Rest-of-the-world Chhole

Some of us - not me or anyone in my lazy family - hiked 15 miles across the Continental Divide last weekend along the Pawnee Pass Trail to Monarch Lake via the Cascade Creek Trail through some of the most beautiful and most remote parts of Colorado. According to their report, the high country meadows were bursting with colorful wildflowers. Only in my dreams can I think of hiking 15 miles in one day, going up 2000ft, coming down 4200ft and then camping near Grand Lake for two days. We took the easier route and drove to the top of our world in Colorado on US Highway 34, the highest paved continuous highway in the US, also known as the Trail Ridge Road. We've never ventured beyond the Alpine Center and I have to wonder why! As soon as we turned the corner from the Alpine Center, we saw a herd of elk grazing at 11,700ft.

Herd of elk

The extensive damage done by the pine beetle is evident everywhere you look. It's really quite sad but that is the way of nature. The rangers in Rocky Mountain National Park have been conducting controlled burns as well as cutting down dead trees throughout the park.

roadside wildflowers
Flowers along Trail Ridge

The drive along Trail Ridge is always spectacular in one way or another. And it did not disappoint this time around either. But I was on a quest for elephant heads that had eluded me when we hiked to Lost Lake the previous weekend. Suddenly, there they were: elephant heads, Indian paintbrushes, golden peas, cinquefoils, parrot beaks, alpine daisies of all kinds, flowers and more flowers. And, lots of wind.

elephant heads
He held the elephant heads steady for me

After a while, I didn't know what I was taking pictures of as the wind turned cold and my eyes teared constantly. I was very envious of the pink Indian paintbrush that my crazy hiking neighbors had seen up in the mountains past Pawnee Pass until I looked at what I had 'seen' through my camera!

dark pink indian paintbrush
Dark Pink Indian Paintbrush

Each trip brings new surprises and I saw alpine sorrel for the first time.

alpine sorrel
Alpine Sorrel (Oxyria digyna)

We hadn't even reached our destination but I was content. "You're easy to please!" was the unanimous conclusion. That, I am; so it's always a terrific high when I get more than what I bargained for: a bull elk, staring right at me.

What are you looking at?
Let me eat in peace!

It's true. Life has been extremely hectic but very good to me. I had spent the previous day with two of my besties, cooking chicken makhani, tendlichi bhaji (ivy gourd) and batata vadas. Since there was enough oil to go around, we fried two different types of papads, too. It's a treat to cook together because there is so much learning all around. Jen taught me a super new way to fry batata vadas without getting any batter on my hands! We'll talk about that in my next post because for this post, it's all about chhole.

Punjabi chhole is often considered the ultimate in street-food. Dark, spicy and smokily mysterious; until Anita unlocked the secret to the color. If you were using teabags to color your chhole, you didn't need to anymore as Anita's recipe liberated you from more than just the tannins. Unfortunately though, it's not a dish that can be made when the cravings suddenly hit you on a weeknight, which is why I came up with my version: Rest-of-the-world Chhole. It's a one pot dish which needs neither a pressure cooker nor a pressure cooker cookbook. It is, however, based on Anita's amazing deconstruction of the street-side Punjabi chhole that she gorges on every so often in her home city of Delhi.

Rest-of-the-world Chhole

Rest-of-the-World Chhole
Spicy goodness

  • 5 cans of cooked garbanzo beans, preferably organic without salt
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1/2 can of diced tomatoes
    1 large roma tomato, chopped
  • 2 green chillies, sliced once down its length
  • 3 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 4-5 green cardamoms
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1-2 whole dried red chillies
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt to taste
  • cilantro for garnish

chhole spice mix
Toasted spices

  1. Heat your tava or cast iron pan and toast coriander seeds, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, cardamom, cumin seeds and dried red chillies on medium to low heat for 5-7 minutes. Stir occasionally and take off the stove. There is no need to toast them till they are dark in color.
  2. Heat oil in a kadhai, add chopped onions and sweat them on high heat till they turn a beautiful golden brown.
  3. Add grated ginger and stir for a couple of minutes
  4. Add diced tomatoes and green chillies and cook till the oil separates.
  5. While the onion-ginger-tomato mixture is cooking down, grind the toasted spices in your spice grinder.
  6. Add this freshly ground spice mix to the kadhai and cook for a few minutes.
  7. Drain and rinse your canned garbanzo beans. Add to the kadhai and mix well.
  8. Add at least one can of water, depending on how thick or soupy you want your masala to be.
  9. Add salt and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  10. Add lemon juice and garnish with cilantro just before serving. Serve hot with rice or rotis.

Rest-of-the-World Chhole
Chhole with dhansaak rice

  • Chhole, for me, need to be flavorful more than they need to be dark in color. I have never added teabags while cooking chhole. Darkening the spices by over-toasting them is over-rated according to me. I prefer to toast my spices to release those wonderful oils for extra flavor and that's where I stop.
  • I don't add grated ginger directly to the oil because my maid is averse to clearing up and serves up a bunch of attitude when presented with a greasy stove. I, therefore, prefer to sweat the onions and then add grated ginger.
  • I use canned garbanzo beans because I am a poor planner and can never remember to soak them in advance. It also means that they need to be cooked separately in the pressure cooker, which, in turn, means that I have my maid has two additional pressure cooker inserts to wash.
  • Using canned garbanzo beans also brings this recipe within the reach of those who don't have pressure cookers. But seriously, if you don't have one, you need to start figuring out why not especially if you cook a lot of beans and want to expand your repertoire to Indian dals and beautifully braised moist meat.
  • I don't extract the green chillies from the sauce and then serve them again separately with the chhole. I do, however, discard them if they are way high on the Scoville scale than I expected them to be.
  • I don't use any additional garam masala or red chilli powder because 2 dried red chillies and 2 green chillies, along with the heat from the ground spices, is more than enough to set our mouths on fire. Feel free to use more red or green chillies as well as red chilli powder if you want to make this even more spicy.
  • I did away with using badi elaichi in the toasted spice mix as a bitter taste becomes the prevalent flavor. We aren't fans of the badi elaichi and I opted for the calmer, more mellow and rounded flavor that green cardamoms impart to the dish. If you like badi elaichi, I would recommend using only one along with 2-3 green cardamoms.
  • I add up to 3 cans of water depending on what we're eating the chhole with. If it's rice, then it's soupy. If it's rotis, then it's thicker.
I have kept the heart of the dish intact but made enough changes that this does not qualify to be Punjabi chhole anymore. But it brings the dish within the reach of the rest-of-the-world. Therefore the name: rest-of-the-world chhole.


Unknown said...

wow, those pics are amazing, looks like you guys had fun. I love doing nature trips, but hardly go due to my laziness.

The chhole look sooooooo comfort food :)

Desisoccermom said...

Aha! Two chole recipes in one day, within hours of each other. What are the chances? I like your version but I don't have the patience to roast the spices anymore, burnt or not. I prefer the packaged chole masala. However, I have started soaking my dry chana for the last year since I don't find good canned chana anymore, organic or not.
BTW, you made 5 cans worth of chhole? Wow! In my house, 1 cup dry channa is the most I soak and it takes two days to finish.

I already said on the buzz about your wonderful adventures. :)

Pelicano said...

Hey hey! Excellent post! And you are so right: Punjabi chhole does take some planning. I start soaking the chana a day before, and usually make the roasted masala beforehand as well. Then its all those onions to attend to on THE DAY! Egads... I love the end-result, but the work involved keeps the dish at "occasional" for me. You did well by this post; this recipe is accessible to most and retains many of the key elements of the original- enough to satisfy the casual and tempt the curious; Anita's recipe has a beautiful and deserving child- born of Chandi Chauk and the high mountain passes of Colorado- hope she adopts it!

Finla said...

Beautiful pics. Channa is my fav legume and this just looks so so good.

Anita said...

So you think I needn't burn them that dark? I agree that the colour is not the important bit - the depth of flavour from the roasted spices is. I switched to the lighter-coloured chhole when I discontinued with the tea leaves and before I saw my friend roast her masala for chhole.
Pel: I claim all the offsprings - the legitimate and the illegitimate!

Anita said...

Oh - out with the batata vada dipping/frying tip - I need it - like tomorrow!

Soma said...

I will have to make this kala chana.. the roasted masala sounds as good as the chana looks.

The flowers are so delightful Manisha. I could nto hike 15 miles in a day or even 2 days.


Bong Mom said...

The toasted and ground spice is called Bhaja Masala in my home. My chole is always always with canned grabanzo and it is almost the same way as this but I love tam chutney on my chole

Tried your quick version of Palak Paneer. Added garlic and kasoori methi, blessed my stars that there was no onion to dice and the kiddo loved it.Thanks.

Diana said...

hi manisha!
i have a problem. i tried mad tea party's chole recipe and roasted the spices till it became dark. outcome: my chole was so bitter. i wish i had tasted the spice powder before adding.
have u encountered this problem before? my questions to you are as follows:
1. what do you think gives the bitter taste to my spice powder? is it too much roasting of one particular spice or all spices!
2. is there an order i should follow while roasting spices.
i did follow the exact measurement of mtp's chole recipe. i will try your recipe next time :)
and u have a maid?? awesome!

Indian Food Rocks said...

Update: I wanted to add that I use a whole can of tomatoes when I am making this for a potluck.

Priya, thanks! There are no other kind of trips for us!

Jaya, imagine that! Packaged masala was what I used earlier, too, but this masala is ready by the time the onions are done and I love the fresh flavors. And, yes, 5 cans worth each time. This works very well for a potluck! Also when you think about it, it's about 2 cups or so worth of dried chickpeas? We eat some, I freeze some and we eat the leftovers the next day or the day after. Three meals covered for us. Medha's appetite has suddenly increased and things disappear really fast now!

Pel, maestro! I hereby crown thee the reigning TLO!

HC, it is very good! Even better the next day!

Anita, I definitely I prefer the not-burnt flavor to the just-perfectly roasted taste. This recipe is yours, too. Isn't my blog yours? ;-) Batata vada coming up when much nicer hands than mine oblige. Soon!

Soma, try the chhole! I can do and have done 8-9 miles at 10-11K ft but that seems to be my limit. Beyond that? It's not worth the pain and suffering.

BM, nice! Tamarind chutney makes me want a samosa with it! Samosa, chhole and chutney = bliss! Glad your kiddos liked the palak paneer. Simple tastes rule!

Di, you could try asking Anita what she thinks might be the problem.

See this comment from me on Anita's Punjabi Chhole post (if Wordpress changes the URL as it is doing for me, look for 'Jarna' on that page and you'll find my comment quicker.)

I toast all the spices together and stir them occasionally. High heat and infrequent stirring / tossing will burn the spices beyond what Anita recommends for the masala. It's a fine balance you have to toe - darken yet not burn. If you follow Anita's recipe, toast these spices on medium heat, tossing and stirring till they have darkened. If you follow my recipe, toast them on medium-low, stirring occasionally.

And yes, I have a maid. She doesn't show up sometimes or other times, she simply refuses to do her job. I can't fire her because then we'd really be doomed. Today we had a chauffeur.

Anita said...

You are really living it up! Maid (with pretty hands at that!) to help with laundry, dishes, and even making batata vadas now! Waaaw. And a chauffeur to boot!
Are they dependable?? Or are you having to fill in a LOT?

Oh yeah, your blog belongs to me! Sometimes. Let the fun times roll.

TKW said...

Thanks for the "everyday" version--this sounds manageable for a weeknight meal, and looks delicious!

Poornima said...

Made this yesterday for dinner.Mmmmmm.Thanks for teh wonderful recipe. Also tried your thakkali chutney. Was a big hit.

s said...

Great chole recipe and batata vada too!
And how is it that you have a maid in Colorado?

Csoanes said...

I made a few small changes: pressure cooked the Chickpeas, added amchur powder (we enjoy tart and sour flavors), a bit of lemon juice and salt. Served with salad and naan. Perfect recipe- will be keeping this one as a new favorite