Despite what most Indian restaurants would have you believe, a bhuna is a curry with strong flavours, but very little sauce. Sticking with the traditional approach, the miniature pulses that make up this Brown Chickpea Bhuna are held together by a powerfully flavoured and concentrated masala. Deeply fragrant, it makes for a wonderful accompaniment to any curry.
One of three main types of chickpea, brown chickpeas (kala chana) are the smaller, darker and rougher cousins of the perpetually popular garbanzos (chana). Though widely used in Indian cuisine, kala chana can be tricky to find outside specialist stores. If you are struggling, regular chickpeas will suffice.
Vitally important to any bhuna is the treatment of the spices. The only way to prepare your spices is to gently toast them, coaxing out their flavoursome oils. Once the seeds have darkened in colour and begun hopping about the confines of their pan, almost threatening to jump out, it is time to grind them ready for cooking.
Bhuna isn’t a dish to be rushed either. And while the cooking time of will be less than that of the more common mutton or lamb bhuna, it still pays to be patient. Despite adding water, what you should be aiming to achieve is a “dry” sauce that clings, as though for its life, to its resident chickpeas.
Brown Chickpea Bhuna
- 200g brown chickpeas, dried
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 dried chillies
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp fenugreek
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 10-15 curry leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp garam masala
- fresh coriander, finely chopped
- If using dried chickpeas, soak overnight in enough water to cover them by an inch or two. Drain and rinse thoroughly before use.
- Gently toast the whole spices and chillies. Grind and set aside. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions, along with the ginger and garlic pastes.
- Once the onion is translucent and softened, tip in the ground spices, chopped tomatoes, curry leaves and salt. After a minute or two pour in 100ml or water and combine.
- Add the chickpeas and simmer for 20-30 minutes until cooked through. Continue to cook until the masala has thickened and concentrated.
- Finish the dish with garam masala and serve with bread or rice and a handful of fresh coriander.
Cost: A dish composed primarily of dried chickpeas and spices, brown chickpea bhuna is inexpensive to say the least. A mere £1.10 for the entire dish. Perfect for a frugal spread of curries!