Choley palav

Choley palav

Chickpea pulao

Mr Todiwala's Bombay
Helen Cathcart

Chickpeas come in many different varieties. The most popular of them all is the large white variety, known as Bengali channa. High in protein, chickpeas can be used in several different ways. This is a simple pulao and makes an excellent accompaniment to many of India’s great dishes. If you can get Indian cassia bark, it imparts a better flavour than the usual cinnamon stick!


Quantity Ingredient
115g dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight
or 425g tinned chickpeas, drained
5 tablespoons sunflower or rapeseed oil
5 cm piece cinnamon stick or cassia bark
3-4 cloves
1-2 whole red chillies, broken in half
5-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 onions, halved and thinly sliced
400-500g basmati rice
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
750ml boiling water or stock
2 tablespoons coriander leaves, chopped


  1. If using raw, soaked chickpeas, bring a pan of water to the boil, add the chickpeas and boil rapidly for 10 minutes to remove any toxins. Reduce the heat to medium and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes–1 hour or until tender. Season with a little salt then drain and set aside.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a deep pot or saucepan, which has a tight fitting lid. When the oil forms a haze but before it is smoking, add the cinnamon stick, cloves and chillies. Stir and as soon as you see the cloves swell, add the cumin and sauté for a minute or so.
  3. Add the garlic and, 30 seconds later, half the sliced onions. Sauté until the garlic is just beginning to colour.
  4. Now reduce the heat, add the rice and salt and stir for a minute or two, turning well and levelling out each time so that the rice gets an all round heat.
  5. Add water to come about 2 cm above the level of the rice (or use the measured amount, but this is simpler and works very well).
  6. Stir for a few seconds and allow to rest, covered.
  7. Reduce the heat as low as possible.
  8. Stir again every minute or so until most of the water is absorbed but you can just detect water around the sides.
  9. Add the boiled or canned and drained chickpeas. Stir, cover the pot but ensure that all the sides are clean of grains when you are about to cover.
  10. Check every one or two minutes, give the rice a gentle stir from the bottom up but very gently until hot through, the rest of the water is absorbed and the chickpeas are hot through. It should take 30–40 minutes to cook.
  11. Check your seasoning and whether or not the rice is cooked.
  12. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan. Add the remaining onions and fry over a medium heat for about 6 minutes until a rich, golden brown, stirring frequently.
  13. Serve the pulao topped with the browned onions and sprinkled with the chopped coriander.
  14. This rice can also be cooked in the oven. When it has nearly absorbed the water, cover, and put in the oven at 130˚C for 15 minutes.
  15. Stir with a fork and serve piping hot.
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