconds
- Add Kashmiri chili and chopped onions and sauté until onions are translucent
- Add chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, dry mango powder (amchur) and salt. Mix well for 2-3 minutes or until the tomatoes are cooked.
- Add 2 cups of filtered water (more if you want to want to eat it as a soup) and cooked black chana along with the water that you cooked it in. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle.
- Add chopped baby spinach, cover the lid back and turn off the heat. The spinach will wilt in the heat.
- Remove from stove and serve hot.