When cookbook author Yasmin Khan was growing up, this was a regular midweek dinner that her Pakistani dad would cook. So when researching recipes for her book, Ripe Figs: Recipes and Stories from Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus, she says it was a delight to find the dish at Nan restaurant on the Greek island of Lesbos, and to hear that the recipe came from a Pakistani refugee cook who had worked there. For the ultimate comfort dish, the chickpeas should become so soft that they simply melt in your mouth.
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Tbsp. vegetable oil
medium onion, finely chopped
tsp. coriander seeds
tsp. cumin seeds
garlic cloves, finely chopped
2″ piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped
tsp. garam masala
tsp. ground turmeric
Pinch of cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
medium tomato, peeled, chopped
14.5-oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed
Tbsp. double-concentrated tomato paste
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Chopped cilantro and rice and/or flatbread (for serving)
A spice mill or mortar and pestle
Heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan or small pot over medium-low. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and very tender, 15–20 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until slightly darkened and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to spice mill or mortar and pestle and let cool; finely grind.
Add spice mixture, garlic, ginger, garam masala, turmeric, and cayenne to pan with onion. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add tomato, chickpeas, tomato paste, and 2 cups very hot water; season with salt and pepper. Cover pan; simmer, adding up to 1 cup more hot water if chana masala looks dry, until chickpeas are very tender and sauce is flavorful, 45–60 minutes.
Stir cornstarch and 2 tsp. water in a small bowl, then stir into chana masala. Simmer just until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in olive oil. Season with more salt if needed.
Top chana masala with cilantro and serve with rice and/or flatbread.