Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Recipe: Channa Masala Hummus

Channa masala is a traditional northern Indian dish of stewed chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, and a rich medley of spices. Being hummus lovers, Brian and I regularly made (and devoured) our own hummus in Chicago, turning cans of boring chickpeas into edible gold. Here in South Asia, the lure of combining the flavors of channa masala with a favorite traditional dish was irresistible, so I gave the marriage a whirl.

It took moving to Nepal to put into effect a simple practice that I should have long ago: using dried beans instead of canned. Canned beans -- even the organic variety -- were easy to justify because they were still so darn cheap compared to a lot of items that caught my eye in an American supermarket, much less Whole Foods (Artisina Coconut Butter, anyone?). Plus, I figured we had already earned economical points by making our own hummus. Given the amount of that homemade hummus we can consume, though, I realize that I should have given dried beans a whirl back then.

Now, dried beans are a bit more of a necessity. Some supermarkets here in Kathmandu carry canned beans, but the stores do not offer the same variety, and garbanzo beans/chickpeas are not always available. While using dried beans requires a bit more forethought -- I pretty much can no longer make hummus in an emergency, but that is due more to the 10 hours of electricity we have right now and less to the dried beans -- cooking with them is still incredibly easy.

Traditionally, the flavors of channa masala are melded and intensified through stewing. For this recipe, I skipped the stovetop stewing to prioritize the blending, which would require the precious 10 minutes of electricity I had remaining before load-shedding would cut if off again for another five hours. And I thought that hummus could not be made in an emergency!

Channa Masala Hummus


Three cups cooked chickpeas*
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons water or reserved chickpea liquid
1 tablespoon olive oil

*Cooking dried chickpeas is a two-step process: soaking and cooking. You can use one of two soaking methods. For the overnight soaking method, place chickpeas in a container and cover completely with water; cover and refrigerate overnight. For the quick-soaking method, place chickpeas in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil; then remove from heat, cover, and let stand for an hour. After completing either of the soaking methods, you can cook them: put the chickpeas in a pot with ample water to cover them, bring to a boil, then allow to simmer for approximately 30-45 minutes until they are tender and cooked. Remember that one cup of dried chickpeas yields two cups cooked.

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1. Place chickpeas and the next seven ingredients (through turmeric) in a food processor or high-powered blender.

2. Process or blend the chickpeas and spices until they are well combined, about 10 seconds.

3. Add the lemon juice and water (or the reserved chickpea liquid from cooking or the can). Process again until the liquid is incorporated and the mixture turns smooth, about 10 seconds.

4. Add the olive oil; if using a food processor, drizzle it through the spout on top, and if using a blender, just toss it into the main well.

5. Taste the hummus for seasoning and texture. Add salt and liquid (either water or olive oil) as you prefer. Dress with a drizzle of olive oil, a twist of lemon, and a sprinkle of garam masala.

Below, the recipe in photos.

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Toss the first eight ingredients -- chickpeas through turmeric -- into your food processor or blender.

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Process those ingredients until well-combined. The mixture will be thick.

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I had my doubts about whether a blender could produce the same creamy consistency that our our 14-cup Cuisinart food processor gave us, and the answer is: not quite. Hummus spun by the blender has a slightly more coarse texture, but the taste is still is great. For the record, I brought over that food processor from the U.S. In my carry-on bag. That's how much we love this appliance (and our hummus). But we are still working out voltage conversion and general electrical wiring issues at home, so for now it sits on the counter sad and unused -- or perhaps grateful for a break.

Next add the lemon juice and water/reserved chickpea liquid and process. The mixture will be thinner now. Add the olive oil, drizzling through the top spout if you have a food processor or tossing it in with the rest of the ingredients if you are using a blender.

Scoop the hummus into a dish and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of garam masala.

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Taste test.

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Yep, delicious.

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