I’m starting to run out of foods I don’t like.
Radishes? I like those now, especially when they’re young and fresh. Turnips? I love them – there’s nothing I’m happier to see in the CSA box. Winter squash… well, I’m softening there.
And chickpeas. I used to really dislike chickpeas, except ground into unrecognizability in hummus. Now, for some reason, I have started to crave them. The starchy texture that bothered me before now seems delightful, comforting, in the way that potatoes are comforting. Like potatoes, they happily accept all kinds of flavoring without getting lost. I particularly appreciate the chickpea garbed in bright Spanish and Indian spices. They are wonderful, for example, in a Spanish-inspired stew with garlic, chorizo, and smoked paprika.
The most delicious way I have found with chickpeas is a deeply spiced (but just a little spicy-hot) Indian dal made quite tart by the addition of lemon juice or tamarind. Ketchup provides a little contrasting sweetness. The spicy sourness against the starchy chickpeas is absolutely addictive.
There are a lot of specialty ingredients, such as curry leaves, tamarind concentrate, and mango powder, in this recipe, but none are necessities. A very similar, completely delicious version can be achieved with more readily found ingredients. I’ve written the recipe – adapted from two different recipes in Suvir Saran’s Indian Home Cooking – to accommodate either. Don’t be put off by the long ingredient list; the dish comes together fast.
Serve with basmati rice for a delicious vegetarian meal.
Indian Sour Chickpeas
Serves: 4 to 6 Time: 40 minutes
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
6 frozen curry leaves, if available
4 whole cloves
4 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
3 whole dried red chilies (or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper)
1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger
2 red or yellow onions, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric, if available
3 teaspoons dried mango powder, if available
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 19-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon garam masala (if available)
1 or 2 teaspoons toasted ground cumin, to taste
Juice of 2 lemons OR 1.5 teaspoons tamarind concentrate dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Heat the oil with the cumin seeds, curry leaves (if using), cloves, and cardamom, in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the cumin starts to brown and become fragrant. Add the chilies, ginger, onion, and salt, and saute 10 to 15 minutes until the onions are uniformly brown. If the onions start to stick to the pan, loosen them as necessary with a half-tablespoon or so of water at a time.
Stir in the turmeric and mango powder (if using), ketchup, chickpeas, garam masala, ground cumin, and all but 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice or all of the tamarind water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 10 minutes. Remove the lid and cook 5 minutes more, stirring often to prevent sticking. The sauce should cling thickly to the chickpeas. Stir in the cilantro and the reserved lemon juice (if using lemon). Taste, adjust salt and spices as necessary, and serve.
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