The chapter For the love of chickpeas continues with a very simple Indian-style curry, a recreation of the one that got me hooked on these little legumes in the first place years ago. This was a lucky combination, but the result blew me away. For an hour after eating a bowlful of curry and rice I kept on saying how incredibly good it was. As with any food I instantly love, I had the curry again the same day and made even more the next. Mushrooms seem to complete chickpeas. I used white mushrooms this time, but my favourite are the chestnut type. This curry is rich and wonderfully aromatic, with a harmonious blend of spices that creates a warm, long-lasting aftertaste. It's also highly nutritious and provides a good amount of fiber to aid digestion.
To fully appreciate food, the visual has to be just as good as the flavour. With this curry I wanted a deep brown colour, but I will also share with you how to create an orange-brown and deep red; I find all three colours to be appetite-inducing. I will also show you how I make basmati rice. For me a curry is incomplete without rice or some type of flatbread (my latest favourite is homemade paratha-style chapati - a soft, chewy, flaky bread that makes eating by hand very enjoyable).
Chickpea and Mushroom Curry
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 Tb oil (I used sunflower)
- 300 g white mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 1 can (400 g) chopped tomatoes
- 3/4 cup creamy coconut milk (75% fat) - 1 cup is 250 ml
- 480 g cooked chickpeas (from an 800 g can, or use 2 x 400 g cans)
- 2 tsp curry powder (I use mild Madras curry powder)
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper powder
- 8 dry curry leaves (even better if you can use fresh)
In a large pot or casserole heat the oil on medium. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds until fragrant. Add the onion, sprinkle about 1/2 tsp salt to help soften it faster, cover with a lid and cook for 5-7 minutes until soft and almost translucent, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking or browning (you might need to reduce the heat, depending on what type of dish you're using).
Add the aromatics and mix everything well, cook for about a minute.
Add the chopped mushrooms, sprinkle another 1/2 tsp salt to soften and release their juices faster and cook covered for about 10 minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes (with the juice), coconut milk, chickpeas and curry leaves, adjust salt (I added another tsp), cover and cook for 20-25 minutes until thickened, but not dry (after it comes to a boil adjust the heat so that it simmers gently and stir once in a while). While cooking, chop the tomatoes further with a spatula if you find big chunks. Turn the heat off and leave the pot on the hot burner, covered. That will help thicken the curry further.
As you may have noticed from your experience, the longer the tomatoes are cooked, the darker they turn. To get this deep brown colour I used white mushrooms with black gills, as the liquid they release is dark and combines with the tomatoes and coconut milk to create brown. If you prefer a different colour, here's how:
- for orange-brown: once the mushrooms turn dark and release their juice, cook them uncovered until the juice evaporates completely. Reserve 2-3 Tb chopped tomatoes and proceed with the instructions. As the curry cooks the colour will change from orange-red towards brown. You may need to add some of the reserved tomatoes for a deeper tone. A little turmeric will also help maintain an orange hue.
- for deep red: cook the mushrooms as above. Add the tomatoes and about 1/3 cup coconut milk. Cook covered for about 10 minutes after it comes to a boil, then remove the lid and increase the heat so that the gravy thickens before it has a chance to turn brown. Don't forget to stir from time to time.
Since you're cooking tomatoes, make sure to use a non-reactive dish, as that could alter the taste of the curry.
Once you have the curry simmering, you can start preparing the rice. You need:
- 1 cup (190 g) basmati rice
- 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) water
- 1 tsp salt
- oil or vegan butter, optional
In a bowl, thoroughly wash and drain the rice a few times until the water runs clear. The rice will look slightly translucent. Cover with cold water 1-2 cm above the rice level and soak for 30 minutes. Drain. Now the rice will be bigger in volume and opaque white.
Five minutes before the soaking time is over, pour the water in a pan and add salt. For this amount I used a 21 cm heavy-bottom pan. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting, see-through lid and bring the water to a boil. Transfer the pan to the smallest burner turned to high. Add the rice and spread it around the pan in an even layer without stirring it much. Cover with the lid and bring back to a boil (about 30 seconds). Cook for about 3 minutes on high, during which time the rice will start foaming.
When the water level has reached the rice level or just below it, reduce the heat to low and allow to cook for another 3-4 minutes. The golden rule of making basmati rice is to not remove the lid until it is ready, so that steam does not escape. Well, I never follow it. I like the rice to be uniformly cooked, so after lowering the heat I let the rice cook for a couple of minutes and then quickly remove the lid with one hand and give it a stir with the other, using a small knife, then cover it again and cook for another 1-2 minutes. That ensures that the rice on the bottom doesn't get sticky because of the weight, it also helps separate the grains a bit and gives you an idea of how much longer to cook it (you can see if there's more water, or if it's beginning to stick to the bottom).
Lastly, turn the heat off and let it sit on the hot burner for 5 minutes. Use a fork (or the same knife) to gently stir the rice to separate the grains and make it look fluffy. Some people like to add a few drops of oil to the water in which the rice cooks, or a little butter when making it fluffy, to also add some flavour. I prefer to keep things simple, so I don't add either.
Instead of white, you could make brown basmati rice. While it is highly nutritious, it also comes with a distinctive taste.
I would love to get your feedback after trying this recipe, so please leave a comment below. And if you know other great combinations involving chickpeas please drop me a line, I'm always on the search for new exciting curries.
Enjoy and spread the magic!:)
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