Chickpeas in Star Anise

I love Indian flavours, and no one has mastered them more beautifully than my chef crush Vikram Vij. I could prattle on and on about how incredible his recipes are. But the experience is really the thing that will convince you, so I think you should find out for yourself; either by visiting one of his restaurants, or by buying his gorgeous cookbooks!

In his latest masterpiece, Vij’s at Home, Vancouver chef Vikram Vij defines a masala as “a mixture of spices, either dry or wet. A dry masala consists of the dry spice mixtures – for example, a garam masala. A wet masala is the mixture of the dry spices with tomatoes, onions, garlic etc.”

This dish is not a typical chickpea curry, in which the chickpeas are smothered in sauce. It is a saute of chickpeas with a masala of tomatoes and onions, in an aromatic blend of spices. At Vij’s restaurant, I first had these chickpeas served over grilled kale – which, if you’ve never tried it, sounds humble but tastes incredible!

The sweet dates and anise go beautifully together, and they nicely balance the fiery heat of the cayenne. I served it with homemade naan as a main course, but Vij serves it as an appetizer.

The entire meal takes about 20 minutes to make – this, combined with the fact that is both healthy and delicious, plants it firmly into my regular rotation.

Chickpeas in Star Anise and Date Masala

From Vij’s at Home cookbook

  • 3 15-oz cans chickpeas (or 1 1/2 cup raw chickpeas, soaked overnight and boiled)
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1/3 cup cooking oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion (1 medium-large)
  • 2 tbsp chopped garlic (6 medium cloves)
  • 2 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 6 fresh or dried dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp salt (or 1 tsp if chickpeas are salted)
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/3 tsp ground star anise, or 2 whole star anise
  • 1/2 cup water

1. Drain chickpeas and set aside. With a knife, lightly crack the cardamom pods. With your fingers, peel back the shell to release the seeds; discard shells.

2. Heat oil in a medium pot on medium-high for 45 seconds. Add oinion and saute for 6 to 7 minutes, or until browned. Stir in garlic and saute for 1 minute, or until browned. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in tomato paste. Add dates, cumin, salt, cayenne, black pepper, star anise and cardamom sees and saute for 2 minutes. Stir in chickpeas and water and heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until masala is well mixed with chickpeas. Turn off the heat and serve immediately.

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