Chickpea and Spinach Curry

Chickpea and Spinach Curry
Chickpea and spinach curry cooking, with steam rising out of the pan

Serves 3-4

1-2 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced or chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp dried ginger
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp garam masala (or curry powder)
1 small can (approx 140g) tomato paste or puree
400-500g cooked or canned chickpeas
100-200g fresh (or thawed frozen) spinach
water as needed

Fry the onion pieces in hot oil in a saucepan until they have become transparent, then add the garlic and stir for a minute or two more. Turn the heat down, then add the spices and salt and stir for about a minute, then add the tomato paste, chickpeas and spinach and stir well to coat. Add the aquafaba (chickpea cooking water), rinsing out the tomato paste can if necessary, or extra water as needed, so as to just cover the chickpeas.

Simmer for about twenty minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally, and squishing a few of the chickpeas against the sides of the pan to thicken it. The consistency of the curry should be quite thick when it's ready but don't let it burn on the bottom of the pan. It's fine to simmer for a bit longer, with a lid on the pan, but check regularly and add more water as needed. 

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For a very quick meal, you could use a couple of cans of chickpeas, but I prefer the slightly crunchier and larger ones that come from cooking them myself. That needs a bit more preparation since chickpeas have to be soaked for several hours (overnight, if possible) and then cooked for around an hour in fresh water, before adding to the curry. I tend to soak and cook about 500g dried chickpeas in a large pan, which leads to around a kilogram of cooked chickpeas; I freeze the ones I don't want to use immediately in 200-250g portions for quicker use later on.

The cooking fluid of chickpeas is known as aquafaba, and when cooled can be used as an egg white substitute in various ways, or - as in this recipe - it can be added straight into a curry with the chickpeas for a little extra protein. If you're using canned chickpeas, check the ingredients: if only salt has been added, then you can use the surrounding liquid in the same way. There is no need to drain and rinse them. However if preservatives and other additives are present, you might want to wash them away and just use water.

I don't remember where we first found the recipe on which this curry is based; there are similar ones in many places online, but as with everything I make, this has been adapted several times to suit our tastes. I tend to use dried spices as they're more convenient, but for more authentic flavour you might prefer fresh grated ginger, and to adjust the amounts of spices. This is quite mild, but more ginger and chili powder will make it hotter.

You could add mushrooms instead of spinach, if you prefer them, although we quite like the blend of colours in this version. We've tried it with both, but it feels a bit 'fussy'.

We usually serve this with pitta bread but garlic naan, if available, is even better. Rice is a good alternative. We also usually serve several of the following in small pots to go with the curry: chopped tomatoes and cucumber, mango chutney, dried coconut, raisins, raw cashews, chopped apple, and sunflower seeds.

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