Garbanzo beans/chickpeas/ kabuli chana is usually the favored bean/chana when making a bean masala. Chana masala is almost a household name now. There is an abundance of other types of Chana/beans/grams in India though and some of those never end up in the limelight.
Kala Chana/Desi chana/Kadala/Black chickpea/Bengal gram is one of them.(yeah i know, lotsa names). Kala literally translates to Black. I found them at whole foods too under black chickpeas.
Kala chana/desi chickpeas is darker, nuttier with a rougher texture. It takes longer to cook, holds it shape and does not get as soft and mushy. Desi chickpeas have a markedly higher fiber content than Kabulis/garbanzo beans and a very low glycemic index. As with garbanzos, I prefer to sprout these and make a curry. The same curry can be made with the kala chana soaked overnight as well.
A similar kala chana/kadala curry recipe from southern India has slightly different spices, has shredded coconut or coconut milk and tastes divine. Recipes like this or this.
One of the star spices in this curry is Cumin/Jeera. Cumin seeds are relatively easily available because of their use in many cuisines. The nutty flavor works well in spicy chile blends and roasted smoky food preparations. Read more about the nutrition profile of Cumin and history here
Cumin seeds can be stored in an airtight container in a dry, cool and dark place for years. Roasted cumin powder however loses its aroma within months. I so buy roasted cumin powder, but then most days I use a good lot, so the small open spice bottle does not last for more than a few weeks and it stays fresh. I prefer my home roasted cumin powder though for a stronger and fresher taste. I cut down on the amount called for by half when using the fresh roasted cumin powder. It is so fragrant.
Roasted Cumin powder:
If you dont use the powdered cumin as much, then consider buying whole cumin seeds as they keep fresh for longer. Roast a few Tablespoons on a dry pan on low heat until fragrant and slightly darker in color. Cool, blend coarsely, store and use within the month. Nothing can beat some fresh roasted cumin.
Roast some cumin in a little oil on medium heat, and add to Basmati rice for a cumin scented delicious side, to cauliflower and roast(just salt, pepper and cumin in cauli, yum), to any daal tadka/tempering. Roasted cumin powder to crunchy fresh salads with salt, pepper and lemon juice, to non dairy yogurt for raita, to marinades and more.
Do you like cumin? and what are your fave cumin powered dishes?
Sprouted Bengal Gram curry. Kala chana masala
Gluten, soy, nut -free, vegan recipe
1-1.5 cup sprouted kala chana/Black chickpea(1/2 cup dried kala chana, soaked and sprouted will yield a bit more than 1 cup)
2 teaspoons organic canola oil
1/8 teaspoon asafoetida (hing)
1 teaspoon Cumin seeds (Jeera)
1 green chili/Serrano finely chopped or chili powder to taste
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
2 Tablespoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons coriander powder (sukha dhania)
½ teaspoon turmeric (haldi)
1 teaspoon garam masala or chana masala spice blend or to taste
1/2 medium onion chopped
2 medium tomatoes chopped
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
a few Tablespoons of chopped cilantro for garnish
Wash and soak the chickpeas in 2 cups of water overnight. Drain and rinse. You can use these soaked chickpeas to make the curry too.
For Sprouting, sprinkle a little water on the rinsed chickpeas, cover with a damp thin kitchen towel, or dam paper towel and then keep a light lid. Drain and rinse every 6-8 hour for 1-2 days until sprouted.
Heat oil in a pressure cooker over medium high heat.
Add cumin seeds and as they sputter and get fragrant, add asafoetida, onion, ginger, garlic and chili.
Cook for 5-7 minutes on medium heat stirring occasionally until onions are golden.
Add turmeric, coriander powder, garam masala and mix for a few seconds.
Add the tomatoes and cook for another 5-7 minutes until tomatoes are mushy.
Add sprouted chickpeas, 3 cups of water, salt and cook on medium heat for 2 whistles and then on low-medium heat for another 2-3 whistles. 15-20 minutes.
Serve hot garnished with chopped cilantro with Rice or Roti flat bread.
(Alternate method: Blend the onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and spices into a smooth puree with a little water if needed.
Add to pan once the cumin seeds crackle and cook on low heat until the puree darkens, thickens and leaves the sides of the pan. 15-18 minutes depending on the water content.
Add chickpeas and pressure cook for 4 whistles as above.
No Pressure Cooker: Add an extra cup of water and cook the sprouted chickpeas on low-medium heat, covered for 40-50 minutes.
Or add slow cooker cooked chickpeas, cook partially covered on low-medium for 20-25 minutes or desired curry consistency.)
Sprouted chickpeas are softer and already more edible, so they can take less cooking time. You can also use slow cooker to cook the chickpeas and keep ready. Because of the hardy nature of this chana however, it takes longer for the chickpeas in any form to pick up the spices. Taste in between and adjust cooking time to your preference.
You can also use these chickpeas in your fave chana masala recipe. The end result will be a darker curry with nuttier chickpeas!