50 Women Game Changers in Food: Madhur Jaffrey (Week 7)

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In 2011, Gourmet released their list of the 50 Women Game Changers in Food. I stumbled on this entirely by accident. One week a couple of months ago, I was meal planning, and didn’t have access to my Ina Garten cookbooks. So, I googled the recipe I was looking for and found it on a blog that was making its way through the list (she’s number 39… I’m a little disgruntled that Rachael Ray is higher up than she is). I was inspired to do the same. I need to challenge myself more in the kitchen, and I thought this would be an excellent way to do so.  As I’ve been planning for this, I’ve been flipping through cookbooks, checking out websites and buying new equipment, and I’m excited. I’m also really looking forward to learning more about these game changing women, and introducing myself to recipes I’ve never cooked before.

(And since this entire year-long project will be all recipes I’ve never made before, I can’t promise that everything will turn out the way I want it to. But whether a dish is a winner or an epic fail, I’m going to be completely honest about it.)

Number seven on the list is Madhur Jaffrey.


Madhur Jaffrey didn’t grow up wanting to be a renowned and respected chef. She actually wanted to act. When she was 19, she left Delhi to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. She’s stared in several movies, even winning awards for some of her performances, she’s had guest appearances in TV shows like Law & Order: SVU, Psych, & New Girl. She began cooking while she was away from home for school, and became known as the actress who could cook.

In the early 70’s, she received a contract to write her first book: An Invitation to Indian Cooking, (published in 1973) which featured her mothers recipes, adapted to the American kitchen. She has since produced many, many more cookbooks, some of which are winners of the James Beard Foundation award winners.

Like so many of the women on this list, I had never heard of Madhur Jaffrey. I really like Indian food, but I haven’t had much of it. I typically order either chicken vindaloo or chicken tikka masala. For this week, I wanted to try something I’ve never had before: Chana Masala. During my googling, I found this recipe, but no one could actually trace it back to Madhur Jaffrey. So, I went to the library, hoping to find the actual recipe in one of her (many) cookbooks. I checked out World Vegetarian & At Home with Madhur Jaffrey, and the closest I could find was a recipe for Chickpeas in a Sauce. I like aspects of the Madhur Jaffrey recipe, and aspects of the recipe I found on Smitten Kitchen, so I kind of combined the two. The result was absolutely delicious.

I made this back in January, on a night when Graham had plans to go watch the Panthers get KILLED by the Seahawks (he’s a big time carnivore). His friend had smoked a Boston butt, and he thought that sounded more appealing than this vegetarian dinner I had planned for myself. His dinner plans changed once he caught a whiff of what I was cooking. It smelled amazing! And when paired with naan and jasmine rice, this dinner was a huge, huge hit. After making this, I’ve decided I need to incorporate more vegetarian dinners into our meal plans. This was so delicious, and it was crazy inexpensive. It would obviously cost a little more if you had to go out and buy the spices, but other than the chickpeas and the naan, I already had everything else on hand.

Chana Masala/Chickpeas in a Sauce
(Recipe adapted from this one & Chickpeas in a Sauce, p. 187 of At Home with Madhur Jaffrey)


  • 2 T. of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 T. of freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 15 oz. cans of chickpeas; drained & rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • Juice of half a lemon


    1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the cumin seeds. Let cook for about 10 seconds, and then add the onions. Let the onions cook until the edges have started to brown and then add the ginger and the spices. Let cook for an additional minute.
    2. Add the tomatoes, the water, and the salt. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low. Add the chickpeas and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.
    3. Add lemon juice just before serving.

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