No, that’s not some Indian metaphor for “sour grapes”. We’re trying to eat better – more whole grains, more vegetables and more legumes. Not that we eat badly but after the holidays (the bathroom scale was unkind) we could do better. I’ve long made an Indian dish called Sour Chickpeas or Khatte chhole that I got from Madhur Jaffrey’s book, Indian Cooking, which was first published in 1982 and is now available in a revised and expanded 2003 edition.
This recipe caught my attention and I have continued to make it, with minor revisions (a rare thing for me) for years. In my 1982 copy of the cookbook, Ms. Jaffrey notes that this dish is one she would, as a child, buy from itinerant street vendors despite her father’s warning against eating “unclean bazaar food”. She notes that his warning, of course, made these all the more delicious.
Sour Chickpeas (Katte chhole)
In the original recipe, Ms. Jaffrey starts with dry chickpeas. I use canned ones to quicken the process and because chickpeas take forever to cook and, once they’re cooked in the spices, I think most people can’t tell the difference. I’ve also reduced the recipe to work with one can of chickpeas – yielding half as much finished product as her original recipe. Her original recipe serves 6. My reduced version should serve 3 but barely serves 2 in our house.
1 can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 small fresh hot chili, seeded, minced (I use a small jalapeno)
1/2 Tbs fresh ginger, grated
2 Tbs lemon juice
3 Tbs vegetable oil
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1/2 Tbs coriander seeds, ground
1/2 Tbs cumin seeds, ground
1/4 tsp tumeric
1 tsp garam masala (garam masala is an aromatic spice blend that is usually home-made with varying ingredients, although it usually includes cardamom, cinnamon, black cumin, cloves, black pepper and nutmeg – commercial mixes are now widely available in the spice section of better supermarkets)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Mix 1 Tbs of the chopped onions, 1/4 tsp salt, the minced chili, ginger, and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat the oil in a heavy sauce pan and fry the remaining onions for 8-10 minutes or until the onion bits are browned a bit.
Add the tomato and cook for another 5-6 minutes, mashing the tomato pieces a bit. Add the dry spices, 1 tsp of salt, the chickpeas and 1 cup of water and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the reserved chili/ginger/lemon mix. Stir to mix.
Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes about 2 cups (serves 2 or 3 as a side dish)
These make a nice spicy side dish to an Indian meal or a great snack (when I make them only half of them make it to the dinner table)