An early morning scene in a typical #Indian home kitchen is an assured pleasure on any day, where multitasking takes precedence over everything. While the breakfast gets tossed on a kadai, cooked in a steamer or rolled on a chakla (round pastry board), the pressure cooker sits languidly on the stove, hurriedly boiling some legumes or lentils for the lunch that would be served with some carbs and greens. As I write this, I can imagine a similar setting in my husband's family home in India, and this recipe comes straight from the kitchen of that home and the woman who is its forerunner, my husband's grandmother, Aama as she is fondly called.
Bounded by Nepal on the east and Tibet in the north, #Kumaon is one half of the picturesque state of #Uttarkhand in India. The stunning landscape of this hilly terrain nurtures seasonal diversity in crops, vegetables and fruits. Amidst all the food that changes on the plate with seasons, lentils continue to be served throughout the year. Tempered with wild mountainous herbs, lentils and curries in the #Kumaoni #cuisine standout distinctly in both aroma and flavour.
If you search the internet for Kumaoni cuisine, names like churkani, kapa, chainsoo, gutke, dubke and the popular bal mithai will appear instantaneously in the results unlike chadhanchi, the lesser known of the lot. This protein packed dish that is so simple to make, delicious and filling hardly shows up in the Kumaoni cuisine on the internet. I was introduced to chadhanchi during a phone conversation with our family in Haldwani, a city in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. Following usual banter and chitchat, my mother-in-law casually mentioned that Aama (my husband's grandmother) is making chadhanchi. After a quick exchange of thoughts on the recipe, I soaked black chickpeas over the weekend to create this dish in my kitchen. And, I've been in love with this newfound chickpea curry since then.
Mainly grown in India, East Africa, Iran and Mexico, black chickpeas or Bengal gram are known as kala chana in India. It's not to be confused with its kin, chole or Garbanzo beans, which are also known as chickpeas. With their outer coating removed and washed, black chickpeas are ground to make yellow gram flour or besan.
Some key points about this recipe
Like many other interesting lentil recipes from the hills of India, chadhanchi also uses minimum ingredients. It's a gravy made with a paste of overnight soaked black chickpeas or kala chana instead of the usual onion and tomato sauce. It's slightly thick curry with a few whole chickpeas floating in it.
Compared to the chadhanchi that is made at home, I have made few modifications to make it a bit tangy and spicy.
Mustard oil is a key ingredient in the cuisine of many pahadi (hilly) regions in India including Garhwal, Kumaon, Himachal and Kashmir. However, Aama's original recipe does not mandate mustard oil. I have used it in this recipe because I thoroughly love the fragrance and taste of mustard oil!
To bring a note of sourness, I like to add chopped tomatoes or a teaspoon of amchur (dried mango powder). You can make it without any sour ingredient too.
For an extra kick, I add a tempering of mustard oil and dried red chilies on top. You can skip it, but I recommend doing it.
Don't be intimidated by the length of the recipe! It's extremely easy and comes together in a jiffy!
For the curry:
2 cups black chickpeas (kala chana) washed and soaked overnight or at least for 8-10 hours
1 tbsp mustard oil or any other oil of your choice
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp asafoetida
8-10 cloves of garlic roughly pounded
½ inch ginger roughly pounded
2 green chilies finely chopped
1 large tomato chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chili powder
2 tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp cumin powder
A pinch of garam masala
Salt to taste
Chopped coriander leaves
For the additional tadka (optional):
½ tsp mustard oil or any other oil of your choice
1 tsp cumin
¼ tsp asafoetida
A pinch of red chili powder
2 dried red chilies
Divide the chickpeas into two parts or cups.
Boil one cup of the soaked chickpeas in a pressure cooker or instant pot with some salt. Strain the chickpeas and keep aside the water from the chickpeas. We will use this water later in the recipe.
While one portion of the chickpeas are boiling, make a fine paste of the other cup of chickpeas in a blender by adding a little water as required. Keep aside.
Add oil in a wok or kadai on medium heat and then, add cumin, asafoetida, garlic, ginger and green chilies one after another. Sauté till the raw smell of ginger garlic starts to disappear, but take care to not brown the garlic.
Add the tomatoes and cook until they become soggy.
Add the dry spices: turmeric, red chilli powder and coriander and cumin powder and sauté again. Add splashes of water if the spices and tomato stick to the kadai or wok.
Once the tomatoes and spices are mixed well, add the chickpea paste and start mixing everything together. Cook on a medium low flame until the paste changes color, thickens and becomes slightly sticky.
Now add the water kept aside from draining the boiled chickpeas into the paste in the kadai or wok, and turn up the heat to medium. Give a gentle mix and then use a wire whisk to mix continuously and break the lumps.
Once you are happy with the consistency of the gravy and have ensured that there are no lumps, add the boiled chickpeas into this gravy. Add more water to thin down the consistency of the gravy, mix and then let it simmer covered for about 5-7 minutes.
Open and add a pinch of garam masala. Add salt and water (if needed) to adjust seasoning and texture. Remove from heat and garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves.
(Optional) For an extra spicy kick, add a tadka on top. For this, heat oil in a fry pan or tadka pan, add cumin, asafoetida, red chili powder and dried red chilies. Let everything crackle and pour the sizzling tadka on top of the hot gravy.