This chickpea curry recipe makes a comforting Punjabi chole from the new cookbook Indian Cooking Class by Australian chef Christine Manfield, whose love of spice, Indian food and India began soon after she started cooking. Chole are ‘chickpeas’ and this richly spiced chickpea stew is a beloved dish of Punjabi cuisine of Punjab, a region straddling Northern India and Pakistan.
“Chole bhatura is a Punjabi staple that makes use of humble pantry ingredients. Chole is a chickpea curry served with puffed bhatura bread, a dish that has been widely embraced in other regions of India,” Christine Manfield says in the introduction to her chole recipe in her new cookbook Indian Cooking Class.
“The dal preparation can vary across districts, depending on its blend of spices,” Christine explains. “And this version was my favourite breakfast during my travels through Sikkim, staying in village houses.”
The recipe is called Chole Bhatura in Manfield’s new Indian cookbook. ‘Chole’ is chickpea and ‘bhatura’ is a puffy deep-fried bread typically served with the spicy chickpea stew or chickpea curry. Having said that, it’s perfectly acceptable to eat chole with papadams and long grain basmati rice – although we’ve had to use jasmine rice, as we don’t get a lot of basmati here in Cambodia.
You might also know this richly spiced chickpea curry as chole masala – ‘masala’ refers to the spice blend – or chana masala, which is the name of the dish in Southern India. While the origin of this chickpea curry lies in the Punjab region and Punjabi cuisine of Northern India, this hearty dish is much-loved all over India.
If you enjoy this recipe, you should also like Christine Manfield’s tamarind eggplant recipe in Indian Cooking Class. Now before I tell you more about this chickpea curry recipe, we have a favour to ask.
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Now let’s tell you more about this Punjabi chole recipe by Christine Manfield in her new cookbook Indian Cooking Class, published by Simon & Schuster Australia, and reproduced here with the publisher’s permission.
Chickpea Curry Recipe for Punjabi Chole from Indian Cooking Class by Christine Manfield
The crockpot curries that my parents cooked at home when I was growing up in the 1970s in Sydney’s western suburbs provided my introduction to Indian food, even if these days they probably wouldn’t be considered ‘authentic’, as loaded as that term has become.
The Indian curries that my parents made were mostly ‘based on’ recipes from Sri Lankan-Australia cookbook author Charmaine Solomon’s Indian Cooking for Pleasure, which I remember being well-thumbed and curry-splattered.
I use ‘based on’ because if it was my father’s turn to cook, there would be much ‘experimentation’, a disregard for measures, and a liberal sprinkling of spices. My dad was working as a sales rep for Lindemans Wines at the time, so there were also liberal pourings of cab sav!
Australians have a long history of loving curries dating back two centuries, when it was probably easier to purchase blends of ground spices from traders in warehouses in The Rocks, Sydney’s historic quarter, than it is these days.
Terence and I have been eating and cooking Indian food since we first moved in together during my first year at uni in the mid 1980s. Our fiery curries simmering on the stove would steam up the glass door and window in the tiny kitchen of our garden flat in the basement of a Balmain terrace house.
We weren’t yet aware of Christine Manfield. It would be another four years before we started dining out at Sydney’s hottest restaurants at the time for special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and promotions – at Tetsuya’s in Roselle, at Neil Perry’s Rockpool, at Stefano Manfredi’s bel mondo, and, later, at David Thompson’s Darley Street Thai, and Christine Manfield’s gastro-pub Paragon and dimly-lit, minimalist fine-diner Paramount.
In the early 1990s we moved to a Potts Point apartment just a two-minute stroll from Paramount. I vividly remember when we first dined there, popping in on my way home from work to make the booking, wearing a black suit, my platinum blonde hair pulled up tightly in two small buns as was the fashion at the time. My best friend was a hair-dresser.
It was just before service started and Margie Harris, Christine’s partner in life, love and business, opened the door, looking sharp all in black. I spotted a similarly bleached-blonde Christine, with an ultra short, spiky hair-cut, scanning the reservations book before slipping back into the kitchen.
Christine and Margie were undoubtedly the coolest women working in hospitality at the time and Paramount was the coolest restaurant. Making a booking there was exciting. And our expectations were met with stunningly creative modern Australian food.
Five years later, Terence and I moved to the Middle East and it would be another 20 years before we met Christine and Margie again – in Cambodia’s Battambang of all places, where Christine was cooking at a charity dinner for Jaan Bai, an NGO training restaurant launched with the support of Sydney restaurateur John Fink and Bangkok-based chef David Thompson. (I highly recommend trying Christine’s recipe for a sublime pork and crab congee with XO sauce, which she cooked on the night.)
While we’d long known of Christine’s love of spice, what we hadn’t realised at the time was that in those two decades we’d been living abroad, the Australian chef had developed a passion for Indian cuisine, had been to India more than 40 times, including hosting Indian culinary tours, and had authored four cookbooks on Indian food.
Christine’s last cookbook, the award-winning Tasting India, was described as “a gastronomic odyssey through home kitchens, crowded alleyways, fine restaurants, and street carts to explore the masterful, complex, and vibrant tapestry of Indian cuisine.” The recent edition included three new chapters on Gujarat, Hyderabad and Punjab.
So naturally, we chose a Punjabi dish, this chickpea curry recipe for Punjabi chole, to share with you first, and next week, we’ll share another recipe from her new cookbook for Tamarind Eggplant.
In the meantime, if you’re not familiar with Christine’s food or Australian cuisine, we highly recommend ordering one of Christine Manfield’s many fabulous cookbooks and guides: Paramount Cooking (2000), Christine Manfield’s Desserts (2004), Spice: Recipes to Delight the Senses (2007), Fire: A World of Flavour (2009), Tasting India (2011), and A Personal Guide To India And Bhutan (2015).
Tips to Making this Chickpea Curry Recipe or Punjabi Chole
We tested this chickpea curry recipe for Punjabi chole from Christine Manfield’s cookbook Indian Cooking Class a few days ago, and it was fantastic – as you can see from Terence’s mouth-watering photos.
Christine’s Chole Bhatura recipe was easy to follow – even without the step-by-step instructions and images that provide the lessons in her Indian Cooking Class. Having said that, just a few notes and tips to making this chickpea curry recipe for Punjabi chole.
Christine’s chickpea curry recipe calls for dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight, and drained, however, if you can’t get hold of these or you decide to cook this dish spontaneously one evening, you can safely use canned chickpeas and you won’t notice the difference.
The same goes for the tomatoes. The recipe calls for fresh tomatoes, but if you don’t have any at hand, but you have some tinned tomatoes in the pantry, go for it. We tested both and as long as you’re using a quality can of tomatoes, they result in a chickpea curry that’s just as delicious.
“Small red onions” are shallots to us here in Southeast Asia, and may well be for you, too – which has reminded me that my compatriots in Australia call shallots ‘spring onions’, which are different again in other parts of the world.
The recipe calls for ginger garlic paste. We simply pounded a knob of ginger and a few cloves of garlic together in the mortar and pestle, as we do with Burmese recipes, however, I’ll check this with Christine and adjust these notes if she recommends anything different.
The spice mix chaat masala for this chickpea curry recipe was also challenging to source here in Cambodia, and may be for you, too. While you might be tempted to reach for the garam masala, and I noticed that a lot of recipes online suggest that spice blend as an alternative, note that they’re quite distinct so you are better off blending your own recipe.
We found a chaat masala recipe on a Punjabi recipe site that listed 12 spices: 1 tsp red chilli powder, ½ tsp kala namak (black rock salt), ½ tsp salt, 2 green cardamoms, ½ stick dalchini (cinnamon), 2 tsp cumin seeds, 2 tsp dhania (coriander) seeds, 1 tsp amchur, 10 seeds kali mirch (black pepper), 4 cloves, ¼ tsp dry ginger powder, and ¼ tsp heng/asafoetida.
That chaat masala recipe recommends dry roasting the spices in a pan, blending them into a fine powder in a spice grinder, laying the spice blend out on a plate for half an hour for any moisture to evaporate, then transferring the chaat masala to an air-tight container for storage.
If that sounds like too much hard work or some of those ingredients are tricky to get hold of, I found a 5-ingredient chaat masala recipe on the Pakistani-American Tea for Turmeric food blog which calls for black salt, dry mango powder, dried pomegranate seeds, red chilli powder, and toasted cumin seeds. Black peppercorns and sugar are optional.
Another ingredient you might not be able to source is Kashmiri chilli powder. It’s a mild yet vibrant dark red chilli powder that’s used as much for its colour as flavour. As it’s the most common ground chilli used in India, outside India simply look for Indian chilli powder and you’ll probably find that it’s ground Kashmiri chillies.
For the fried shallots, you could certainly make your own, however, we use crunchy fried shallots that we buy from the markets here in Cambodia, which are also available online.
The last thing you need to know is that Christine Manfield’s chickpea curry recipe is that it makes enough for two meals for two people, with leftovers. We made it three days ago and we’ve just finished the last of it with turmeric rice and papadams.
We’ll make the puffy fried bhatura bread next time we cook this chickpea curry recipe, as there will be a next time.
Chickpea Curry Recipe for Punjabi Chole
- 250 g dried chickpeas - soaked in cold water overnight, drained
- 60 ml vegetable oil
- 3 small red onions - finely diced
- 2 tbsp ginger garlic paste
- 2 small green chillies - minced
- 3 tomatoes - diced
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp chaat masala
- 2 tsp sea salt flakes
- 150 g plain yoghurt - thick
- 3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp fried shallot slices
- Cook the chickpeas in large pot of boiling water for 45 minutes or until soft. Drain, reserving 50 ml of the cooking water.
- Place 1 cup chickpeas (leave the rest whole) and the reserved water in a food processor and blend to form a puree. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 4 minutes or until softened.
- Add the ginger garlic paste and green chilli and cook for 30 seconds or until coloured.
- Add the tomato and cook for 4 minutes or until softened.
- Mix the ground spices together in a small bowl and add to the onion and tomato mixture. Stir to combine and cook for 2 minutes or until fragrant.
- Add the whole chickpeas, chickpea puree and salt, stir to combine and cook for 2–3 minutes.
- Add the yoghurt and simmer gently for a further 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir through the coriander leaves and lemon juice.
- Scatter with the fried shallots and serve.
The recipe for this chickpea curry recipe for Chole Bhatura is from Christine Manfield’s Indian Cooking Class (rrp A$59.99) published by Simon & Schuster Australia, and has been used with the publisher’s permission.
The images are not from Christine’s book, but are of the dish that we made, shot by Terence Carter.
Please do let us know if you make this chickpea curry recipe for Punjabi chole in the comments below, as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.