I was 17 when I first encountered this dish. I was asked to prepare this recipe in the cookery lab of my undergraduate course. This was in 1963 and I used brown channa; white channa was rarely available in Chennai at that time. I was struck by the simplicity of the recipe: no oil is used which avoids having to cook the masala separately (very unusual for an Indian recipe), and uses very few ingredients. It was a big hit when I introduced this at home, and was very convenient as well as my father suffered from hypertension and the lack of oil meant he could enjoy it as well.
Over the last 50 years I have worked on and improved the recipe. I discovered that grinding the tomatoes along with the masala caused a magical improvement in the flavour. I also read somewhere that soaking the channa with a teabag would improve the texture and I have incorporated this into my recipe as well. This is a polarising dish: those who demand oil soaked masala dislike this preparation while others absolutely adore it.
The ½ cup of coconut scrapings provides about 14 gms of fat. Though the fat content of Bengal Gram (5gms fat per 100 gms) is higher than many other pulses used in India (e.g., Red Gram Dhal is only 1.7 gms of fat per 100 gms), the entire dish has only about 24 gms of fat and will typically serve 6 people, giving each person just 4 gms of fat. This can be eaten safely by those on a low fat, low cholesterol diet. As a pure vegetarian food this curry also gives a large amount of protein because 100 gms of Bengal Gram contain 17 gms of protein.
Additionally, for weight watchers it is an ideal side dish for a deep fried main dish like the poori as it doesn’t add significant fat content to the combination. The wheat in the poori and the protein in the Bengal Gram mutually supplement each other with essential amino acids, making the combination an almost complete protein, close to milk protein.
- 1 C White Channa (Chickpea/Bengal Gram), soaked for 10 hours
- 2 large Potatoes
- ½ C Coconut scrapings
- 2 large Tomatoes, chopped
- 2 medium Onions, diced
- 2 Green Chillies, deseeded
- 3 cms Ginger
- ½ Lime
- Salt, to taste
- Pare the potatoes and cut them into large cubes.
- Pressure cook the channa and the potatoes with a teaspoon of salt for 30 minutes. Cool.
- Grind the coconut, green chillies, and ginger to a fine paste in a mixie or a blender.
- Add the diced onions and chopped tomatoes to the ground ingredients, and pulse for 10 seconds at both speed 1 and speed 2.
- In a large saucepan, place the ground ingredients and the channa and potatoes. Bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes or till the raw flavour is lost.
- Extract the juice of lime and add to the saucepan. Mix.
- Adjust salt.
- Simmer for a few more minutes.
- Remove and serve with poori or chappati.
- Soak the channa with a teabag for 10 hours. This gives a soft, cooked product.