Saturday, 20 October 2012

An Unusual Channa Dish

An Unusual Channa Dish

I adore channa masala, and as a result I’m always experimenting with it.  This time, I was thinking about the usual pomegranate seed and tamarind that goes into it, and thought, okay, why not cranberries?
I still had almost a cup of leftover homemade cranberry sauce sitting in the freezer tempting me. 
However, I will insist that if you are going to try this, you must use a tart cranberry sauce, fresh and lively, absolutely not the bland sickly sweet jell that comes out of a tin can.

This recipe requires a blender, so don’t worry too much about your chopping skills.  Rough chopping will work just fine.

The colour should go from this
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
½ teaspoon black cumin
½ teaspoon fenugreek seed
4 cloves
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon ajwain seed
1 large cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves 

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

2 small tomatoes, chopped
1 ½ inches fresh ginger, roughly chopped
1 medium sized red onion, chopped
5 cloves fresh garlic
3 Thai chillies (or more to taste)
¾ cup fresh cranberry sauce  (or use fresh cranberries with 2 tablespoons jaggery)
½ teaspoon black salt  (available in Indian grocery stores)

to this.
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon dark mustard seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed

3 cans chick peas, aka garbanzo beans, aka channa (you could use homemade, but don’t ask me for the directions!  I don’t own a pressure cooker, which you need to make these well.)

½ cup coconut milk powder1 bunch cilantro chopped (optional)

Gently dry roast the whole spices in the pot you will be using for the channa.  Put the heat on medium high, and give it a good shake or stir every few minutes.  You want the spices to darken a bit, and they should give off fragrant smoke.  Use a brush to slide them into a spice grinder, except for the bay leaves and cinnamon.  Add the turmeric to the grinder, and buzz the spices to a powder.  Set aside.

Put the tomatoes, ginger, onion, garlic, chillies cranberry sauce (or fresh cranberries and jaggery) and salt into the blender, and liquefy.  Set aside.

Add the oil to the pot, along with the cinnamon and bay leaves.  Put the heat on medium high, and when a few mustard seeds added to the oil sizzle, then add the rest of the mustard, then the cumin.  When all the seeds are sizzling and starting to look golden, quickly pour in the onion cranberry mixture, stir, and lower the heat to medium.  Don’t worry just yet about getting every last drop of goodness out of that blender.  Cover the pot and get the channa ready by draining and rinsing them, if you are using canned.

Let the onion and cranberry mixture cook down for at least fifteen minutes.  Stir it from time to time so it doesn’t scorch.  If you can get it to caramelise a bit, that would be great.  Add the ground spices, stirring, and let cook for another five minutes.  Add the channa, stirring, and cook for another two minutes.  Going back to the blender, add three cups of water, give the blender a final buzz to lift out the remaining onion and cranberry mix, then add that to the pot.  Pour in the coconut milk powder, (or use a cup of canned coconut milk and reduce the water to two cups.) Stir, cover and let simmer on medium heat for about thirty minutes.  Stir occasionally.  At this point it is ready to serve.  If you like it thicker, like I do, cook a little longer.

I served this with basmati rice and saag paneer made with kale.  If I was going all out, I might dare to add a tablespoon or two of heavy cream to the channa, but tonight I kept myself on the wagon.  Sigh.  Can’t exactly call this a vegan dinner with the paneer, but I’m getting close.
My cilantro is long since frost murdered, not to mention under snow, and I forgot to stop by the market to buy some.  Otherwise, I would have added a bunch in the last five minutes of cooking.

Some might say that cranberries and channa are crazy, but my hunch worked.  What crazy combos have you invented?


  1. Yumm, perfect to add the sourness to the Chana dish!!

  2. Yes, no use wasting perfectly good cranberries! They're very healthy too. Thanks for visiting the blog.

  3. hello Mary.. thanks for dropping by my space. You have got a wonderful space here urself and I must say I am surprised by the number delicious looking Indian dishes here :) Way to go! :)

  4. Thanks Nandita. I'm very impressed with both of your blogs. Wow, a motorbike through Munnar! That must have been breath taking. I hope you were dressed warmly!