Vij's Black Chickpea Curry

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You can always tell my favourite recipes in a book by how dirty and beat up a page is. My Aunt, who is a big time foodie and cookbook devourer like yours truly, loves to flip through my embarrassingly bountiful collection of food magazines - stopping here and there asking "what did you cook from this page?". She laughs and points to the tomato sauce stain, or the flour embedded in the crack when I ask "how did you know I made something from that page?".

This particular recipe is so well loved that it has become barely legible from it's dwelling in Vij's cookbook, Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine. Vikram Vij is a something of a legend in this neck of the woods - he is the chef at a self-named Indian restaurant, which has a huge following in Vancouver. His dishes use authentic Indian techniques and ingredients to create an exciting, original take on the cuisine. Absolutely everything I have made from his cookbook has been exceptional. My only minor criticism is sometimes the recipe calls for too much salt - my advice is always to taste your food as you cook and season adequately. You can add more salt, but you'll sure have a hard time taking it away!

Adarsh likes to join me in the kitchen when I'm making Indian food. The guy never cooks anything more complicated than a hot dog, but somehow he has magic curry intuition. He knows at one glance if there isn't enough oil, at one sniff if there isn't enough cumin, and at one taste if it needs more salt. It rocks my socks and irritates the heck out of me in equal parts.

curry1

Dried beans and peas are usually soaked prior to cooking. The quick way to do it is to bring the beans to a rolling boil for 2 minutes in a generous amount of water, then turn off the heat and allow them to soak for 1 hour, covered. You can alternatively soak them overnight at room temperature. Either way, you want to discard the soaking water and start fresh for cooking. A lot of the indigestible carbohydrate (that which makes beans... erm... musical...) is leached out in the soaking water, so for the digestive comfort of your diners, you definitely want to get rid of it.

This recipe calls for black chickpeas, or kala chana, which you can find in any Indian grocery store, and many bulk stores. Black chickpeas have thicker skins than regular chickpeas, and don't get quite as soft. I like that they maintain their structure and flavour in the curry, however, regular chickpeas (dried or canned) can be used in this recipe and are equally delicious. I have made it at least a dozen times with convenient canned garbanzos.

This curry is not hot, but start with less cayenne if you like things very mild. The nutty flavour of the chickpeas is deliciously complemented by the richness of butter and slow cooked onions, and the aroma of toasty cumin and warm garam masala.

curry3

This time I served my curry with yummy homemade naan (recipe to be posted this week!), but often we just have basmati rice. I always double the batch for leftovers - they make a delicious weekday lunch, and the flavours only improve as they are left to mingle. Healthy and incredibly tasty.

  • Duration
  • Cook Time
  • Prep Time
  • 6Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried black or regular chickpeas (or 1-15ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup ghee (I use 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup canola oil)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds (not ground)
  • 2 medium onions (1 pound), chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic ( about 6 large cloves)
  • 1 large juicy tomato, finely chopped (or about 1 cup of canned, diced tomatoes)
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tbsp mango powder (I omitted this because I didn't have it on hand. Use it if you can find it, but it is delicious without it otherwise)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup water, (if using canned chickpeas only)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup dried black or regular chickpeas (or 1-15ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup ghee (I use 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup canola oil)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds (not ground)
  • 2 medium onions (1 pound), chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic ( about 6 large cloves)
  • 1 large juicy tomato, finely chopped (or about 1 cup of canned, diced tomatoes)
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tbsp mango powder (I omitted this because I didn't have it on hand. Use it if you can find it, but it is delicious without it otherwise)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup water, (if using canned chickpeas only)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Preparation

  1. If using dried chickpeas, rinse in a colander then soak overnight or with the 1 hour quick soak method outlined above. Place soaked, drained chickpeas in 9 cups of salted water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 hour. Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid and drain.

  2. Meanwhile, in a separate large pot, heat ghee (or butter/oil) on medium high for 1 minute. Add cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for about 30 seconds. Add onions and cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute 2-3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, then add jalapeno pepper, garam masala, mango powder, turmeric, fenugreek, salt and cayenne. Reduce heat to medium and cook until oil glistens on top (about 5-8 minutes). Stir in reseved chickpea water or 1 cup fresh water if using canned chickpeas.

  3. Add boiled, drained chickpeas (or canned chickpeas, drained). Bring to a boil on medium-high heat, then reduce to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until thickened. Stir in cilantro.