Spring in Edinburgh! Blue skies and cold winds. As the daffodils nod their heads, I wish I could give up my winter coat and scarf. But I know better. This is not a town to take lightly. Enjoy the sunshine, but don’t expect it to warm you. In spring, I want more green veg and salads start feeling like a brilliant idea but I still need something warm. Channa chaat is one of my favourite transition dishes.
Channa chaat is a traditional street food in India but translates really well to a British table as a spicy potato salad. It is great as a side with lamb chops or leftover lamb steak, on its own as a snack or wrapped in dosa on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
I first came across a channa chaat recipe online years ago when I was investigating Indian cooking (I was living in a flat with the kind of kitchen you don’t want to leave so I was cooking a lot). The writer described how buying this sour salad from a street vendor was a guilty pleasure in her childhood. Her family was very particular and kept a good kitchen – eating street food was a culinary betrrayal that made the dish even more delicious.
Channa chaat recipe
Traditionally, chaat is made with chaat masala, a sour spicy spice blend with mango powder (anchoor) in it. I can’t find it so I just use extra lemon juice instead. My go-to spice blend is cumin, coriander seeds, black pepper, mustard seeds and a hint of cardamom, but if you can find Panch Puren (a mix of fenugreek, cumin, fennel, brown mustard and Nigella seeds), that is really good too. (Danielle: you can find anchoor and panch puren sometimes called punchpooran at Matthews’ Foods in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen, remind me to give you some Caroline!)
The preparation time depends on your knife skills: it’s all about chopping and boiling. Smaller pieces of potato cook faster. You can whip up a batch of channa chaat in about half an hour. The quantities here will make about 4 servings.
- 1 kg salad potatoes
- 1-2 red or sweet onions
- 1 punnet cherry tomatoes, or 3-4 ripe, tasty tomatoes
- 1 red chilli
- 2 inch cube of fresh ginger
- 1-2 tbsp of your favourite Indian-style spice blend
- 1 can chick peas
- Juice from 2 lemons
- 1 handful fresh coriander
- Sea salt to taste
- Chop the potatoes into bite-sized pieces.
- Boil the potatoes until soft.
- Quarter the cherry tomatoes or cube large tomatoes into cubes about the same size as the potato pieces.
- Meanwhile, chop the onion and the chilli and put in a large bowl.
- Grate the ginger
- and prepare the spices and put in with the onion and chilli.
- When the potatoes are almost done, throw the chick peas into the water to warm through. (This step isn’t strictly speaking necessary. I like my channa chaat hot the first time I eat it and this helps it stay that way.)
- Drain the potatoes and chickpeas and mix in with the onion and spice mix.
- Pour over lemon juice and stir.
- Add coriander and sea salt when serving.