Bollywood Cooking: Chickpeas with Spinach – Channa Palak

 Chickpeas with Spinach – Channa Palak (01) by MeetaK

Growing up I always wanted to have a pet of some kind. I loved animals and just like any kid wanted a dog, a cat or a hamster to call my own. However, the fact that we were like gypsies moving from country to country and that my mum was finicky about having animal hair in her apartment I never actually got to own a pet.

Our vacations to India were a bit like the animal paradise I had always imagined. My grandparents’ house in Delhi was not far from a thick deep park like woods, where monkeys dangled from tree to tree and the really cheeky ones sometimes came down as far as the walls of the house. Then there were goats or cows that roamed the streets freely and shared the pavement with stray dogs or cats.

While this was paradise to us kids, it was a nightmare for my mother and aunts who were constantly paranoid we’d get some crazy animal disease. My grandmother on the other hand was always calm and telling her daughters to stop overacting. She would shake her head – after all her children were all brought up in much the same fashion and probably the same cows and goats roamed the streets back then.

“Moving to your fancy foreign countries you have all turned to wimps!” she would joke. “My grandchildren will not be wimps!”

We’d run out squealing with delight and my mother and aunts would look helplessly at each other.

It was summer and we were carefree and liberated from worry like only children can be. We ran the streets barefooted and looking for adventure. Back home we never experienced the same adventures India offered us. And my grandmother was our heroine. She would give us day old chapattis, milk, fruit and vegetables to feed our animal farm. We would carry the goodies a little bit away from the eyes of our mothers and create a foodie paradise for the stray animals.

However, one day I think even I managed to rattle my grandmother’s nerves.

“Nani! look I think these poor animals need a home!” I said coming into the kitchen where my nani was giving the cook instructions for dinner.

She did not look up but just told me to take the animals out on the veranda and she’ll be there in a bit.

So I did. I waited. But my mum came out on the veranda, turned pale and let out a scream. Soon the family were gathered around all talking at the same time giving me the feeling I was going to get into a lot of trouble. Finally my nani came out.

“What’s the ruckus about?” Then she saw me holding two white rats by their tails – two very dead rats. I was feeling uncomfortable right about then with the whole clan looking at me and I think my nani realized that.

“My God you people, have you not seen big mice in your lives?” she said coming towards me. “Don’t you have big mice in your fancy foreign countries?”

She winked at me and with the end of her sari wrapped the rats (because that is what they really were) inside.

“Come let’s see if we can find them a home!” And the two of us did. In a box that she buried later that evening, when I was asleep, in the garden along with her sari!

That was my nani. My heroine!

Chickpeas with Spinach – Channa Palak (02) by MeetaK

I love my legumes, especially chickpeas. Only Indians have such a large repertoire of incredible tasting legumes dishes. The variety seems never ending. One of my all time favorites is a simple and comforting dish of chickpeas and spinach spiced with mustard seeds. Fancy it is not – but it is darned good and a perfect dish if you are still acquainting yourself with Indian cuisine.

Chickpeas with Spinach – Channa Palak

Printable version of recipe here


450g chickpeas, soaked overnight then cooked till tender. Alternatively you can use canned chickpeas
500g spinach leaves, washed and chopped
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 tablespoons canola oil – or ghee (clarified butter)
1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
150g red onions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1 green chili, finely chopped
Salt to taste



  1. Heat canola oil (or ghee) in a medium sized pan over a medium to high heat. Add the mustard seeds, cover and cook until the seeds have stopped popping – approx. 30 seconds.

  2. Lower the heat and add the ginger, stir-frying for about 30 seconds until light brown.

  3. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes until onions are slightly caramelized and brown. Then add chopped tomato, tomato paste, green chili and salt. Finally tip in the chickpeas and coat with the sauce.

  4. Add about 2 cups of water and bring the mixture to a boil. The lower heat and add the spinach in two to three batches, stirring until each batch has wilted.

  5. Once all the spinach has been added allow the curry to simmer for 10-12 minutes on a medium low heat, until the sauce has thickened.

  6. Serve hot with naans and chutney.

Food Guide Tips:

- Spinach

- Mustard seeds

- Legumes

- Ginger 





Chickpeas with Spinach – Channa Palak (03) by MeetaK

Tart and tangy with a hint of rustic tasting mustard seeds, this is a beautifully balanced vegetarian dish. Not overly spicing it, the spinach and and chickpea flavors come through perfectly. The dish relies on the quality of the ingredients so try and get the freshest spinach and ripest tomatoes.

More Bollywood Cooking from WFLH:

Channa Masala Paneer Do Piaza Spicy Okra with Onions


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2010 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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  1. My mom used to keep 2 pet rats and it always grossed my friends out! I love Indian food, especially anything spicy with chick peas so this is real winner with me. Have just realised it must be a week since I ate curry... this isn't normal!!

  2. That is a perfect combination! I adore chickpeas and spinach! Nice spicy food!



  3. Funny how you didn't grow up to be a vet! LOL! I love this dish and often make a variation of it in the cooler months...thanks for sharing Meeta!

  4. Aw, well what are nanis for huh? (Except mine was the exact opposite of yours when it came to animals.) But yeah, as a physician now I'd just be concerned about the diseases you might catch!
    Anyway, I've been on an Indian resto kick lately and I'd love to try this dish- looks homey and delicious.

  5. this looks so yummy....In the summers...we ran the streets barefooted...meeta...this was so much fun, same with us..except that we grew up in the western ghat region of India..and would go in search of all the fruits that tree offered !!

  6. Wow! two dead rats unh! i once screamed soooo hard when i discovered a dead rat on my terrace, my neighbors had named me siren shankar for a long time ;) As long as the dish, nice and simple :)

  7. Oooh, I struggle to imagine a nicer vegetarian dish than this! Chickpeas are always a pleasure, but even more so with spinach :) As for dead rodents... my brother and I once famously found our cat batting a half-dead mouse around. We managed to get the mouse away from him and put it up in a hanging basket of plants on the patio to keep it safe from the cat. A few days later, my mom could no longer bear to eat on the patio because of the smell. Some investigation revealed the dead mouse in the flower basket... But how could she be angry - we really thought we were helping :)

  8. Greens and chickpeas are always a winning combination :)

  9. I was (am?) a wimpy kid. I could handle dogs and cats, but place any rodent within two feet of me and I would scream murder!
    I just bought some incredibly fresh spinach, so its chana-saag for dinner tonight :)

  10. :-D ... Never even dared to go near mice. I remember my grandma getting rid of a bunny size dead white one and I ran away.

    Channa Palak is lovely.

  11. My mom who is a vegetarian is coming over this weekend. I think she will like this dish! Thanks for sharing! I have now something to prepare for her.

  12. Oh, now I miss my nan. She lived to be 97 years old and she is till this day my heroine. I love the warm fuzzy feeling this photo gives me...

  13. You can bet this is going to be on our table soon!

    I'd say your Nani was a Super Heroine! Wonderful rat story.

  14. Oh, and you shock me that you don't always blend the spinach on the Palak Paneer ;0) and renew my faith that these are royal peasant dishes blessed by the whims of the cook. Thanks so much Meeta!

  15. Love the rat incident.I was(still am) okay with anything except cockroach Love the chan palak.Comfort food it is.

  16. Here Shyama had a hamster when she was smaller, and he died after 3 yrs. She has been wantng to have a rat, but i think i am like yor mom, i like them but i don't like their long tail.

  17. Hilarious story Meeta. What a loving Nani you had! While I love for our kids to enjoy animals, I probably would have shreiked at DEAD rats! But I suppose many a child has lived through things, I should be less protective, LOL! Delicious looking dish!

  18. This looks healthy and delicious. Thank you for sharing!

  19. What a great story! Growing up, we'll always wait for our cat to come back from his hunting trip to see what he caught and show it to my grand-mother, mother and cousins. It was really fun!
    I'll eat anything with chickpeas! Thanks for the recipe!

  20. meeta u make me laugh!!! and i can sympathise. when my paternal gramps were still alive, we used to visit them in Malaysia. That's the country they first emmigrated to from China and they literally lived in this jungle. My dad as a boy put broken glass about the guarding walls in the backyard to keep snakes away. Too bad monkeys still came in to steal their coconut fruit and so on. Also, my gramparents literally kept like a pack of (not wolves) dogs and chickens near the back garden. And in the front of the house, there was a koi pond - the water so dark and thick with algae we weren't even sure there were fish to feed every time we threw fish food in there. Oh this post makes me sentimental. Looks gorgeous and wish I could try some of that with the naan bread in the background! :D xx

  21. Meeta, My God, that touched so much, beautifullllly written and you took to me my days of vacations in Nani's house with masis and cousins.. awww.. so looking forward to meet you x

  22. Haha! You just mention "rat" here, they will scream too. Growing up in India, we always had dogs, cats and in the plantations, we had monkeys, rats, snakes, Honey Bees, Scorpions and dreaded Leaches too.

    Apparently here is a temple in North India which houses thousands of Rats and they are fed, worshipped there. I saw that temple on TV, people crawling just to see them. That's a bit too much for me to see thousands in one place! Yikes!!

    Love the Chana Palak, no matter how many times I make them or eat them, I always want more when I see it in blogs. Looks yum.

  23. Reading about your memory brought such joy to my heart and I could actually picture the scene. :)

  24. I like your grandma very much. :) City living turns everyone into wimps even me who used to be a village girl.

    When we were little, My sis and I once kept a big house mouse (not the white type but the grey brown ones) as pet for a while until we felt pity for it and let it go. lol!

  25. This dish sounds absolutely amazing. I'm new to chickpeas, and now I eat it every other day, but with little variation, so this is definitely going to be my next meal. Thanks for the inspiration.

  26. What a nice chickpea recipe here! I like spicy food! Perfect for the cold weather!

  27. What a wonderful story! Your grandmother was so right, too; we have forgotten how to be at one with the animals in our universe. Now that I live in the country, sort of, I have much more of a relationship with all of the critters in the woods around me than I ever had when I lived in the city.

  28. i make this combo pretty often. its comfort food for me.

  29. thank you so much everyone for your feedback and comments. this is one of many stories i get told almost every family reunion. my grandmother was the best and these memories makes me a little closer to her. glad you are liking this totally comforting dish.

  30. meeta love your naani, she really must have been amazing. i can sort of imagine her, from your various posts where you talk abt her :)

  31. Yay, finally a new Bollywood addition - I do love this series of yours Meeta! Don't think I've ever had Channa Palak, can't wait to try it. Loved the rat story btw!

  32. I love this combination...your recipe is a little simpler than mine (I make a masala and puree the spinach) which is really great for a quicker yet tasty version. Looks tummy is growling.

  33. Oh la la! I'm mad about chickpeas! This is right up my alley. I've got some chickpeas soaking as we speak (making mowie some hummus for din din tomorrow!) And i'll put some aside to try this out!

  34. Love chickpeas and Indian cuisine...this sounds wonderful! And yes, Indian cooking has some of the best legume dishes ever :)

    I was the opposite when I was a kid -- my mom always wanted us to have pets since she loves animals. When she was a young girl she tamed some mice in her family kitchen!

  35. You sound like me when I was little... :) My mum didn't and doesn't like animals so we weren't allowed any pets unless they could fit in a cage so I had a hamster and mice when I was little. Needless to say that I have been keeping pets ever since I left home..! (mainly cats)
    But two dead rats.... hmmm, poor creatures!
    Those chickpeas look fantastic!

  36. This looks fantastic! Definitely something I'm going to try out soon.

    I'm someone who's terrified of rats/mice. I had one in my previous flat, it was in the kitchen most of the time so I kept the door firmly shut, and stuffed all the holes and cracks under doors with paper etc. And I actually lost weight during that time as I didn't cook at all - was too afraid! :P Silly I know, but I think it might be because my mum is terrified of them too.

  37. When I'm asked 'the name of my favourite pet' ....I say, I'm African! Meaning.....ehmmm, I'm not hot on pets!!!!!!! Sorry.

    Chickpeas on the other hand, I LOVEEEEEEEE. And the photos are STUNNING, as always Meeta. Inspired.

  38. Your grandmother sounds like a lovely person... If I saw two dead rats! Great spinach dish you have here - sounds very healthy!

  39. I live in all this madness still Meeta, and we have cattle on the roads still...and I LOVE IT! I love the charm of living here, driving here, and the general mayhem! Adds so much more colour & flavour to life. We had a paiur of white mice as kids, and dogs until very recntly, till I began baking. Then I became a mother like your animal hair in my house!
    Love the chana to try it soon. Will connect with you over chickpeas! xo

  40. Love reading that story! You have so many talents, storyteller, photographer, designer, poet and great cook!
    By the way, this exquisite dish is found (with its regional variation) in middle-eastern cooking too!

  41. Girl, I'm ALL over this. Love me some chana! Great presentation. I love your looks! Always so tasteful, no pun intended.

  42. I LOVE the story of your Nani! What a fabulous woman :-) And the food looks wonderful! I just picked up dried chickpeas and am ready for a good recipe! This looks marvy! :-)

  43. Ah, Meeta, I love your stories and your storytelling. Brilliant! And what an exciting life! And this meal looks divine! Love spinach and chickpeas. I must try this.

  44. I love rats, they are such nice beeings. A family of them lives in our garden under the patio.

    Sometimes they will dig in our compost bucket. To say they are dirty animals is just as wrong to say that pigs or birds are dirty and spread germs.

    It always comes down on how the animals live. Cramped, dirty conditions will result in dirty, ill animals. Same with humans. That´s not the fault of the animals, they just try to live with the circumstances which are there.

    That is also what i see with the stray cats here. The ones i feed which live near us are healthy, the strays which are ignored by the farmers around me are thin and ill because they have to search the garbage piles and fight for scraps, who would not get ill under such conditions?

    Also what most people do not know that rats are also territorial and will keep stranger animals away.
    So rats in my yard means they will keep animals away which could carry diseases.
    That is the reason why poisoning rodents will not do much good against diseases as long as the sanitary conditions are not better. The healthy rodents around you are killed and the disease ridden from other areas will occupy the free space very fast.

    I never had any problems with our rats, they have a steady number of individuals, do not rob my garden and are not in the house.
    They are just as much fun to watch as the birds here.

    My mom would go into a screaming fit if she ever would see one of them. That makes it just a tad sweeter for me to have them living in our garden


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