Chai Soaked Chana Masala Rice Pot is a delicious and easy one pot meal that is both familiar and unique at the same time, thanks to the chai black tea it is infused with. Adagio Tea sent me some teas to play with last fall, and and their masala chai black tea was perfect for this dish. Affiliate links have been used to link to items I am discussing.
If you are wondering how the bird feeding is going, it is going like crazy. I also got a Suet Feeder With Tail Prop, which the birds have not yet discovered, and I decided having one feeder (with four tubes) with both mixed bird feed and Nyjer thistle seed (for the finches) was keeping the finches away–because the feeder is always overrun with bigger birds. So there are 2 smaller thistle feeders on their way (I know I have plenty of finches because I originally had a thistle feeder in that spot, but the wind took it down and broke it). Someday I will go outside and take a shot of the entire tree with all of its feeders–but not today since we had a two hour delay for snow. I would not be so bitter if we hadn’t had that warm snap. I loathe warm snaps in the middle of winter because all they do is make me grouchy when the snow and cold come back. And they always come back.
This Chai Soaked Chana Masala Rice Pot came from a book I had to own the minute I saw it at the used bookstore: Pimp My Rice: Spice It Up, Dress It Up, Serve It Up by Nisha Katona. Is that not the best title? I suspect my edition–and the edition I linked you to therefore–might be the British one. Notice a new edition is coming out soon with a much more boring cover. The entire premise of the book made my day– apparently Ms. Katona, an Anglo-Indian raised in England, disliked rice her entire childhood. Which kind of boggles the mind–I mean I cannot wrap my mind around anyone disliking rice (Alex had a friend in Ohio who would not eat any rice dishes!), let alone the idea of someone with Indian heritage not eating rice! So right there I was intrigued.
I have about half the book bookmarked–and it goes way beyond Indian dishes, but as a longtime aficionado of chana masala (it was the first Indian dish I learned to cook, way back in the late 1990s!), I knew I was making her Tea Steeped Chickpeas when I read that her mother told her she could open a shop and just sell that dish and be successful. I originally planned to follow the recipe faithfully and use plain black tea, but we do not own any. None of us care for straight black tea. But I did still have the Masala Chai (black) Tea from the teas that Adagio sent me last fall. I am not sure how long I need to disclose that fact as I have ordered from them since (with my own money), but this tea was part of the initial package they sent me, so now you know. The spices in the tea include cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and ginger; of those, only dried ginger was not in the actual recipe (in the garam masala) so I figured it would work just fine. Which it did.
Only John did not love this Chai Soaked Chana Masala Rice Pot. I am not sure if it was just too different from a more traditional chana masala or what, but the rest of us loved it. The bitter black tea played off of the tangy tomato perfectly, giving the dish a depth I have never experienced before. And cooking the rice with the chickpeas was an additional bonus, reducing how many pots we got dirty. If you do not have a chai black tea, just use regular black tea, but use an even tablespoon instead of heaping. And do make sure whichever you use that it has black tea, as green, white, red or herbal will not taste the same.
Closely adapted from Nisha Katona. I have had bad luck in the past with cooking rice with wet ingredients like vegetables so I followed this recipe pretty closely with the exception of using a black tea chai in place of plain black tea.
- 1 heaping T loose leaf chai (made with black tea)
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1-2 T vegetable oil
- 2 medium-large onions, chopped
- salt to taste
- 1 T minced garlic
- 1 T minced ginger
- 1-2 small hot green chile peppers, minced, optional (I left out)
- 1 t packed brown sugar
- 1 scant t ground turmeric
- 1/2 t ground cumin
- 1/4 t paprika or cayenne, to heat preference
- 1 1/2 t garam masala, divided
- 1/2 scant cup (100 g, 3.5 oz) basmati rice
- 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 14-oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
- 1 handful frozen chopped kale (or spinach) (you can use fresh and add it earlier in cooking process)
- 1 handful chopped cilantro
- Greek yogurt for garnish
- a few grinds of fresh black pepper to finish
- lime wedges for garnish
Pour the boiling water over the chai leaves. Let the tea steep while you work.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy pan. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and let cook, stirring as needed, for about 10 minutes. I like to keep a cup of water by the cooktop so I can splash some in if the onions start to stick or scorch.
After 10 minutes, when the onions have started to caramelize, add the garlic and ginger. stir and let it continue to caramelize for another 5 minutes.
When the onions have browned, lower the heat to medium and add the chile peppers (if using), brown sugar, turmeric, cumin, 1 teaspoon of the garam masala and the cayenne/paprika. Stir and let spices roast for 1 minute.
Add the (dry, uncooked) rice and stir into the onions for 2 minutes until it is completely incorporated.
Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the chickpeas. Strain the tea and add the tea. Season with another pinch of salt and some freshly cracked black pepper. Let the rice mixture simmer, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes until the rice is fully tender.
Stir in the frozen kale or spinach and 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala. Taste for more salt and pepper.
Serve garnished with cilantro, lime wedges and dollops of Greek yogurt.
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