Not to worry if you've never heard of Kala Chana. Many non-Indian have not. For us Punjabis especially, though, black chickpeas hold a special place in our hearts. They are tiny, hearty, and give off a delicious aromatic broth that the more commonly found cousin, the white chickpea or garbanzo bean, just can't go up against.
They are also slightly higher in protein and fiber than their white counterpart. For example, 1 cup of kala chana has about 15 grams of protein and 13 grams of dietary fiber.
Many folks just soak and boil them to add into snack foods and mix in with boiled potatoes and some chaat masala. Or, sprout them for a delicious addition to salads.
For now, use this recipe to make kala chana in your slow cooker. I know it's not fall yet, but in Chicago chilly weather is never that far away and soccer season started last week anyway. Perfect fall eating in the summer! If you already own my first cookbook, The Indian Slow Cooker, you can find this recipe on page 80. The only change I made here was giving you cooking time and instructions below the recipe for soaking the beans first and then using boiling water. If you have my book and have not tried this one, I hope this motivates you!
Slow Cooker Kala Chana: Punjabi Black Chickpeas
3 cups dried black chickpeas, cleaned and washed *
1 medium yellow or red onion, quartered
1 medium tomato, quartered or 2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic
4-6 fresh Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne
2 tablespoons sea salt (modify to your taste)
7 cups water
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
juice of 1 medium lemon
1. Place the chickpeas in a 5-quart slow cooker. See notes below for soaking first if you prefer.
2. In a food processor, puree the onion, tomato (fresh or paste), ginger, garlic, and fresh chiles into a paste. Add this mixture to the slow cooker. Here, I added the tomato paste later into the slow cooker after frantically looking for fresh tomato.
3. Add the cumin, turmeric, red chile powder, salt, and water to the slow cooker. (Note the tomato paste - just fine added later as well.)
4. Cook on high for 9 hours.
5. Using the back of a spoon or an immersion or regular blender, mash about a third of the beans. I typically will press the button 5-6 times on my immersion blender. Or, take about 1 cup out, blend it, and add it back in.
6. Add the cilantro and lemon juice. Serve with steaming bowls of basmati or brown rice.
Reduce Cooking Time: You can cut your cooking time to 7-8 hours if you soak your beans overnight, drain them, and then use boiling hot water instead of room temperature in your slow cooker. If you do soak your beans overnight, I would recommend cooking them with 1 cup less water as well. I love giving my slow cooker a head start with boiling water and always keep a kettle handy just for this purpose.
Biggest mistake: Folks don't realize that these beans do not break down or get mushy on their own like other legumes. They are meant to be al dente. As long as they are soft enough for you to bite into them they are cooked.
* It's still hard to find kala chana, why I sell them now. Click on the link above to purchase them from my website. You can also find them in a local Indian grocer or check with your local specialty foods market. No matter where you buy them always sift through them to remove any debris.
Enjoy! xoxo Anupy