Wash the chickpeas, and soak in plenty of water overnight. Boil for 90 minutes in a pot.
If you are using canned chickpeas, skip this step.
Add enough fresh water to cover the cooked chickpeas. Mix in the turmeric and cayenne pepper. Microwave for about 10 minutes until the chickpeas are softened.
Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan. Add cumin seeds and stir-fry until they're no longer making a crackling sound. Add chopped garlic and ginger and stir-fry.
When the ginger and garlic are well cooked, add the onion and stir fry until translucent or brown.
When the onions are translucent or browned, add canned tomatoes and continue stir-frying.
Keep stir frying until it forms a paste like the photo. This is the key to making a delicious dal.
Add cooked and microwaved chickpeas, water and all. Add the garam masala here too.
Add enough water to the pan to cover all the ingredients. If the water level gets too low as you simmer, top up with more. Taste, and add salt.
Simmer for about 15 minutes over low-medium heat without a lid. Add butter and cilantro, and it's done.
In northern India, we usually eat this curry with a bread called chapati instead of rice.
Squeeze on a spritz of lemon juice and enjoy!
Story Behind this Recipe
I used to have this chana (chickpea) curry a lot back at home. Curries with lots of spices, oil and cream are only eaten occasionally, and everyday Indian cooking is very simple. This curry is a great way of incorporating high quality protein in your diet in vegetarian India.
Indian curries are tastier if they're a bit spicy. Adding a little lemon juice at the end makes this curry tastier too.