Aug 13, 2010

Chole Palak, not an authentic Punjabi recipe

This is an old post, that almost got lost in the archives of my word documents. It was written in response to Supriya's query if I had the recipe for chole palak on the blog. The chole palak in question were the pairing for the Tibetan bread that he had made. This then, is the old write up with some new reference added in for freshness.

What kind of chole masala do you use? If it is the store bought, then what brand do you prefer? I prefer Sanjeev Kapoor’s Chole Masala. It doesn’t have too much salt and the spices smell fresh. If you make your chole masala at home by roasting and grinding spices, then please share and send it to Aqua, who is hosting this month’s B2B for me. Interested to host it, email me here.

In the past, my attempts at making authentic Punjabi chole, the kind that are immersed in thick, black gravy and the garbanzo beans so soft you could break them with the touch of your tooth, have failed miserably. Before you ask or venture, yes, I have tried Anita’s recipe and mine didn’t even come close to what hers looked like and I am pretty sure they didn’t taste like hers either. I will chalk it to my inability to follow a recipe to a T or the lack of patience with the bhunoeing of the spices.

Recently, Manisha wondered here why the chole gravy needed to be black?  I have not the faintest clue. For me, it brings back memories of lunches I have had as a teenager at Pujabi friend’s homes. The chole were almost always served with white bread and I have to admit the combination was awesome. To this day, if I am eating chole by myself, I toast two pieces of thick sourdough bread to eat with it.

But I digress. A few months ago, in an attempt to finish off a bunch of spinach leaves in danger of wilting in the fridge, I added them to the boiling chole gravy. To my delight, the pinkish/ yellowish gravy started turning black and by the time the spinach was cooked through I had the chole of my dreams or at least the color I desired. Though they did not taste like the authentic version, they looked every bit as good. And since then, I make sure I have spinach on hand before I soak garbanzo beans.

A few weeks ago, with no spinach or any other green to turn my chole black, I resorted to the original tea leaves method. Lurking in an overlooked corner of the kitchen I had found a half empty box of tea bags. I popped one in the cooker with the soaked chana and eight whistles later the beans were all black and soft and ready to eat as is.

Encouraged, I followed Anita’s tip and roasted the onions and ginger garlic paste with the chole masala (store-bought) till everything was a luscious black color. Added some fresh tomato puree which did nothing to change the color of the gravy and then added the darkened chana to it. The result was exactly what I wanted and it looked and felt like what Anita would have made, I think. We had it again with the Tibetan bread and it was good to the last bite.

Here’s my Indian pairing for his Tibetan bread.

Serves 2

1 can garbanzo beans or 1/2 cup of dry beans soaked in plenty of water overnight
1 tea bag (black tea)
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 small tomato, chopped or pureed
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp chole masala/ garam masala
1/2 tsp dhana jeera powder (cumin-coriander powder)
1/2 red chili powder
1 bunch of chopped spinach (optional)

Pressure cook the garbanzo beans with the tea bag for 6-8 whistles or whatever it takes for your cooker to get them cooked through.

Heat a tablespoon of oil. Add the onions and sauté till almost brown and fragrant.

Mix in the ginger garlic paste and the dry spices (chana masala, dhana jeera and red chili powder).

Cook on medium low heat till the raw smell of ginger garlic and the dry spices turns fragrant. Continue cooking till everything starts looking dark and mysterious.

Add the chopped/ pureed tomato and cook for another five minutes. Do not under any duress add canned tomato puree. It is way too tomatoey and will change the color of your gravy from a dark black to a muddy pink.

Mash a couple of tablespoons of chickpeas in the cooking mix and stir. Add the cooked chana and the liquid it was cooking in to the onion-tomato mix and boil on medium till the gravy turns thick, about 20 minutes more.

If using spinach, add at this point. They will turn the gravy even darker. Serve with roti, naan, bread or rice.

Manisha made Rest of the World Chhole.

The chole palak go to Simona of Briciole who is hosting Susan's MLLA #26. 

Before I leave, here's a shout out to Sra, who is there for me via email when I need to bitch about another blogger trend I am not happy with. Check out her blog for some "humor" and some amazing fiction, if you are feeling down and low.

Another shout out to Jacqueline who has started The Food Blog Diary to chronicle the numerous events and giveaways happening in the blogosphere. She graciously put both my events on the blog within hours of receiving my email.


  1. Oh that looks good Jaya..I remember only once having tried this combo..aloo palak on other hand tastes great..but your dish looks tempting!

  2. Lovely looking dish....i love garbanzo beans ...I will take it in any form that it comes in question though ....when do you use the tea bag ? its there in the list of ingredients, but no mention in the method :)

  3. That looks simple gorgeous dear, amazing pic.

  4. @Valli, thanks and you are right. I love aloo palak too.

    @ Chhaya, I can eat garbanzo in any form too. Thank you for pointing out. I edited and put where the tea bag goes. :)

    @Priya, thank you.

  5. Doesn't matter much if something isn't authentic as long as it hits the tastebuds and satisfies the tum. :)

    Love chole with bread too.

  6. Liked reading about how your curry started blackening.

    On another note, I like my gravies thick and smooth, don't like floaty bits, but am too lazy to puree everything so floaty bits it is! Somehow everyone else's gravies seem to turn out exactly the way I want mine to :(

    And thanks, lovely linker!

  7. There may be a question about this chhole palak not being authentic but this and rajma palak are cooked in many punjabi families in different versions of their own .... and yes.. red , yellow or black.. it is yummy always , after all you use the seasonings to your choice and that is more important.

  8. looks very lovely and spicy...

  9. I love this combo, had tasted once, your version sounds yummm! Happy Independence Day!

  10. yay! thanks for the recipe. I have heard people adding tea bags while cooking the chana, but i have not ventured into that.
    I use the MDH brand masala. i am tired of that though, i will try the SK brand one of these days!

  11. Does this go to the parteh ????

  12. Palak to the chole is a new and healthy combo. Must try soon.
    You make the blogoshere (foodies)a close nit family with all beautiful and sometimes humorous punches on fellow bloggers. Nice to be here.
    Best wishes.

  13. Kitchen Queen, thank you.

    Aparna, I love your stamp of approval. :)

    Sra, try, try again, is all I can say.

    Sangeeta, you are the expert and I believe you. :)

    Akila, thank you.

  14. Parita, happy independece day to you too.

    Supriya (RC), the tea bags is not mandatory and I don't think it imparts any taste. You could skip it totally and be still fine. But do try the SK brand. They are my new favorite.

    Sandeepa (BM), don't think it is good enough for the parteh. It has to be something special for A Mad Tea Party, don't you think? :)

  15. Sanjeeta, we are a close knit family. Stick around and you will be a part of the family too. That is the magic of blogosphere.

  16. Jaya when you say the SK brand do you mean the ready masala packs similar to Parampara or do they have masala packs like Everest ? I have tried Parampara at times when I have no time at all and need to make something like chole in large quantity but the spices are very overpowering I felt. With tam chutney, onion and some samosa etc. though it tasted good.

    And about your comment on my blog what you made is not green egg & ham(is the kiddo into Dr.Seuss ?), there is something called Palak burji( I honestly don't know if it was the husband's invention but looks like there are other people who make it too.

  17. Sandeepa, I mean the masala packs like Everest and MDH where you add a teaspoon or tablespoon, depending on the quantity. I have never used the Parampara brand masala packs but I know what you are talking about, I think. The ones that come in a glass jar, right.
    BTW, Sanjeev Kapoor also has some masala packs, but they are dry masalas where you use the whole masala to make the dish. T bought it by mistake once but I haven't used any so far.

    Oh and the green eggs and no ham came about because I didn't want to eat just eggs and had baby spinach lying about. Here I was thinking I found a new recipe, thanks. :) And no, the kiddo is not into Dr. Seus too much.

  18. Oh ok, will look out for them. The Parampara comes in a pouch kind of pack, not glass jar.

  19. You made chhole healthier! It's a great colour any which way! I like this variation. I rarely serve vegetables when I prepare chhole - this is a good way to have both!

    This is great for any party - but you can always bring more!

  20. And you made my day Anita! Thank you for visiting and I will definitely bring something to the party. :)

  21. How interesting I made aloo palak paratha :) ....this is great idea..shall try it soon ..and thanks for the event info Jaya I sent the entry :)

  22. hi jaya..luved reading your write ups though writing is not my cup of tea ( infact im a very bad writer )but i love to read ..btw luved this combo and fortunately i have soaked chickpeas tonight so for my tomoro morning lunch u gave me a wonderful idea..happy to follow u :)pls do visit mine if time permits ...cheers ,

  23. However you achieved the result that is in the photo, it looks really good. I would be glad to taste it. Thanks for participating.

  24. I made something like this with the other variety of channa, not the kabuli one. Anything with palak is good. And your version seems yummy.

  25. Chole looks perefct...any best part is they tasted good....that's the beauty of cooking at home....authentic or not as long U & your family likes it it's authentic to your family.....& I also like to add spinach for x'tra green serving but can't put all the time DD is so particular when it comes to puri chole combo....

  26. Thanks to your reader - Supriya who asked you for this recipe as I was about do it myself :). I have no faintest idea how I landed on your Tibetan bread (may be from Anita's blog, I dunno), but I just loved the color of the chole-palak in that pic. I am gonna make it tonite and will let you know how it turned out. I will do my best to get that dreamy *black* color to my poor chole ;).


  27. I really liked your recipe and photos. I have posted a link to your recipe on my blog, do take a look when you get a chance. I have also recently published a cookbook on healthy Indian food.
    Best wishes,


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