Chaat and Chickpeas

Here’s a good start to 2012…I think I have run the gamut of greed with seasonal indulgence.

Somehow, the sticky shine is off high-sugar content food when it is abundant and within such easy reach. Not to mention, when I partake of it in such an unreserved fashion (you know, the “It’s Christmas” line). Like the Christmas cake,  voraciously reduced to a meagre sliver over the last week. That skinny slice though, has been calling out in vain for days, from its solitary confinement. No doubt, my mother will sneak a bite or three by the time the day is out. My point is that, I am done with the sweet stuff. For now, at least.

I am looking for a savoury hit, full flavoured, vegetarian and yes, healthy as well. Looking for inspiration I opened an over burdened cupboard and a tin of chickpeas came rolling out. Lifting it to put it back on the shelf, my eye was arrested by the sight of a bright red packet of Chaat masala. DING!

Chaat (a word used for foods that are considered nibbles or snacks) masala is a miracle worker. Sweet and sour at the same time, it lends such an unusual but delicious savoury, tongue clicking element to whatever it is sprinkled on. At its core, it’s a combination of certain spices but the star ingredients are Amchoor powder (mango powder) and black salt (kala namak). Which is a misleading. It’s kind of pink. These ingredients are primarily used in the street foods of Northern India and Pakistan and is essential in some of those delectable savoury snacks.

I have found Chaat or Chat Masala in most of the supermarkets in the U.K. I have found the Shan brand to be the best and least (black) peppery. If not, then online shops should be able to provide you with the same. If all fails, I have included the recipe for making your own. I never have, but these are the quantities my mother gave me for her homemade masala and well, that should be good enough!

Other uses for this pungent, aromatic ‘garnish’; sprinkle over yoghurt to serve with a curry. Add a touch to lemonade (oh yes!). Barbecued meats, fresh from the fire, with a smattering of lemon and chaat masala, is irresistible. I love it over dhals too. A particular treat, was a just-ripened mango, judiciously dipped into a a bowl of the powder. Don’t knock it till you try it!

Word of warning – Black salt contains small amounts of sulphites which contribute to a mild, well, err, bad egg smell. Don’t let that put you off, it’s not something you can taste. If you smell the packet of Chaat Masala you won’t get a whiff of it. The charming aroma seems to waft upwards, only on mixing with the slightly wetter salad ingredients and disappears soon after,  entirely. Get over it…it tastes grand.

This recipe couldn’t be simpler. No, really, it couldn’t. Rinse your chickpeas, chop up a small onion (or spring onions), roughly chop coriander, tomatoes and if you like, a deseeded green chilli too. Mint wouldn’t hurt. Add chat masala to taste and mix. Eat. Feel good and virtuous. It’s the New Year.

My mother and I didn’t even wait to decant the salad into individuals bowls. We stood at the kitchen table, eating in a most uncivilised manner with two spoons, scooping the beige speckled peas from one, large bowl. Looks like she’s craving lighter food too!

And yet, there she goes, passing by me with a cup of tea in one hand and the last sliver of Christmas cake in the other…

Chaat Chickpea Salad

For the salad

1 can of chickpeas
1 small tomato, finely chopped
1 small onion or 2 spring onions, finely chopped
a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
1 teaspoon of Chaat Masala (you can always add more to taste)
green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped, optional
Small handful of mint leaves, optional
Lemon/Lime juice, optional

For the Chaat Masala
3 tbsps roasted cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 and a 1/2 tsps freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp hing/ asafetida powder
1 and a 1/2 tsps ginger powder
1 and a 1/2 tsps carom/ajwain seed ( use dried thyme, a little more, if you can’t locate carom seeds)
4 tbsps raw mango/ amchur powder
3 tbsps powdered black salt

To make the salad : Add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix well. Taste for seasoning. You want this to have a sour edge. If you feel the masala is lacking, add a quarter of a teaspoon at a time. A squeeze of lime/lemon will perk things further.

To make the masala : Dry roast the cumin, coriander and black peppercorns in an oiless pan, until the spices change colour and you get a aromatic, strong smell. Keep an eye on the pan, moving the spices all the time, or it will burn. Set aside to cool a bit. Combine with the rest of the ingredients and blitz to a fine powder in a spice grinder. Store in a airtight container.



13 thoughts on “Chaat and Chickpeas

  1. jobakes

    Ooo Carrie, you genius! I was after a new side dish for our curries and this is a fab fresh new take on chickpeas yay! Plus I have ajowan seeds, asafoetida and amchoor chaat to make my own chaat masala in Krusty too super yay (love an excuse to get out a new toy, here my new spice grinder Krusty lol). Thanks babe, love nickin’ your ideas 😛

  2. Liz Headon

    So *that’s* what chaat is ! I had always assumed it was a specific food, possibly potato: no doubt I’d seen a snack recipe based on potato with chaat in the title, and had drawn the wrong conclusion.

  3. Thanh @ eat, little bird

    Oh looks like we have similar goals for this year, though I’m skeptical as to how long the health kick will last in our household! I love chickpeas and your recipe looks like a winner! The only thing I seem to do with chickpeas is whizz them into a hummus. Beautiful photos as always!

  4. Pingback: Garam Masala Tuesdays: Roasted Stuffed Potatoes «

  5. melanie

    I did enjoy this read….and yes I think Shan is one of the best brands, most of their masalas are brilliant….even the channa masala is great….

  6. Pingback: Tamarind for the thirsty | The Patterned Plate

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