From the city of Lahore comes this classic dish. Chikar means mud and chole means chickpeas. The unique name of this recipe describes the chickpeas submerged in the rich golden gravy like pebbles in mud. Traditionally, this dish is served for breakfast with fried breads like bhatura and puri. But this dish is so hearty it's perfect for an Autumn lunch or simple supper served with rice, any type of roti, or just a loaf of crusty French bread.
Interestingly, this dish does not get it's yellow color from turmeric as many Desi dishes do. The chickpeas are simmered with aromatic spices until so tender they crumble giving the gravy it's distinctive golden color. This dish packs a lot of spicy flavor but not much heat. A little yogurt, dry ginger, and an optional squeeze of lime/nimbu do give it a bit of a zesty tang though!
1&1/2 C dried chickpeas/chole (or two 15 ounce cans of chickpeas)
3 TBS cooking oil
1 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
1 tsp ajwain seeds/carom
7 black peppercorns/kali mirch, coarsely ground
1 tsp fenugreek/methi seeds
3 green cardamoms/elaichi, bruised with mortar and pestle
2 cassia leaves/tej patta
2 inch piece of cassia bark/dalchini (or cinnamon stick)
Lime/Nimbu wedges and cilantro for garnish
Grind until smooth paste or chop finely for base:
3 onions, chopped roughly
2 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS ginger/adrak paste
Grind until smooth paste for masala:
1/2 C tomatoes, chopped
1/4 C yogurt/dahi
1 TBS cumin/jeera, ground
2 tsp coriander/dhania, ground
1 tsp fennel/saunf, ground
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1 tsp paprika plus 1 tsp cayenne powder)
1/2 tsp dry ginger/soonth
Here's what to do:
1) Soak chickpeas for at least 2 hours up to overnight in 6 cups water with 1 teaspoonful of salt. If using canned chickpeas skip to step 2. If using pressure cooker add enough water to cover the chickpeas by 2 inches plus 1 tsp salt. Seal pressure cooker and allow to steam for 30 minutes or until chickpeas are tender. If using stockpot on stove add enough water to cover chickpeas by 3 inches and 1 tsp salt, boil until tender adding water as needed.
3) Add ground masala mixture to fried onion mixture in pan. Stir well and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. If mixture begins to stick or scorch add 1/4 cup water, stir well, and reduce heat.
4) Add fried spice mixture to the cooked chickpeas and stir well. If using canned chickpeas you may need to add 2 to 3 cups of water. Canned chickpeas are a bit underdone for this dish so you may have to simmer them for 5 to 10 minutes longer to get them to the proper tenderness.
5) Allow mixture to simmer uncovered for at least 15 minutes. Mash a few of the chickpeas against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon or you can use an immersion blender for a few seconds in the mixture. The chickpeas need to be cooked until so tender they start to crumble making the sauce thick and "muddy." Salt to taste and serve sprinkled with chopped cilantro and garnished with lime wedges.