Saturday, December 6, 2014

Light Indian Chickpea & Spinach Curry

I fell in love with Indian cuisine after my first bite of spicy vindaloo more than 20 years ago. Around the same time, I heard cookbook author, Madhur Jaffrey, being interviewed on the radio. Her beautiful descriptions of the spices and methods involved in Indian cooking captivated me. The idea of cooking it at home became more vivid and accessible.


I started off on my culinary quest. Falling deep down the rabbit hole into this mysterious cuisine, I made all sorts of curries and rice pilafs. I toasted and ground my own spices. I bought foreign ingredients like black salt and hing. I even studied the medicinal benefits of the various herbs and spices.

chickpea curry

After 10 years of cooking Indian food, I found that making curries can be basic or complicated. Most of the time, I go for the simpler approach. They can be fresh and easy. Think of curries as vegetarian chili and you’ll get where I’m coming from. Some beans, vegetables and spices are the ingredients in most vegetarian curries. All you need is a few simple tips and my favorite secret ingredient.

This curry is creamy, spicy and kissed with lime and coconut milk. It’s neither too tomato-ey or too watery. It’s the best, light chickpea curry I’ve made so far. Believe me, I’ve made a lot! 

If you serve this dish with brown or white basmati rice, you’ll have a complete protein. It’s high in fiber, satisfying and like most stews and it reheats well. 

curry 22 2

Lighter Chickpea and Spinach Curry Recipe

Serves 6 with rice and cucumber salad (recipes below)

Some Notes:

The recipe relies on a few key (secret) ingredients and tips to make it rich and creamy. Either chickpea flour mixed with cold water or potato starch mixed with cold water can be used to thicken it. The chickpea flour is the ideal choice because chickpeas are used in the recipe and because it’s a good vegan protein source. It thickens the curry just beautifully.  I find it in my regular supermarket.  Bob’s Red Mill  is an online source.  Bob’s Red Mill has a gluten free version of the chickpea flour too.

A little coconut milk is stirred in at the end lending its subtle, mellow sweetness and light tropical notes. Turmeric adds a pretty orange-yellow glow. It’s also known to be a powerful disease inhibitor, an anti inflammatory and an anti oxidant. Many studies have said it helps to eliminate toxins from the body.  The turmeric and fenugreek are optional.

  • 1 large white or red onion, chopped into large pieces.
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped. Removing the seeds and veins will make it less spicy.
  • A 1-inch piece of  fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 16-ounce cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 generous cup of tomato sauce.
  • 1 10-ounce package of frozen spinach, defrosted, squeezed of excess water. 
  • 3 tablespoons of coconut milk. Take some of the coconut cream from the top of the can. Use more if you’d like it richer and creamier.
  • 1-2 tablespoons of curry powder, depending on how spicy you like it.
  • 1/4 tablespoon of ground turmeric (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground fenugreek  (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • Drizzle of honey or good pinch of sugar to balance the acid in the tomatoes.
  • 2 cups of cold water
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Neutral tasting oil for cooking
  • Two tablespoons of chickpea flour(garbanzo bean flour) mixed with two tablespoons of cold water or one tablespoon of potato starch mixed with one tablespoon of cold water to thicken it. (see notes) 
  • For Serving: lime wedges, basmati rice, Greek yogurt, chapati, roti, naan, cilantro, sliced almonds, chutney, cucumber salad

Place onion, jalapeno and ginger in a food processor and whiz to combine to a paste.
Add some oil to a large nonstick fry pan or saute pan. On medium heat, cook the onion-pepper paste in the pan, with some salt, to take the raw edge off the onions and soften the paste. It’s okay if some of the paste browns a little, but don’t let it burn.  Drizzle more oil in the pan and the curry powder. Saute the curry powder until it’s fragrant, being careful not to burn it, about 30 seconds or so.  Add the chickpeas, tomato sauce, drizzle of honey, defrosted spinach, turmeric, fenugreek (if using), salt and two cups of water. Bring to a boil and stir. Adjust the salt. Simmer for about 15 minutes or more on very low heat. Cook the curry until the flavors have mellowed and melded. The longer it cooks, the mellower it will be. You might need to cover the pot if the liquid is evaporating too quickly.
At the end of cooking, stir in the coconut milk (taking the thick coconut cream from the top of the can) and chickpea flour/cold water mixture or potato starch/cold water mixture. Stir in the ground cumin. Simmer for just a minute or two longer. The more of these thickening mixtures you add, the thicker it will be. You can mash some of the chickpeas with the back of a spoon to thicken the sauce too. Serve with a squeeze of lime or any of the suggested choices. Enjoy!

rice 8


Basmati Rice Recipe

1 cup of basmati rice
1- 1/2 cups of water
sea salt to taste

Rinse one cup (measured with a dry measuring cup) of basmati rice in several changes of  water. I do this in a large bowl. Rub the rice between your fingers to release the starch. Strain the rice and set aside. Heat 1 1/2 cups of water (measured with a liquid measuring cup) in a pot with a tight fitting lid, add some salt and bring to the boil. Add the rinsed and strained rice, bring back to a boil, cover. Turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting. Simmer, covered, for 15- 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside in the covered pot.


Cucumber-Lime Salad Recipe

Chop 6 small cucumbers. I like using small Persian cucumbers because they’re seedless and their skin is smooth and soft. Put them in a bowl with sea salt, a pinch or two of dried spearmint and a drizzle of light olive oil and a couple of squeezes of lime juice. Toss and serve.
Note: If using regular cucumbers, remove the seeds and skin before proceeding with the recipe.


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