Chickpea Curry (Chana Masala)

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I love this recipe – it was the first curry I ever made! I have no doubt it’s not quite ‘authentic’, but who cares when it’s got so much going for it. It’s super healthy, naturally vegan and I’ve been making it for about a decade, with such frequency I’m surprised I haven’t posted the recipe already. Well, here it is; my favourite store-cupboard, fall-back dinner. The one I make when I’m too tired to cook anything else or the cupboards are almost empty – it would take a zombie apocalypse for my cupboard to be stripped of tinned chickpeas, tomatoes and curry powder. It can be tarted up with extras like nan breads, poppadums and chutneys, or it can be served simply with basmati rice. My little girl wolfs this down, with a little Greek yogurt stirred in to cool it down a bit. I’ve also listed extras you can add for variation, although I don’t usually add them. It can be made quickly on the fly, making for quite a fresh tasting curry, or you can chuck everything in a slow cooker for a darker, richer result. It tastes great either way – and any leftovers can be stuffed into warm pitta breads for an uber-tasty lunch the following day. Stay tuned for more slow-cooker recipes – they are just the ticket on these bitterly cold winter days!

Serves 3-4

1 tbsp oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 fat garlic clove, grated
1″ chunk of peeled ginger root, grated
1/2 tsp each of cumin seeds, mustard seeds & Nigella seeds
2 level tbsp medium curry powder
200ml coconut milk
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 x 400g tin tomatoes
1 tsp brown sugar
1 x 400g tin chickpeas
Coriander & lime to serve (optional)
Basmati rice and/or nan breads to serve

Optional extras: Several handfuls of fresh baby spinach (don’t be afraid to chuck it in, it wilts down to almost nothing) or about 200g of cooked new potatoes, sliced in half (tinned is absolutely fine!) Sometimes I add a tin of cooked green lentils which, along with the chickpeas, really packs a protein punch.

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Gently heat the oil in a nice heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the chopped onion, grated garlic and ginger. Keep it on a really low heat and clamp the lid on for five minutes. You just want to soften them, so try not to let them catch. Then stir in all the seeds and the curry powder. Cook gently for another minute to release all the lovely fragrant oils. Pour in the coconut milk and stir until it starts to bubble.

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Now stir in the tomato puree followed by the tomatoes and chickpeas. Bring it only just to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer. If I’m making this quickly, I will give it about 15-20 minutes, usually while I cook the rice. Stir it every five minutes or so. If you’re not in a hurry, you can simmer very gently for as long as you like (within reason!). Bear in mind it will thicken as it reduces, so you may need to add a splash of boiled water now and again to slacken it to your liking. Alternatively, after adding the tomatoes and chickpeas, you can transfer to a slow cooker if you like. (And if you’re *amazingly* casual, you can skip any pre-cooking and just put all the ingredients into the slow cooker. It will turn out absolutely fine. Cook on High 3-4 hrs, Medium 4-6 hrs or Low 6-8 hrs.)

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Any extras such as spinach, cooked new potatoes or tinned lentils should be added 10 minutes before serving, or until warmed through. If you’re slow-cooking, add them about half an hour before serving. Quite honestly, I don’t usually add any extras. I’m not organised enough for that. When you’re ready to eat, add some some chopped coriander and a squeeze of lime – it really cuts through the tomato and adds a brilliant zing! Serve with basmati rice, nan breads and whatever else you fancy.

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