Happy New Year! Firstly, I’d like to say I’m sorry I’ve been AWOL for some time now. I promise I have a good reason. We did it; we finally bought our first house!
It has a small kitchen, huge amounts of natural light and wait for it… room for a photography studio! I can’t believe I have a space fully dedicated to my passion. 8 years ago, I started out with this blog, no camera and no clue. Now I have actual shelves just for props. I hope I’m able to produce more delicious recipes to share with you this year, all from my little studio in my little house. Totally overjoyed.
So I’ve been spending the last few months working out what we need to furnish it, upcyling old furniture (which I am loving, btw) and spending my life on Pinterest. Although we’ve still got a fair way to go with getting the house finished, I’m in a good spot to get back on track with blogging. I kid you not, I have a list of 89 recipes waiting to be shared this year so brace yourselves.
Throughout the winter months, I crave belly-warming dinners to soothe my soul after a long day at work and a chilly commute. This traditional Channa Masala with Fluffy Bhatura (or Chole Bhature, if you like) does the trick every time. I make a big batch of my own spice blend, keep it in an airtight jar and sprinkle it into an assortment hearty bean and lentil dishes to ramp up the flavours. It includes a medley of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg predominantly – earthy and aromatic enough to engulf the chickpeas in the wave of intense flavours they so demand.
I add a shot of strong-brewed black tea to my chickpea curry, for both a rich colour and aroma. If you’re using dried chickpeas, add two teabags and soak overnight before boiling and adding to the dish. However, I’m all about the shortcuts, so use tinned chickpeas and add the tea straight into the sauce for a whack of flavour and unashamed ease.
This dry curry with hot and sour flavours makes it the ideal partner for fluffy fried bread and a tall glass of ice-cold lassi. Go on, the weather is crap and your belly needs this.
Slow-Cooker Channa Masala and Fluffy Bhatura (Chole Bhature)
For the Homemade Channa Masala Spice Mix (makes enough for this recipe plus leftovers):
2 tbsp green cardamom seeds
3 black cardamom pods
4-inch piece cinnamon
6 tbsp coriander seeds
4 tbsp cumin seeds
3 tsp amchur (dried mango)
1 tsp anardana powder (dried pomegranate seed)
1 tbsp black peppercorns
5 bay leaves
1 whole nutmeg
1 tsp mace
For the Channa Masala (serves 6):
2x 400g tins chickpeas
300g passata (sieved tomato pulp)
240ml strong brewed black tea (1 teabag steeped in hot water for 8 minutes, squeezed)
1 large onion, chopped
4 green chillies, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2-inch piece ginger, grated
2 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp turmeric
3 tsp salt or to taste
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp homemade channa masala spice blend
For the Fluffy Bhatura:
135g plain flour
120g plain natural yogurt
Juice ½ lemon
120ml warm milk
7g fast-action dried yeast
30ml sunflower oil
¼ tsp ajwain (carom seeds)
1 tsp salt
Oil, for deep frying
1. To make the Homemade Channa Masala Spice Mix, toast all the ingredients in a dry frying pan until aromatic. Don’t take your eye of it because it’ll burn quickly. Grind in a coffee grinder. Pass through a fine-holed sieve and store in an airtight jar.
2. To make the channa masala, heat the butter in a large pan, add the cumin seeds and chopped onion. Cook until browned, about 15 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Pour into your slow cooker and cook on high for 5 hours. Stir it every hour.
3. Next, make the dough for the bhatura. Combine the yoghurt, lemon juice and milk in a large bowl (it will increase in volume and get frothy). Stir in the yeast and set aside for 10 minutes. Next, mix in the sunflower oil, ajwain, flour and salt. Bind to make a dough, kneading for 10 minutes.
4. Place in a large, deep bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place to double in size for two hours.
5. Once risen, knock the air out of the dough and knead briefly.
6. Get the oil ready for deep frying. Pour into a large, deep pan (I use a wok) and heat to 160C.
7. Make yourself a cup of tea.
8. Use a rolling pin and wooden board or flat worktop to roll out the bhatura dough to approximately 3 inches in diameter and 3-4mm thick. Place it into the hot oil very carefully and use a slotted spoon to agitate it. It might take some practice to get them to rise each time but you’ll get there, I promise.
9. Drain in a colander lined with a paper towel.
Some bhatura tips:
- I found that the smaller I rolled them, the more they rose so try not to make them too thin.
- Use your hands to pick up the dough, swivel it round and roll again to make a circle.
- Only ever roll one side of the dough, not both.
Serve your channa masala and bhatura with sliced red onion, chillies, yoghurt and far far, (because who doesn’t love those multi-coloured crispy crackers?), plus a glass of salted lassi.