Friday, June 15, 2012

Neglected Cookbook Project: Gingery Chickpea Curry

This is from the very first cookbook on Indian cuisine that I ever got, the day after my first Indian meal.  I was in England, visiting my husband while he was doing his Master's over there, and he took me out to this charming curry house down the street from his flat.  The next day, I found Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail at a used bookstore two streets over.  I browsed through while I was there, but we had a lot going on, so it was on the flight home that I read most of it.

It's an odd and fascinating blend of travelogue and cookbook, being a companion piece to a BBC radio series.  Being a sort of journey-through-food, the recipes are divided by region and often subdivided further by ingredient, focusing on the handful of predominant flavors of the area.  This means I usually start hunting in the index when I want to make something with a specific ingredient (like this week, when red bell peppers were on sale and I really wanted to use them in a curry), which is not my normal method of finding recipes, so that may be, in part, why I don't use this book nearly as often as it deserves.  Until now, I really had only made one recipe from it, a cinnamon-scented caramelized rice that can be tricky to pull off without burning, but goes so, so well with super-spicy curries.  I haven't made it for a while, I should really make it again soon....

This recipe starts out as a side dish without any red pepper in it at all, but one of the variations recommends stuffing the chickpeas inside peppers and baking them.  From there it wasn't much of a stretch to simply include it in the curry to begin with, very similar to my bean and broccoli curry, which was so good I made a second batch that same week just to freeze for later.

One note: while I cook most of my own beans from dry, I don't have an inexpensive source for dried chickpeas, which is why I use canned here.  If you're cooking them yourself (which I highly recommend you do, if you can) the steps remain basically the same, you just leave out the bell pepper and dramatically lengthen the cook time from twenty minutes to whatever your brand of dried chickpeas recommends.  The original recipe assumed dried and says 1-3 hours, depending on brand, and suggests canned as a time-saver. Throw in the bell pepper for the last 20-30 minutes and you're good to go!

Gingery Chickpea Curry
  • 3 15-oz cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 to 3 inch piece ginger, skinned and minced finely, divided
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced finely, divided
  • 2-4 thin green chillies, half left whole but slit, half seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp ghee or butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
  • salt to taste
Combine the chickpeas and bell pepper in a large saucepan, and add just enough water to cover.  Stir in half of the minced ginger, half the minced garlic, and the slit chillies.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the ghee or butter in a skillet and fry the onion until soft and golden (which should take just as long as the simmer, I won't lie and say you can caramelize onions in 5 minutes like so many recipes do.)  Add the rest of the ginger and garlic, and the cumin seeds.  Fry another minute or so until the garlic is fragrant and the cumin seeds start to pop.  Stir this mixture into the chickpeas.

If a lot of water is left, remove some of it now; then mash some of the chickpeas against the side of the pan to thicken what's left.  Stir in the undrained tomatoes and heat through.  Season to taste, and serve with plain boiled rice.

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