Pakistan is the home to this month’s featured grantee, Irqa Fund. Just imagine the culinary possibilities of a country that’s bordered by China, Iran, Afghanistan, and India. Wow! From a cooking perspective, the recipe options seem so exciting, so full of creative possibilities. Truthfully, it would be entirely possible for me to go totally overboard.
But after reading about the important work of the Irqa Fund – which provides access to quality education for girls in the remote regions of northern Pakistan – I once again found myself feeling completely sobered by the conditions so many women face in too many parts of the world: sexual violence, lack of access to healthcare and education, extreme poverty – not to mention how each of these injustices are inexorably linked to one another.
So, instead of something “exciting,” this month I offer my recipe for chana masala, the decidedly humble stew of aromatics (like onion, ginger, and garlic), garbanzo beans, and spices. As in India, chana masala is commonly served in Pakistan. It’s nourishing, filling, inexpensive, and delicious. Chana masala might not seem like something you’d want to eat in July, but I promise it’s absolutely wonderful at room temperature or even cold.
I may not ever be able to eat chana masala again without thinking about the girls of remote northern Pakistan, plus the Irqa fund, and how they’re being supported by the wonderful work of Dining for Women.
Cooking notes/tips: Ground amchoor can be easily found in Indian grocery stores. It is dried, ground mango—and adds a sour tang. Leave it out if you can’t track it down. Refer to the recipe I developed for garam masala on the Dining for Women web site. Or, just add an additional ½ teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander.
2 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons grapeseed (or other neutral-flavored) oil
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground amchoor (see note, above)
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala (see note, above)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (15-ounce) can of tomato puree
1 cup vegetable stock (plus more if needed)
1 quart cooked garbanzo beans [or use (2) 28-ounce cans, rinsed and drained]
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
Plain Greek-style yogurt, for garnish (if desired)
Place the yellow onion, garlic cloves, ginger, and jalapeno pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Process to a coarse paste, about 30 seconds.
Heat oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onion/garlic/ginger/ jalapeño paste mixture and sauté until translucent, approximately 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the coriander, cumin, amchoor, sweet paprika, turmeric, garam masala, and kosher salt. Sauté for another 2 minutes, until highly fragrant.
Add the tomato puree, stir everything together, and cook for another minute or so.
Add the vegetable stock and garbanzo beans. Mix well and bring to a simmer. Cover pot, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally throughout cooking. Add more vegetable stock, if needed. At the end of cooking, stir in lemon juice. Season with additional kosher salt, if desired. Garnish each serving with cilantro leaves and yogurt, if desired.
Recipe credit: Traci Barr
Photo credit: Kathy Williams