Often when cooking chhole, I make the masala from scratch, adding whole (saboot) spices, followed by sautéeing onions and tomatoes, which I grind up to form a slightly textural gravy. Needless to say, this isn’t the only way, though it tastes the freshest.
There are a dozen different ways to make chhole. Today’s recipe does not contain garlic. Just some onions and tomatoes, tamarind, some anardana powder (dried pomegranate seeds powdered) and a handful of coarsely-crushed chickpeas. The last element is most important of all and lends the texture here, while thickening the gravy.
I paired it with a classic – bhatura. The bhatura itself is made with baasi-atta.
Recipe notes, elements and variations:
This recipe is the closest to the versions that I have eaten at pit-stops (dhabas) during travels to, and in Himachal.
Khatta is the broad term that refers to ingredients that add tang or acidity to a dish. The acidity in North Indian dishes typically come from addition of one of these:
pomegranate powder (made by pounding dried or roasted pomegranate seeds),
amchur (dried raw mango powder),
tamarind extract (which in addition to the acidity also thickens the gravy) or
sour curd (but not in chickpea recipes).
Some substitutions for the above, are;
Kokum powder, made from dried flowers of kokum, a fruit very similar in look to mangosteen. It is one of my favourites and most-often-used khatta. Preserved kokum petals, and kokum extract are commonly used in coastal Konkan and Maharashtrian cooking. In today’s post I used pomegranate only because my stock of kokum powder needs to be replenished. If I use tamarind, I omit tomatoes entirely.
Dried Plum, ground. When I fall short of conventional souring ingredients I use whatever dried berries I have in stock that have sourness. These work well in all North Indian curries.
I prefer a very simple mix of freshly roasted cumin seeds and pomegranate seeds in this recipe instead of a heavy masala. If I feel like, I add a pinch of my homemade garam masala, which is very mild as far as heat goes but potent in terms of flavour. This I add at the final stage, as opposed to adding towards the beginning.
I have simply crushed a handful of cooked chickpeas in this recipe. But sometimes one falls short of quantity in which case you can opt either for;
A. adding tamarind extract to the gravy (while proportionally reducing other acidic agents), or
B. roast a tablespoon of besan (gramflour) or chickpea flour till dark and aromatic, but not burnt. This may be added after sauteeing onions and tomatoes and mixing it in well. If not roasted to the correct colour, or left un-roasted, it alters the texture, taste and look of the dish. Too much adds undesired flavours. One must exercise prudence.
One can add roasted and powdered black peppercorns if desired. I just don’t like the heat from black peppers so I prefer omitting this. Some people like to add kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) along with tomatoes but I feel it changes the flavour. Kasuri methi works for me in chhole recipes but not when I have it with bhatura or poori.
I feel sometimes, the less you add to a dish, the more you elevate it’s profile and character. Yet, one must lay down all the options, right?
I know we all like to add lots of dhania at the end these days but I haven’t seen a garnished chhole served with bhatura. The closest garnish is a side of raw onion rings tossed in beet to get them pink, and a wedge of lemon. I think this shines as is.
This is a simple and fuss-free recipe. The best part is that the chickpeas shine without being masked by too many flavours, and you can actually taste each element in a mouthful.
Taste profile: Tangy, spicy and light as compared to the one made with classic ground tomato and onion gravy.
Make sure you have black salt as it makes all the difference. I didn’t use garlic as I sparingly use it in my kitchen. Sometimes I find it too heady and overpowering. Other times I cannot do without it. 😀
Recipe: Bhature waale chhole (Chickpeas that is served with bhatura)
Time taken: Overnight soaking + 1 hour (boiling, cooling and cooking)
Chickpeas (I used the small indigenous variety) – 3 cups (soak overnight)
Cumin seeds – 2 tbsp + 1 tbsp
Pomegranate seeds, dried – 2 tbsp
Oil – 2-3 tbsp
Ginger – 1 inch juliennes 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp
Green chillies – 4 (2 slit lengthwise + 2 whole, de-stemmed)
Onions – 1 large sized, finely chopped
Tomato – 1 medium sized, chopped rough
Black salt (Kala namak) – 1/4 tsp
Salt (I use Pink salt or Saindhav namak) – To taste
Red chilli powder, optional and as per taste – 1 tsp.
Garam masala – A pinch, (recipe here)
Lime – 1, cut into wedges
Soak chickpeas for 8-10 hours or overnight. Drain the water to release phytins. Rinse and cook with fresh water in a pressure cooker for 6-7 whistles or in a stockpot till tender. You may add 1/4 tsp salt at this point but not more as it will hamper the cooking time. Let the cooker cool naturally. Remove 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas and crush it to a rough mix. This will be used to thicken the sauce.
On a hot griddle, over medium flame, broil 2 tbsp cumin seeds till aromatic and dark, about 3-4 minutes. Add pomegranate seeds and roast further till slightly charred but not burnt, about 2 minutes. The result should be sweet and aromatic. Let cool, and then pound to a rough texture in a mortar or press with a rolling pin over a chopping board or chakla.
Heat oil in a wok or kadhai. At medium heat, add the remaining 1 tbsp cumin seeds allowing it to splutter, followed by 2 slit green chillies and a tbsp of julienned ginger sticks. Fry till the chillies are speckled and ginger turns pinkish.
Add onions and fry to translucent. Reduce heat. Add the charred cumin-pomegranate powder. Fry further till the onions are coated well.
Add chopped tomatoes, frying till the tomatoes break down completely. Add black salt, and red chilli powder and mix for a minute.
Add the crushed chickpeas and the cooked chickpeas. Mix well. Season with salt to taste. Finish off with a pinch of garam masala if using.
Serve with hot bhaturas or aloo tikkis, with a side of thin onion rings, fresh radish relish, and a wedge of lime.
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