Punjabi Chole – A classic dish from the Northern regions of India, especially Punjab, Delhi and Haryana, the taste of which lingers on in the soul. Yes! it is very ‘oniony’ and garlicy and may not be the first date kind of food. But it is for all those days after – spicy, aromatic, nutty, comforting. It is soulful and comforting to eat chole, just don’t do it at a work lunch. You might wanna raise your feet up and put your head back and not even know when the boss steps in. If you do eat this at work, ensure you have your cubicle armed with a trip wire or if you are the sharing kind, feed your boss first.
This used to be a very popular and much loved Sunday brunch menu for me and my siblings when we grew up. Follow it with a Namkeen lassi (salty Lassi) or even sweet Lassi and you have had yourself a great meal.
This dish can be served as breakfast to house guests or as a main dish on a brunch, Lunch or dinner. I love to use Ghee as the fat for tadka, but that can be easily substituted with olive oil for a vegan dish.
I use the Kabuli channe or the garbanzo beans for this dish. It’s ideal to use store bought dry Garbanzo beans and soak them for a few hours in hot water, boil them in a pressure cooker and then cook with the spice mix. Sounds too much? Well you can alternately use canned garbanzo beans too. Ensure you buy the low sodium ones and rinse them well with water.
I learned to make this dish from my neighbor in Chandigarh, India. She was an elderly lady who was originally from Pakistan and I was a 20 something from Kashmir, newly married and clueless. She and her husband had taken it on to themselves to just be there for me if I needed them. I used to hang out with them and spend a chunk of my evening after work with them, sipping tea, eating snacks that they made and generally making memories. The best part was she just loved to share her knowledge, transfer her expertise and watch you lovingly when you reciprocated the dish. She would then taste and give an honest critique and say now you can cook this for your in laws. ( That sort of meant that I had mastered the dish so well that it could be presented to the in laws) .
My love for cooking would take me to her kitchen at least a few times a week and she would lovingly teach me all that she had perfected in her lifetime. This is one perfect dish from her SpiceRoots to yours! She taught me a lot about food and life, and I know she would be pleased to know that I am paying it forward. Here’s to you Biji!
- 2 C white chickpeas/ Garbanzo beans soaked in hot water for at least 3 hours or overnight
- 3 Tbs coriander seeds
- 2 Tbs cumin seeds
- 6 cloves
- 2 tbs Anardana pomegranate seeds
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 tsp brown cardamom Powder also known as black cardamoms .. use just the seeds to make the powder
- 2 whole brown cardamoms
- ½ tsp cinnamon powder
- ½ stick cinnamon
- 1 bay leaf Tej pata - Indian Bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp Shahi zeera black cumin
- 1 tbs chilli powder or as per taste [ try not to use the Kashmiri/degi variety. we don't need a deep red color in this dish]
- 2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- ¼ tsp garam masala powder
- 2 C thinly sliced red onions
- ¾ cup tomatoes chopped
- 4- 5 Tbs Ghee or oil [ use less at your own risk]
- 2 tsp ginger garlic paste
- ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
Drain the chickpeas and put into the pressure cooker with 5 cups of water. You can alternately slow cook them on low for 10 hours.
Add 2 of the brown cardamoms, 3 cloves, the cinnamon stick and one bay leaf, ¼ tsp Garam Masala. This step helps getting the flavor of the spices right into the chickpeas and also lends a brown shade.
Based on your equipment, set the timing to cook the chickpeas. Usually 5-7 minutes should be sufficient on electric stoves, but this is just a pointer. The consistency you are looking for is tender but not mushy. So it’s better to undercook first and then check if you are not sure.
Heat a non stick pan on medium-low heat and add the anardana, followed by cumin and coriander.
Keep stirring the spices until aromatic, slightly toasted. Do not let them turn burn. Remove from the pan.
Allow to cool slightly, grind in a coffee grinder, to make a fine powder (Or use your favorite electric spice grinder)
Sift this powder to remove any particles that refuse to turn into a fine powder.
Heat a heavy bottomed deep pan on medium high heat and add the ghee/oil.
Add the cloves, Add the thinly sliced onions, stir and cook for about a minute. Reduce heat to medium.
Add the shahi zeera and continue cooking the onions until caramelized .
Add the ginger garlic paste, cook for a minute.
Add the chopped tomatoes and Cook some more.
Once the tomatoes are cooked – read as totally mishamshed into almost a puree and mixed in with onions, Add the chilli powder, salt, ground cinnamon, pepper powder, cardamom powder and stir well for 30 seconds.
Add the ground spices [ the ones you roasted and powdered) and add a little of Liquid from the boiled chickpeas to help the spices cook
Once the spices mix in, add a cup of the liquid from the boiled chickpeas to the pan. Using a Hand blender, blend into a puree.
Now add the chickpeas into this puree along with the remaining liquid.
Add in the cilantro
Cook on medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring once a while.
Just before serving, heat a spoonful of ghee/oil , add in a slit green thai chilli, pour it over the Chole and serve. This my neighbor used to call – Mirch ke Tadke wale chole! ( Chole with Green chilli tempering). Cut up an onion into rings and place over the chole in the serving bowl. The heat from the chole makes them mellow and oh so good to eat.