Chickpeas are amazingly versatile: the wonderful textures and tastes of hummus and falafel are hard to surpass. Today I'm cooking chole (pronounced "chollay"), an Indian curry that is really just chickpeas served in a slightly sour, fruity sauce. A word of warning: this is NOT a standout main dish for an Indian meal; instead it's the perfect support for the main dish, something flavoursome that doesn't fight to compete with the star of the show. It would go well with my Dahl Saag, for example.

When I first came across a recipe for chole, it was in a Hare Krishna cookbook, and thought I would give it a try. It was okay-ish. The thing about their prasad (food offered to Lord Krishna before being shared out amongst the devotees) is that it must not contain any onions, garlic, or mushrooms, as these ingredients are considered to be too similar to meat. Instead of onions, they substitute hing powder (powdered asafoetida). It's ground from a plant-based gum that's also known as "devil's dung" because of its pungent smell, which is a little like rotting garlic. Because of the name, it has associations with witchcraft, and is sometimes used in the preparation of spells requiring some sort of medicine bag. Don't let this put you off. I love it. It gives this dish a funky little kick that everyone should experience at least once in life. You'll find it in the herbs & spices section of your supermarket, or possibly in the world foods aisle.

The sour and fruity part of this recipe comes from tamarind paste, an essential ingredient in brown sauce and many commercial chutneys. There are two problems with this. One is that there is no standard of standard-ness here in the UK. I've come across three distinct types: runny, not so runny, and actual paste (the one I prefer, which tends to originate from Central Asia). The one I use in the recipe is the not-so-runny kind. You may have to adjust the amount if you use the runny kind or the paste.

The second problem is that my local supermarket, Tesco, seems to be ridding themselves of tamarind paste from the shelves. Today, I couldn't find any, not even their own "Tesco Ingredient Tamarind Paste" used in many of their Tesco Magazine recipes (which I bought once; it's the not-so-runny kind, as well as being the worst I ever tasted). At last I stumbled upon a sad little shelf with a few mismatched product lines being sold cheap for clearance. There they were: small jars for 44p each, even though it also turned out to be the not-so-runny kind. I bought three. If you have good Turkish grocers nearby, you're more likely to find the best stuff there.

So this is my recipe for chole. It uses hing powder and onions. How authentic is it? Not very. I looked online at a few recipes from India. For one thing, it's nowhere near elaborate enough by far. For another, it doesn't even involve a single tea bag!!! Lol! 

Serves 4 - 6 as a support dish in an Indian meal, along with some rice or bread, maybe a thin, saucy dahl, and a small salad; 4 as part of a Bennet & Luck salad.


160g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, then cooked

or 1 tin of chickpeas (it won't make as much)

1 tablespoon oil

a teaspoon or two of butter

1 onion, finely chopped or thinly sliced across the grain

1/2" piece of root ginger, peeled and sliced into thin shreds

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon asafoetida powder (hing)

1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder

a big pinch of salt

3 - 4 tomatoes (depending on size), skinned and chopped

1 teaspoon tamarind paste dissolved in a 1/4 cup of boiling water (2/3 teaspoon if it is the actual paste)

chopped coriander for serving



Skin your tomatoes. Score a cross into the skin on the base and another on the top, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water until the skin starts to peel away (about a minute or two). Remove the tomatoes and refresh it in cold water before peeling off their skins. Chop into dice.


Fry the onion in the oil and butter until softened. Turn down the heat, add the thin shreds of ginger and fry for a couple of minutes. Now add the dry spices and cook for another minute before turning up the heat again and adding the chopped tomatoes. Cook for a further 5 minutes. Stir occasionally, making sure they soften evenly.


Add the tamarind stock and your cooked chickpeas. Still on a medium heat, allow the sauce to thicken to a sauce-like consistency. Check seasonings then serve sprinkled with chopped coriander.

Any questions? You can use the comments form at the bottom of the page.

Did you know?

You'll find recipes at the back of all the books in the Send for Octavius Guy series:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}