Spicy Chole (Chickpea) Curry
Well we’re post Thanksgiving but still have a Christmas dinner looming in our midst. Looming sounds like a bad thing, though I love both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, but looming indeed as far as what those meals can do to our waistlines. During this interim between the two feasts, it’s time to recover and maybe cut back on fatty meats and get back into a meatless Monday. A curry is a great, inexpensive, flavorful way to cut back on meat without cutting flavor and satisfaction after a meal.
Curries can be a bit intimidating for those that don’t really have any experience with more ethnic foods, I know they were for me, but with a little explaining and practice, you’ll find that they can be much easier than many of your most common dishes. In this post I’ll do my best to take away the mysteries of curry, from what I understand in my limited experience, and give you the confidence to add it to your home repertoire.
1-3 Dried Chilies (Depending on heat preference. 3 is VERY hot.)
1-1/2 Tspn Cumin Seeds
1-1/2 Tspn Coriander Seeds
1 Tspn Fennel Seeds
4 Cardamom Pods Seeded
2 Bay Leaves
1/2 Tspn Mustard Seeds
1/4 Tspn Cinnamon
2 Tspn Turmeric
3/4 cup Dried Chickpeas
2 Yellow Onions Diced
2 Cloves Garlic minced
2 Tbs Tomato Paste
1-1/2 – 2 Cups Water
2 Tbs Canola Oil
2 Tbs Butter (More oil for vegan)
1/2 Cup Coriander (Cilantro) Leaves chopped
What is a curry versus a masala? From what I have come to understand, a masala is a mixture of spices that is usually used in curries. “Curry” is the actual name for a dish cooked in this fashion. Thus curry powder is more of a western thing that means masala used to make a curry. Get it?
There are times to use canned beans and there are times to use dried. This is a time to use dried beans. Yes, it takes some planning, but the texture difference is completely worth it. Beans should be soaked for at least 8 hours, but can be soaked for up to 2 days. So if you know that you want to make this curry in a day or so, it’s not that hard to plan for it.
Once the beans are soaked, they still need to be cooked. Soaking significantly cuts the cook time down and helps retain the texture of the bean, since you don’t have to boil them for 2 hours or more. Drain your beans from the soaking water and place them in fresh cold water. Salt the water like you would for pasta and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce and simmer for about an hour. Check your beans after about 45 minutes to see if you like the texture. Once ready, remove the beans but save about 2 cups of the water for later.
In the meantime you can prep your vegetables and make the masala. For the masala, take all of the ingredients, except the turmeric and cinnamon, and dry toast them in a pan over medium heat, tossing and rolling them every 15-20 seconds. When they start to smoke and pop a bit, they’re done. Put them in a spice grinder or mortal and pestle, add the turmeric and cinnamon and grind into a powder.
From here on, you won’t believe how simple it is. Add the oil and butter in a medium sized pot on medium heat. Season and sauté the onion until it’s beginning to brown a bit, then add the garlic. Sauté for another minute and then add the masala and mix well. Everything will begin getting dry and looking completely wrong at this point, but this is what you want. Cook for anther minute or two.
Add the tomato paste and mix well. You’re going to make a clumpy looking mess, but this is good. You want to cook this mix for about a minute, getting the tomato paste hot. Add the chickpeas and 1 cup of the reserved bean water and mix well. You should now have a nice thin sauce. I like to let it reduce down and then add another cup of water to let the flavors really penetrate the beans. The final consistency should be just a bit thicker than heavy cream. Taste and season.
When ready, turn off the heat and mix in the coriander. Cilantro is known as coriander in many other parts of the world, but it’s all the same thing, just proper to say coriander when making Indian food. Serve over basmati rice with plenty of sauce and garnish with more coriander.