“Come to the fiesta!” chana masala


I’m hosting a party!

This little blog has seen many parties – real and imagined – pass through its virtual doors. I’ve occasionally talked about dinner parties at Casa Gander. I’ve planned a middle eastern tent feast with Laura of Laura’s Mess (and she has done it, wow!). I’ve even gatecrashed a Sicilian cocktail party with Liz of Food for Fun.

This time, I’m co-hosting Fiesta Friday at Angie’s place (of the Novice Gardener) with Sir Johnny (of Kitschnflavours and Flours n Dainty Buns).

If you haven’t met Angie yet, you should – she is fun, witty, her blog is full of creative food ideas, she gardens and forages and makes the prettiest things from the foraged bounty. And Sir Johnny? – I can’t wait to see what he will wear, having come to previous Fiestas in fisherman’s waders, a black PVC ensemble, that magenta onsie with a white zip, and – it was rumoured – a chamois.


As for this week’s Fiesta, get ready for madcap party tricks when you least expect – Sir Johnny and I are both in crazy time zones compared to State-side friends, so when you are blinking at the rising sun, we’ll be just getting the disco lights and cocktails started.

Fiesta Friday celebrates that best of weekdays with the funnest of parties. Please, please, come and join the party! Visit the Fiesta-goers’ posts, even better link up your own post! We may be rowdy, but we are a friendly bunch and always looking out for more people to share the fun. It’s a great way to get more people visiting your blog, and I’ve met some talented bloggers along the way. Have I convinced you yet? (actually, can you tell I’m not a salesperson??)


And onto the food! This week, I’m bringing to Fiesta Friday a bowl of chana masala (or chole masala), a chickpea dish that is found in Indian and Pakistan cuisine. According to Sir Google, a popular version of chana masala comes from Punjabi cuisine, and has a distinctive sour and tangy flavour. There are also south Indian versions such as one from Kerala, and a version with black chickpeas.

I made the Punjabi chana masala, which has been popularised by Madhur Jaffrey (including via Smitten Kitchen). This was one of the most flavoursome and fragrant dishes I’ve ever made, and it looks like you’ve slaved over a stove for positively hours – when in fact it’s quick enough for a weeknight meal. Low fuss & high impact = win win.

The last time I made this was for an after work impromptu dinner. One of the dinner guests was on a vegan diet (or at least I was told ‘vegan’ is the easiest way to understand what she can and can’t eat). Rather than trying to veganise something on the fly, I looked for recipes that just happen to be vegan but are also packed with colour and flavour.

This chana masala was the star of the meal.


The mix of ingredients almost read like a poem from the Spice Road: ginger, onions, garlic, coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, turmeric, paprika, garam masala, fresh chili peppers, amchoor, tomatoes, chickpeas. The smell was intoxicating. The flavours came together beautifully, the spices, sharpened by the ginger, onions, garlic and chili peppers, mellowed by tomatoes. The chickpeas revelled in this mixture and gave it an earthy substance.

As the ingredients cooked and melded together to form a gorgeous reddish sauce, I stood over the stove, closed my eyes and thought about travels to India (and finding these chai wallahs).

Alongside the chana masala, I made Madhur Jaffrey’s genius stir-fried cabbage with fennel seeds (cabbage has rarely been so flavourful, and so lacking in that cabbagy smell), and rice with lentils which was a travesty simplified version of mejadra. For dessert, there was coconut and lychee jelly made with agar, which, unlike gelatine, is plant-based.


Recipe notes:

For that distinctive sour taste, Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe calls for amchoor (a dried sour mango powder). SK suggests substituting with the juice from 1 lemon, but I stirred in a good dollop of tamarind paste at the end of cooking (I read on another forum that adding tamarind too early can result in a slightly ‘muddy’ taste).

Traditionally, dried chickpeas are soaked and cooked with tea leaves or tea bags, which gives the chickpeas a distinctive brown colour (similar idea to Chinese tea eggs). I have only used canned chickpeas and so didn’t do this – but this is on the cards for next time. Because there will be a next time, soon, as we head into winter.

Chana masala is commonly served with flat bread, especially bhatura, a leavened and fried bread popular in Punjabi cuisine.

The list of ingredients look a bit daunting at first. But you probably have a lot of the ingredients in your pantry – or if not they are relatively common spices. The cooking instructions are a cinch, all you need to do is stand elegantly at the stove as the guests walk in the door and marvel about the smell.


Chana Masala

(by Madhur Jeffrey and adapted by Smitten Kitchen)


1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 fresh hot green chili pepper, minced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tablespoon amchoor powder (I used two tablespoons of tamarind paste instead)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala (note you will need more if your spice mixture is a bit old/tired), plus another teaspoon
2 cups tomatoes, chopped small or 1 15-ounce can (or two standard Australian cans) of whole tomatoes with their juices, chopped small
2/3 cup water
4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 15-ounce cans (or four standard Australian cans) chickpeas , drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 lemon, juiced (or more to taste)


1. Heat oil in a large skillet or saucepan. Add onion, garlic, ginger and pepper and sauté over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn heat down to medium-low and add the coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, cumin seeds, amchoor (if using), paprika and garam masala.

2. Cook onion mixture with spiced for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and any accumulated juices, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the water and chickpeas. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, then stir in salt and lemon juice (and tamarind, if using).

3. Totally optional: I stirred through another teaspoon of garam masala at the same time as adding salt, lemon juice and tamarind, to really get the spice mix’s fragrance and flavour when serving the dish.



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63 thoughts on ““Come to the fiesta!” chana masala

  1. theseasonedtraveler 2 May 2014 at 2:48 am Reply

    Such gorgeous photos, Saucy! I love your description and can’t wait to try your chana masala. Thanks for hosting this week’s bash!

    • saucygander 3 May 2014 at 9:18 am Reply

      Thank you Laura! I’m pretty excited to be hosting, as this is such a fun blog party. I hope you like the chana masala if you try it!

  2. simplyvegetarian777 2 May 2014 at 2:49 am Reply

    Saucy, you are already on roll for fiesta Friday :). But then it’s almost hitting Friday morning in that part of the world :).
    A handsome looking chana masala Or punjabi chhole! Great pictures!

    • saucygander 3 May 2014 at 9:20 am Reply

      Yes, I posted this very early Friday, as I knew otherwise I would be late! 🙂
      Thank you for your kind words about the chana masala! I was a little nervous posting it as there are so many great Indian cuisine cooks in this group, but it was such a tasty dish I thought why not! 🙂

      • simplyvegetarian777 3 May 2014 at 9:56 am

        I just posted veg pulav to go with your chana masala! Do check it out!

  3. Butter, Basil and Breadcrumbs 2 May 2014 at 2:49 am Reply

    WooHoo!! This is going to be one great party!! I’m looking forward to it, Saucy…and cannot wait to meet you there!!
    Your Chana Masala looks fabulous..I love all of the flavors presented.. this is the kind of dish that is difficult for me to stop eating! I might have to make it soon, I know that my daughter would love it. 🙂
    See you tomorrow!! ❤

    • saucygander 3 May 2014 at 12:03 pm Reply

      Yay Prudy, this is turning out to be a great party, with mangoes, popcorn (in such glorious flavours), pastries and more. and let’s not forget all the drinks making their way around the room! 😀

  4. Ngan R. 2 May 2014 at 3:31 am Reply

    Yummm, this looks delicious! All those spices! Makes my mouth water just thinking about them. It’s only Thursday morning my time right now, but as you’re already starting to party, I think the bottle of red I’ve been saving needs to be opened tonight! Thanks for co-hosting, and I look forward to joining tomorrow.

  5. Aditi 2 May 2014 at 3:32 am Reply

    Oh Saucy! The chana masala looks so good. Your use of tamarind in place of the amchoor sounds good too. You seem to have aced Indian cooking I must say. 🙂

  6. persnicketybiscuit 2 May 2014 at 3:43 am Reply

    Gorgeous photos – I definitely want to try this recipe!

  7. Alex 2 May 2014 at 3:50 am Reply

    Oh myyy this looks great! I’ve never attempted making Indian food but I really want to try, this might be my starting point.

  8. Amanda 2 May 2014 at 5:04 am Reply

    This is so beautiful. Gorgeous plating and photography. What a great recipe. Congrats on the hosting…those two are totally titans of cooking and so are you! 🙂

  9. apsara 2 May 2014 at 8:27 am Reply

    Awesome chana masala and lovely pictures! That’s true, I regularly use tamarind paste in place of dry mango powder. That is a south-Indian adaptation too, although, I have not noticed any difference in taste if it is added too early.

  10. sabine 2 May 2014 at 8:29 am Reply

    The plate is wonderful (I suppose it´s a shell..) And as usual an unusual recipe that sounds really exotic!

  11. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella 2 May 2014 at 8:46 am Reply

    What a fun idea for a party! And what an interesting ingredient with the dried mango powder. I think tamarind is a great addition and good note about adding it early too!

  12. chefjulianna 2 May 2014 at 9:08 am Reply

    Hey Saucy! Gorgeous photos and recipe!! So serendipitous too! I have to make a vegan meal next weekend and was really stumped!! Now I have a meal thanks to your recipe and suggestions! Many thanks!

    So, who is on bar tonight? You or Johnny? You have to know that the FF gang like their drinks STRONG! 😀 They eat so much, that they can handle it too!! 😉 Whaa Hooo! Look out!

  13. ladyredspecs 2 May 2014 at 10:08 am Reply

    I am a huge Madhur Jaffrey fan, and love her chana masala. Yum!

  14. tinywhitecottage 2 May 2014 at 12:14 pm Reply

    You and Johnny hosting? Oh oh, looks like trouble. I’l never forget that magenta onesie! (ahem…and the chamois loin cloth) This is going to be interesting. What a meal to show up with Saucy. I agree, the ingredients do read like a poem. And I do have all ingredients in my pantry, except tamarind paste. You’ll hear back from me, I am going to make this….love your “serving shell”.

  15. […] with it for those who don’t have a sweet tooth 🙂 Fiesta Fridays #14 (hosted by Saucy of SaucyGander and Sir Johnny of Kitschnflavours and Flours n Dainty Buns), here I come, with this savory […]

  16. Liz 2 May 2014 at 2:33 pm Reply

    so good! love that you’re all over these parties 🙂

  17. Patty Nguyen 2 May 2014 at 3:41 pm Reply

    What a delicious dish! I love the combination of spices. Mmmm!

  18. lapetitecasserole 2 May 2014 at 3:41 pm Reply

    That’s a great news! I’m sure you’ll have fun co-hosting the FF14! Well begun is a half done, and your recipe is, no doubts, a great begun! Gorgeous photos!

  19. Gather and Graze 2 May 2014 at 6:16 pm Reply

    What a great start to FF14 Saucy! Love that you and Johnny are hosting this week – I’ll try my best to make it along, so please don’t eat all that gorgeous Chana Masala before I get there! 🙂

  20. janina 2 May 2014 at 7:14 pm Reply

    Your photography makes me drool, SG, and I can almost smell the dish, which is superbly presented too by the way. Madhur Jaffrey is a fave chef of mine and her recent series on SBS kept me inspired (I truly like Indian food). I won’t be able to join you for your party, but will be thinking of you as I look out over the local Indian restaurant called Bedi’s (Park Street near Kingsway, South Melbourne). I’ve yet to get there and will probably do it soon, as the temptation you have produced with today’s post urges me on. Cheers!

    • saucygander 2 May 2014 at 9:31 pm Reply

      Janina, thank you so much for your kind words, Indian food can be so colourful and aromatic, can’t it? I’ve only seen a couple episodes of Madhur Jaffrey’s recent series, but have been reading a friend’s copy of her book Curry Easy as well as looking for her recipes online.
      We don’t have many Indian restaurants in the local area (it’s a bit of a Thai food street), which prompts me to try Indian recipes at home. I hope you like Bedi’s if you go there!

      • janina 3 May 2014 at 8:45 am

        As a non-cook, so to speak, I enjoy cooking shows and make-believe I’m a masterchef, and, in fact, I just got to see the tail-end of her program last night; it seems it was a Pakistani banquet dish of lamb shanks and looked especially good! I’ll let you know how Bedi’s turns out when it happens. As to Thai food, well, that’s another fave too! I’m looking forward to the new MasterChef series commencing tomorrow night.

  21. […] #14. So take a few minutes and stop on by. This week’s party is being co-hosted by Saucy of SaucyGander and Johnny of Kitschnflavours and Flours n Dainty […]

  22. eclecticoddsnsods 2 May 2014 at 10:27 pm Reply

    Mmm I have those ingreidents, i have been wondering what to do with my chick peas, hehe now i know x

  23. […] bringing these loaves to Fiesta Friday, co-hosted by Saucy Gander and Sir Johnny this week, as I know this fun and talented crowd will have lots of experience and […]

  24. lapetitepaniere 2 May 2014 at 11:53 pm Reply

    Wonderful recipe, I can imagine the blend of all these flavors 🙂 Congratulations on hosting FF#14 Saucy 😉

  25. indusinternationalkitchen 3 May 2014 at 1:00 am Reply

    Great job Saucy! You are chana masala looks absolutely tempting! And thanks for being the hostess for Fiesta Friday this week! 🙂

  26. Nancy 3 May 2014 at 2:06 am Reply

    Through your description, Saucy, I can already taste it’s deliciousness! It not only sounds wonderful, but the photos are spectacular. 🙂 Thanks for bringing such a great dish for us all to sample! Hope you enjoy your co-host duties.

  27. thebrookcook 3 May 2014 at 2:44 am Reply

    Beautiful dish and photos!! Happy FF! 🙂

  28. Sadia Mohamed 3 May 2014 at 3:16 am Reply

    Oh my!! Amazing channa masala! Reminded me of the channa masala my mom used to make during the month of Ramadan( a month when we Muslims fast). I completely forgot abt this dish. Its been so long. I think i wil try this recipe soon. 🙂 thanks.

  29. Lori 3 May 2014 at 4:32 am Reply

    Wow Saucy- I have never tried anything like this, but would definitely be up for it!
    Also, thanks for co-hosting!!

  30. […] I know, silly rhyming but couldn’t control myself ;). After all it’s Fiesta Friday and Saucy Gander and Sir Johnny are the co hosts! When you have these 2 around, you are certainly enjoying […]

  31. cookingwithauntjuju.com 3 May 2014 at 5:43 am Reply

    What a great idea to plate your chana masala on a shell! I really appreciate how you always provide extra info with your recipes. Congrats on co-hosting and I am sure glad it is spring here in Michigan and not winter 🙂

  32. […] for Saucy Gander, proffering delicious Chana Masala, the mysterious and enigmatic SG & I will be co-hosting this time. Unlike myself, wearing […]

  33. The Novice Gardener 3 May 2014 at 10:27 am Reply

    Are you kidding? That’s as good as any sales pitch I’ve ever heard! I’m expecting the throng now, any moment. Chana masala looks good. Probably the first Indian dish I ever ate. Not chicken curry, not chicken tikka, but chana masala! I need to make some soon. Haven’t had it for a long time. Your version sounds very tasty.

  34. oceanviewkitchen 3 May 2014 at 11:36 am Reply

    Great presentation and lovely pictures! All the flavors sounds really good! Yum!

  35. Arl's World 3 May 2014 at 11:44 am Reply

    What beautiful photos! This looks and sounds so good.

  36. polianthus 3 May 2014 at 12:43 pm Reply

    oooh – I was looking through my vegan cookbooks today looking for something to cook this weekend, I am craving spicy and healthy and this hits the spot. I even have amchur powder tucked away somewhere, I bought it in case I ever happened on a recipe that needed it, however I am sure now I need it I wont find it among all the other spices..happy FF

  37. whatjessicabakednext 3 May 2014 at 9:36 pm Reply

    This looks right up my street- super delicious!

  38. spiceinthecity 4 May 2014 at 12:20 am Reply

    Yum, I looooooove Chana Masala. Aren’t the flavors amazing? For the tang, I usually use dried pomegranate seeds (called Anardana) that are ground to a fine powder. Your pictures are beautiful!

  39. nancyc 4 May 2014 at 12:43 am Reply

    What a great dish–this looks so good!

  40. apuginthekitchen 4 May 2014 at 10:53 am Reply

    Wow, love this, and your photo’s are just beautiful. Love Chana Masala!!

  41. deliciouslynell 4 May 2014 at 11:21 am Reply

    Your photos look superb! My mouth is watering!

  42. Ayesha 4 May 2014 at 5:15 pm Reply

    wow!! this looks so amazing! Gotta make channa masala now! 🙂

  43. Kloesunny @ Kloe's Kitchen 5 May 2014 at 1:07 am Reply

    This looks amazing! The party just got more exciting!

  44. Coffee and Crumpets 5 May 2014 at 1:15 am Reply

    I love chole! Especially with some baturas or fried puri alongside! It’s a perfect weekend breakfast!
    You did a fantastic job, love the colour!

  45. love in the kitchen 5 May 2014 at 2:25 pm Reply

    I love chana masala. Can’t wait to try your version – and I have everything on hand – even the tamarind paste. Beautiful photographs!!

  46. illcookyouwash 5 May 2014 at 3:11 pm Reply

    Looking at these pics makes me realize suddenly that I am STARVING. I can practically smell it through my screen. Thanks for posting this recipe and co-hosting FF!

  47. petra08 6 May 2014 at 8:19 am Reply

    This looks beautiful and it sounds absolutely delicious! 🙂

  48. elamb 6 May 2014 at 12:17 pm Reply

    I’ll make you some roti bread to go along with it 🙂

  49. Gerard Villanueva 7 May 2014 at 1:10 pm Reply

    Wow, a real explosion of flavors here, and it’s vegetarian friendly! I’m always on the lookout for different ways to eat chickpeas. Looks delicious! Madhur Jaffrey’s books were my introduction to cooking Indian food. I still refer to her recipes.

  50. Mary Frances 8 May 2014 at 9:21 am Reply


  51. Johnny / Kitschnflavours 9 May 2014 at 10:28 am Reply

    That does sound especially easy. I’ll have to try this, if I remember to look for amchoor powder. Which is one of the few spices I’ve yet to try. It’s funny, I don’t really know the recipes of Madhur Jaffrey, even though she’s quite famous over here. The food writer I know far better is Charmaine Solomon.

    And who do I forget to acknowledge re F&F?! My co-host, of course. Oops. How could I forget the one who got me roped into it! Still, I won’t hold that against you. Well, certainly not if you’re skycladding again!

    • saucygander 9 May 2014 at 11:20 pm Reply

      Shhhh don’t tell others about the skycladding! :-p

      I’m yet to find amchoor powder, but there’s a huge Indian store not too far away and I’m sure there are some corners of the store I haven’t explored yet. Charmaine Solomon is the best – I swear by some of her Sri Lankan cake recipes, but I feel like I should explore other people’s recipes, variety and spice of life and all that.

  52. emmasouthlondon 10 May 2014 at 4:37 am Reply

    This looks totally divine – I’m not a fan of burniing spice but I am so looking forward to trying this – love chickpeas and would like to explore the more fragrant side of spices in cooking!
    Thanks for the inspiration!
    Emma 🙂

  53. cynthia 19 May 2014 at 3:25 am Reply

    Oh my gosh, I absolutely love chana masala. So impressed that you made it from scratch (the only time I’ve attempted it was using a spice mix several years ago, hehe). Bookmarking this to try sometime!

  54. […] was supposed to include another recipe, Chana masala, adapted from Saucy Gander’s post. That’ll have to wait! As I was way too busy eating […]

  55. […] with it for those who don’t have a sweet tooth 🙂 Fiesta Fridays #14 (hosted by Saucy of SaucyGander and Sir Johnny of Kitschnflavours and Flours n Dainty Buns), here I come, with this savory […]

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