Black chickpeas (Kala Chana) are very common in India but not so common outside. There are two types of chickpeas – the larger light tan Kabuli chickpea, the one that is commonly used here, and the variously coloured Desi chickpea. They are green when picked early then vary through tan or beige, to speckled, dark brown and black. 75% of world production is of the smaller desi type. The larger type, also called garbanzo bean, was introduced into India in the 18th century.
Desi chana are smaller and darker with a rough coat; its other names include kala chana (black chickpea) or chholaa boot. It is this variety that is hulled and split to make chana dal.
Kala Chana have a dark and earthy taste, and aren’t quite as soft and creamy as their kabuli chana counterpart. But that makes them unique and especially delicious in Wintery dishes.
Today I bake them in a spicy tomato saucy and layered with roasted eggplant and tomatoes. Served with rice, a pickle and a herby yoghurt dish, it makes a wonderful meal. There are similar dishes made with the karbuli type of chickpeas from the Middle East and beyond – Falesten has a recipe for Musaqa’a which is also worth making. This recipe is quite similar.