My mother says teaching me to cook Pakistani food is like speaking to a toddler:
“Is that a bird, Mama?” “Yes it’s a bird.” “A bird Mama!” “Yes that’s a bird.” “It’s a bird?” “Yes, sweetie, a bird.”
In similar fashion, our conversations go something like this:
“And the onions should be golden, right?” “Yes, not brown, golden.” “¼ tsp of turmeric, right Mom?” “Yes, beta, a ¼ tsp.” “It’ll need 30 mins, right Ummi?” “Yes, 30 mins should be fine.”
Sometimes she laughs hysterically on the third call I’ve made to her in 20 mins, as I cradle the phone between my shoulder and ear, adding spices with one hand and stirring the pot with the other – bluetooth headphones lost in the abyss of my handbag. “Sana! How many times are you going to ask!” she exclaims. Sometimes she is busy and her directions are haphazard. She’s more concerned with calling her auntie friend or going to Shoppers Drug Mart and I’m holding her up. But I persist, because I know that if I don’t learn these recipes now, when she is still around to answer my redundant questions, then I’ll never know how she got it to taste so good.
This chana masala has evolved since she first taught me how to make it (I will share her classic recipe one day). There are various steps she has, like starting with dry chickpeas, using fresh tomatoes, and blending the onion mixture, but I’ve simplified these steps for the busy mom that I am. For example, I’ve used strained tomatoes instead of fresh because it’s practical and puréed (so kid friendly). It also means that if you stock these ingredients in your pantry then you know that a hearty, delicious dinner is only a couple of chickpea cans away. We have this with basmati rice or rotis that I keep stocked in my freezer. For serving, some half-moon cucumbers doused in lemon and a dollop of yogurt on the side would be really nice.
The recipe makes a generous amount and will likely leave you with some leftovers. I promise you’ll want to eat it more than once.