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To Celebrate Holi: Chana Masala

Updated: Mar 8, 2023

My dear friend, Denise Morgan, with whom I don't get the pleasure to see often, but still stay connected through social media shared with me her recipe for Chana Masala. Her love for her career as a Montessori teacher (directress) allowed her to encounter and become familiar with many cultures as the work of Maria Montessori has global appeal and zero cultural or economic barriers.

I had the absolute pleasure of encountering Denise, more affectionately called Senora Morgan, every day when I dropped my daughters off at Montessori preschool in Emsworth. There my little angels would go, holding the hand of a petite, but I knew spunky, woman with an infectious smile and even better clothing style.

Once my daughters graduated to elementary school, Denise and I remained friends. She has a zest for life that is infectious. She has an air of humility and confidence I only hoped would rub off. And she has a knack for making you feel you are the most important person in the room. Did I mention she's fiery? In a good way!

Her lovely children, now adults, have the same infectious smile and personality. They have blossomed to lengthen Denie's legacy with that which a parent can only hope. And well, Denise, she has been reinventing herself with new hobbies, new adventures, and unfortunately, a return to her roots on the East Coast. Although I don't see my friend, I think of her often, and repeat her words in my head every time I start cooking, "Lavas las manos, Chicas! Lavas las manos!"

Chana Masala

by Denise Morgan

Food is a timepiece. One smell and it brings you right back to a certain memory, a person, or a place. It’s a link to a special time in our lives. Perhaps, it’s one that we will treasure forever in our hearts.

This recipe brings me back to my days of teaching in a Montessori classroom. Where many families, from different countries, shared their culture and traditions with the children. For many years, I taught in a school that had a large Indian population. It is there that I first learned and experienced the celebration of Holi.

Holi is a Hindu festival that is observed by many in India, and other parts of the world. It is the celebration of colors and the arrival of Spring.

It begins on the night of the last full moon in either February or March and ends with festivities of colors on the next day.

On this day, the celebrants shower each other with bright colorful powdery pigments outside in the streets. Friends in the community focus on all positiveness of being together as one in this colorful upbeat celebration.

Chana Masala is one of the many recipes that is made during the celebration of Holi. It is a warm stew-like curry simmered with delicious spices that will warm your heart.

This has become a family favorite, and I hope you enjoy it.

Chana Masala



    •    2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive oil

    •    2 TBSP Unsalted Butter

    •    2 Medium Onions, finely chopped/ about 3 cups

    •    4 Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced

    •    2 TBSP Ginger, finely chopped & peeled

    •    1 1/2 TSP Ground Coriander

    •    1 1/4 TSP Ground Cumin

    •    1 1/2 TSP Ground Turmeric

    •    1/8 TSP Cayenne Pepper

    •    Kosher Salt

    •    1 28 oz Can Whole Tomatoes

    •    2 15 oz Can Chickpeas, rinsed and drained

    •    1/3 Cup Dried Apricots, thinly sliced

    •    1/2 Cup finely Chopped Fresh Cilantro

    •    1/2 Cup finely Chopped Red Onion

    •    Lime Wedges

    •    Plain Yogurt

    •    Basmati/Jasmine Rice

What to Do

In a Dutch Oven or large pot, heat the olive oil and butter in a med-high heat, until the butter is melted. Add in onions, garlic, ginger, and cook; stirring until the onions have softened. Stir in coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, and salt. I add 1/2 tsp of sugar to help with the acidity.

Add in the tomatoes with their juices, and 1/2 cup water. Using a wooden spoon, break up the tomatoes. Add in the chickpeas and use the spoon to mash up a quarter of them. Stir in the chopped apricots and increase heat to high. Once the mixture has come to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and stir occasionally. Let thicken for about 18-22 minutes. Once the time is up, taste and adjust for salt/seasoning and remove from heat.

Serve the Chana Masala with some jasmine or basmati rice. You may top it with some red onion and cilantro, squeeze a lime wedge, and add a dollop of yogurt. Oh, and don’t forget some naan. Enjoy!!

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1 Comment

Bonnie Gasior
Bonnie Gasior
Mar 01, 2023

This looks amazing. We love chana masala. I look forward to making this soon! PS-who knew it had apricots!!

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