PDP Exclusives by Rebecca

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lunch Pail: Chole / Rajma; A Vegan Indian Curry Recipe

Union Riveter Krissi is switching from studio-mode to kitchen-mode today for a recipe!  Hope you don't mind!

I miss living in San Francisco with every kind of food available at some awesome, cheap restaurant about a block away.  Living in the Mission district, I had Indian, Thai, Mexican (oh, SO much Mexican!), Vietnamese and vegan restaurants nearby.  Now we have chain restaurants we have to drive to.  Of course, when you live in a friendly little cul-de-sac in the corner of a suburban neighborhood, great things DO happen.  Like my neighbor Bindavi asking to borrow a cup of sugar (yes, we do that here) and returning my Pyrex measuring cup full of homemade chickpea curry!  After an embarrassing amount of begging and pleading of my husband, I finally wandered over the other night to ask for the recipe and learned she was making it the next afternoon (which is a good thing, since her husband Vijay plied Ron and I with 18 year old scotch after we walked in the door).

So after a good night's sleep and a cup of coffee, here you go:

Chole with a garnish and a side of naan

"Chole" ("Chana Masala")
  • Chickpeas
    3 Cups canned for those of us short on time and patience OR 1½ Cups, dry, for the hard-core cooks among us
  • 3-6 cloves garlic
  • ginger root (fresh) approximately equal to amount of garlic
  • 1 green Thai chili optional
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, whole
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds, whole
  • asafoetida powder optional
  • chana masala spice powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp tumeric optional
  • up to ½ tsp chili powder (omit if using Thai chili)
  • 1 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 3 large Roma tomatoes, chopped roughly
If using canned chickpeas, rinse them WELL and discard all the liquid.

If using dried chickpeas, soak them overnight in plenty of water, then cook on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker with a pinch of salt until cooked all the way through, but not mushy.*  
You’ll get about 3 cups cooked.  Drain and reserve a cup of the liquid.
Bindavi's cooking instructions are for "three whistles" on her Mom's whistling pressure cooker, which are often seen in Indian kitchens and at estate sales, but thanks to the magic of the interwebs, U.S. customers can easily acquire them too.

Image by Sara Ataie
Mash garlic and ginger into paste using a mortar and pestle.

In a pot or large saucepan:

Warm cumin seeds in a few tbsp of oil, when they sizzle, add fennel seeds.

Add garlic/ginger paste, asafoetida powder and onion.  Sautee onion until translucent and slightly brown on edges.

Add chopped tomatoes, 1 C water (or water reserved from cooking chick peas), salt, chana masala spice, coriander powder, cumin powder and tumeric.  If using chile powder, sprinkle overtop to taste.

Stir together, then add chick peas and combine all ingredients well.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.  This is the best time to adjust your spices.

Our pot of chole, bubbling away!  Mmmmmm!

Serve over rice or with naan.  You can also garnish with anything you like including cilantro, yogurt,  fresh tomatoes, chives or whatever strikes your fancy.  Bindavi seems to prefer naan from one of our local restaurants and yogurt (and I'm inclined to agree with her!).

NOTE: By the way, you can also make this recipe using Kidney Beans instead of chick peas - if you do, it's called "Rajma."


p.s.  I really want one of these spice boxes now.


  1. I reeeally want one of those spice boxes. I'd feel so pro!

  2. I'll get one for sure, probably as a wedding present! ;)

    And thanks for this recipe!

  3. I just returned from my local Indian Grocery with spices, legumes and a pressure cooker. I think I'll start with Rajma (this recipe with kidney beans)!

  4. that sounds delicious!!! I'm gonna have to make that! :D

  5. Chole has become a fast favorite in our household! I make it about once a week now, and sometimes I even get more than a single serving before "samples" are handed out to neighbors, friends and co-workers!