More than anything else in the entire world, I hate, with all my heart, hyperbole. (See what I did there?)
Food outlets are no less guilty than anyone else (me too at some point, no doubt). “This chocolate chip cookie is everything!” “How one grain of salt changed my life!!”
So I’m already kicking myself for saying this, but I’m going to share a recipe that ... changed my life.
There’s enough evidence to support the claim. I did not grow up eating Indian food, much less cooking it. I tried it for the first time only as a senior in college, when I went out to eat with my then-boyfriend/now-husband. Once we moved in together, we started cooking together, and this easy chickpea curry caught our attention.
Indian cuisine often gets a rap as too complicated or too spicy or too time-consuming or too ingredient-heavy to cook at home. This recipe disproves all of that and happens to be bold and delicious to boot. It erased every bit of intimidation for me, and now my husband and I cook Indian food — often this very dish — almost every week.
The ingredients list might look long, but you probably already have most of them in your pantry or refrigerator. Many just get tossed into a blender or food processor for a blink-and-you’re-done sauce. The recipe is also fairly flexible — a little more or less of one spice (or even none of it) won’t make or break the dish. (Just don’t skip frying the cardamom pods, bay leaves and cinnamon stick in the skillet first, which helps bloom the spices and flavor the oil, and therefore the curry.)
If you’re feeding a crowd, this curry easily can absorb another potato. Want to use up more of that bunch of cilantro? Throw it in for more vivid flavor and color. The kind and amount of fresh pepper you use is flexible, too. A few small green chiles are fine, but a quarter, half or even whole jalapeño — depending on how spicy you like things — works as well. Or skip it altogether.
Easy Chickpea Curry
8 ounces ripe tomato, hulled and coarsely chopped
One 2-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
Fresh hot green chiles of choice, such as 2 or 3 Thai green chiles or 1/4 to 1/2 jalapeño (optional; seeds removed, if desired)
1 cup packed cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1⁄2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1½ teaspoons salt
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons canola or safflower oil
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
5 whole green cardamom pods, smashed with the flat side of a chef’s knife
2 bay leaves
1 medium onion, cut into small dice (about 1 cup)
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained (about 3 cups total)
Combine the tomato, ginger, garlic, chiles (if using), cilantro, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon of the salt and 6 tablespoons of the water in a blender or food processor. Puree to form a smooth, pourable sauce.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and bay leaves; stir for 30 seconds or until fragrant, then add the onion and potatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion softens and the potatoes begin to turn golden.
Stir in the pureed sauce, so the onion and potatoes are well coated. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes, then uncover long enough to stir in the chickpeas, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the remaining 1 cup of water. Once the mixture begins to bubble, cover and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the potatoes are fork-tender. (If the curry is bubbling too vigorously, reduce the heat to low.)
Allow the curry to cool for a few minutes, then discard the cinnamon stick, bay leaves and cardamom pods. Serve warm.