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CHICKPEA CURRY sunil ghai spice box

Chickpea Curry (Chana Bhatur) and Poori Recipe from Spice Box by Sunil Ghai

This chickpea curry is so simple but so versatile. It’s particularly good served with pickled red onions and poori (deep-fried puffed breads) for scooping up the curry, but you can’t go wrong with a simple bed of plain boiled basmati rice and naan.

Serves 4


1. To temper the whole spices:

  • 70g butter, ghee or vegetable oil
  • 8–10 black peppercorns
  • 3–4 cloves
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 fresh or dried red chillies, halved lengthways
  • 1 cinnamon stick

2. For the curry:

  • 1 large onion, finely diced (200g)
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2–3 fresh green chillies, halved lengthways
  • 1 tbsp grated or finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp grated or finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, ground in a pestle and mortar
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 200g tomato passata or 1 x 227g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 x 400g tins of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

3. To finish:

  • 1 fresh green chilli, finely diced
  • thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, cut into matchsticks
  • ½ small ripe tomato, chopped
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • pinch of garam masala

4. To serve:

Poori (recipe below) or naan/rice


  1. Measure out your spices into two separate small bowls: one bowl for the whole spices and one for the ground fennel, coriander, paprika, cumin, garam masala and ground black pepper for the curry.
  2. Prep and measure out all the remaining ingredients before you start cooking so that everything is ready to go and the spices don’t burn. 


  1. Melt the butter or ghee or heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves, red chillies and cinnamon stick and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. 
  2. Add the onion and salt and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion is softened and lightly browned. Add the green chillies, ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  3. Add the ground spices and 50ml water so that the spices don’t burn. Cook for 1 minute before adding the tomatoes. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 10 minutes to bring all the flavours together – it will be very thick at this point.
  4. Add the chickpeas and crush one-quarter of them with the back of the spoon, then stir in another 300ml water. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed.
  5. To finish, toss together the green chilli, ginger, tomato, lemon juice, fresh coriander and garam masala in a bowl. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in all the finishing ingredients and allow the curry to settle for 5 minutes. 
  6. Serve with pickled red onions on top to add some bite and poori for scooping up the curry.


These deep-fried breads will puff up like a balloon when you cook them and are either eaten with a curry, or on their own as a snack. 

Makes about 16


  • 500g fine wholemeal flour (or chapati flour if you can get it)
  • 50g semolina (optional, for extra texture)
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 300ml water
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for deep-frying


  1. Mix the flour, semolina (if using) and salt together in a large bowl, then pour in the water and the tablespoon of oil. Use your hands or a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook to knead together into a firm dough – this will take anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes and you may need an extra splash of water to help it come together. 
  2. Cover with a clean, damp tea towel and set aside to rest in a warm place for at least 20 minutes, but the longer you can leave it, the better. The dough will be very stiff and tight at first, but once it has rested it will have relaxed to the perfect texture and will be easy to work with, so don’t be tempted to add more liquid unless you really need it.
  3. Heat the oil in a deep-fryer to 200°C (or 190°C if your fryer doesn’t go that high). Make sure the oil is really hot before you start cooking – if it isn’t, you’ll never get good poori.
  4. Tip the dough out on to the work surface and briefly knead. Break off a 30g portion, roll into a ball and press down to flatten, then use a rolling pin to roll out until it’s about 10cm across. You want the dough to be rolled out thinly but not too thin – you don’t want the bread to crisp up like a poppadum.
  5. Working with one dough circle at a time, deep-fry the poori in the hot oil until they are puffed up and light golden on both sides, using tongs to turn them over. Drain on a baking tray lined with kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.
  6. Make sure the oil has come back up to temperature before you cook the next one. Serve warm.
CHICKPEA CURRY sunil ghai spice box
Chickpea curry and poori recipe extracted from Spice Box by Sunil Ghai, published by Penguin Sandycove (2023). Photography: © Joanne Murphy
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