Chana Masala for School Meals

Chana Masala for School Meals

by James Taylor

This chana masala is another of chef James Taylor's school meals. James works in two London primary schools, improving their school meals to provide nutritious, delicious and environmentally sustainable meals for the children. We started working with James in 2023 to help him get pulses on the menu in his school. Read our blog post on the achievements and  challenges of introducing young people to pulses they're not familiar with.

This is a recipe James developed from cooking different variations with family, colleagues, and friends, eating the dish numerous times in restaurants and his own personal research. James tried to combine the best parts of all the versions he tasted and watched being cooked over the years.

This is not a traditional method but is a quick way to make this dish for a busy school lunchtime.

180 children aged 4-11 and 25 adults


For the Chickpeas
  • 4kg Chickpeas
  • Aromatics like Star Anise, Cardamom, Indian Bay Leaves and Cinnamon Sticks
Spice Paste
  • 25g Fennel Seeds
  • 25g Cumin Seeds
  • 25g Coriander Seeds
  • 10g Cardamom Pods
  • 1 tbsp Cloves
  • 8g Ajwain Seeds
  • 12g Indian Bay Leaves
  • 200g Root Ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 50g Chilli, roughly chopped
  • 4 Bulbs of Garlic, peeled
  • 20g Ground Coriander
  • 15g Garam Masala
  • 8g Black Pepper
  • 8g Ground Cinnamon
For the Sauce
  • Coconut or Rapeseed Oil
  • 8 lg Onions
  • 1kg Fresh Tomatoes
  • 3kg Tinned Chopped Tomatoes
  • 2 lt Chickpea Cooking Water
  • 3 Lemons, juiced
  • Bunch Coriander, roughly chopped


For the Chickpeas
  1. Soak Chickpeas overnight.
  2. The next day, bring a large pot of water to the boil with your favourite aromatics and spices.
  3. When the water is boiling, add the chickpeas. Bring down to a simmer and cook until the Chickpeas are soft - around 1 hour.
  4. Drain the cooked Chickpeas and reserve the cooking liquid.
Spice Paste
  1. Toast all the whole spices in a frying pan.
  2. Add to a high powered blender with all the other ingredients and enough water to help your blender turn this into a thick paste.
For the Sauce
  1. Cook the onions slowly in the oil until very soft. Season with sea salt.
  2. Next, add the spice paste you made previously and cook for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Blend the fresh tomatoes & tinned tomatoes and stir into the pot. Season again with sea salt and keep tasting to check the seasoning.
  4. Add the chickpeas and some of the cooking liquid. (I used around 2 Litres but this depends on how much more the chickpeas need cooking and how thick you like your sauce).
  5. I let my sauce continue simmering at this point for a further 1.5 hours to really let the flavours combine
  6. When I was happy with the texture of the chickpeas and the consistency of the sauce, I turned off the heat.
  7. Finish with the lemon juice and coriander. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.

James Taylor
James Taylor


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