Fascinating fact for the day: chickpeas don’t only come in that creamy hummus-making colour. They also come in light brown, brown, black and red. Mind-expanding, huh?
The packet tells me that brown chickpeas are called Kala Chana, but the internet insists that they can also be called Desi Chana. If anyone knows what the correct terminology is please let me know in the comments 🙂
Anyway, having discovered this new and exciting fact I set about taste-testing.
When cooked in plain water the brown chickpea is noticeably nuttier in flavour than its creamy cousin (sibling?). The texture is also a bit firmer, it’s a very pleasant mouth feel – a bit chewy but in a good way not a ‘is-this-actually-cooked?’ way. The cooking juices are also particularly tasty. With a bit of salt and garlic I’d happily eat a bowlful as a thin soup.
This recipe is a bit of a mash up from a regular chana recipe I’ve developed myself and this recipe from Veg Recipes of India (a great resource).
Kerala-style brown chickpea curry
Time to prepare: 20 minutes (+chickpea cooking time)
For Garam Masala:
1 stick cinnamon
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon nutmeg (preferably freshly grated but powered is ok)
2 cardamon pods
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 birds eye chillies (use only one if you prefer a milder curry)
2 green shallots
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
thumb of fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon shredded coconut
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/3 cup coconut milk
2 1/2 cups cooked brown chickpeas*
1 1/2 cups chickpea cooking water or stock (or mix of both)**
Soak the chickpeas for at least an hour (preferably overnight) and then cook in a pressure cooker or on the stove top. A pressure cooker will take about 23 minutes (plus steaming-up time), a stove top will take much longer – closer to two hours. Of course, as described in the notes you can also use canned chickpeas – prep time? Half a second.
Prepare the marsala by gently dry roasting the spices in a large thick bottomed pot (a french oven is perfect) on the stove top. Stir as they heat and remove when aromatic – about two minutes. Blend these spices in a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle and set aside.
In the same pot heat the coconut oil and add the mustard seeds. When they begin to crackle add the rest of the ingredients, except for the liquids and chickpeas. Stir on a medium heat for a minute or two until everything is fragrant.
Then add the remaining ingredients (including the marsala) and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes without a lid, to reduce the gravy.
Serve with rice (or other grains).
In this recipe you can also swap the brown chickpeas for regular chickpeas and of course you can use canned rather than cooking your own. I try to avoid cans to cut down on rubbish/recycling and because dried legumes are almost always much more economical.
The cooking water from brown chickpeas is pretty tasty and has a nice thickness to it – it’s a good alternative to stock in this, and most chickpea recipes.