Himachal Pradesh is a picturesque state located in Northern India, just south of Jammu & Kashmir. The name Himachal Pradesh translates into “region of snowy mountains” & the state is well known for its natural scenic beauty. Himachal Pradesh is also home to H.H. the Dalai Lama, who resides in the city of Dharamsala.
Outside of India, very little is known about traditional Himachali cuisine. Although the cuisine of this region may appear simple & even rustic, it is full of delicious flavors. My Chana Madra is a perfect example of what Himachali cuisine has to offer. What I found most interesting about this particular dish is the addition of plump juicy golden raisins to the dal, it adds a very subtle sweet flavor & the combination is very tasty.
This delicious vegetarian recipe is made with chanas (chickpeas or garbanzo beans) but it does not contain the commonly used onion, ginger, garlic triad. Traditionally, dried chickpeas are soaked overnight and then cooked in a pressure cooker until softened. Although totally worth the extra effort, my simple recipe skips this step by using canned chickpeas - which are easily available in any large grocery store. But if you prefer the old school more traditional method of cooking the chanas, than I applaud your efforts ☺. This recipe is perfect for entertaining and can be made well in advance.
CHANA MADRA (HP Chickpea Curry)
2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 tbsp golden raisins, soaked in a little warm water
2-3 small fresh green Thai chilies, slit in half lengthwise (to taste)
1 small black cardamom pod
2-3 green cardamom pods, gently crushed
1 cinnamon stick (about 2” long)
˝ tsp turmeric (haldi)
˝ tsp ground cumin powder
˝ ground coriander powder
salt & pepper, to taste
1 cup of thick yogurt, whisked
2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or butter or oil
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
In a small skillet on medium heat, add the whole spices (black cardamom pod, green cardamom pods, cloves & the cinnamon stick). Stir until fragrant & aromatic, remove from the heat & allow to cool. Then using a spice grinder or clean coffee mill, grind into a fine powder. Set aside until needed.
In a medium size soup pot on medium low heat, add the ghee. Then add the freshly ground spice mixture along with the green chilies and the rest of the spices (turmeric, ground cumin powder, ground coriander powder, salt & pepper). Mix well & let the spices cook for a minute or so before adding in the cooked chickpeas. Stir well, cover, reduce the heat to low & let simmer for about 5-6 minutes. Then add the golden raisins along with their soaking liquid. Then turn off the heat & allow to slightly cool for 10 minutes. Lastly, add in the yogurt & stir well to combine. Simmer on low for another 8-10 minutes. Garnish with the freshly chopped cilantro leaves, serve with fresh rotis & fragrant Basmati rice.