Spinach, Tomato & Chickpea Curry

PREP TIME: 10 minutes COOKING TIME: 20minutes FEEDS: 4
GF, DF, VV

My take on a classic ‘Chana Saag’ with Chana (Chane in Hindi) : meaning chickpeas (very rough translation for the purist) and Saag: meaning spinach. This ticks all the boxes for me, this fragrant curry tastes as if you slaved over the stove for hours (you haven’t), it can be thrown together with the majority of the ingredients coming from your cupboard and it is QUICK, EASY and CHEAP!

HOW TO PREPARE SPINACH

It might be a bit confusing with all the leaves out there, kale, chard (sometimes called spinach) and then english spinach which is sometimes called baby spinach. Here we are talking about the small delicate baby spinach leaves. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly clean appearance of these tender leaves, they can hold a sandpit! As with all leaves, make sure you wash them properly. I fill a glass bowl with water and soak the leaves in it while swirling with my hands, a little bit like a washing machine! Drain (reserve water for the garden) and repeat. Spin dry if using later on in a salad, but for our purpose a quick spin will be enough as we will be submerging the spinach in the curry.

HOW TO COOK BABY SPINACH

QUICKLY! These tender leaves only need a very brief sauté in a pot and unfortunately they ‘give off’ a lot of water. DRAINING well is crucial as the cooked spinach will keep on releasing (brown!) water if not properly drained, not a pretty look. I normally chop cooked spinach as some might have long stems.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

Serve along some cooked basmati rice (brown of white) for a authentic Indian rice, but any rice will do. This curry makes a delicious topping on a roasted root and a indian take on baked eggs (shakshuka) is also delicious. Feel free to add other diced veggies with the onions, I used aubergine and it worked well, potatoes or courgettes could also work well (bearing in mind that whatever you dice should be small and be soft in 15 minutes along with the onions).

WHAT YOU WILL NEED 

Frying Pan & Pestle & Mortar (P&M)

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoon coconut or neutral oil *
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds (looks pretty not essential)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 large onions, diced
5 small size cloves of garlic or 3 large peeled (grated or bashed in the P&M)
4cm ginger, peeled and grated
1 x 400g tin plum or chopped tomatoes *
2 x 400g tins chickpeas drained *
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon chilli flakes (leave out if heat is not your thing)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 generous teaspoon of salt
400g baby spinach, washed and chopped
2 handfuls of coriander, picked and leaves chopped (opt) *

METHOD

Put the oil into a large lidded pan over a medium heat, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds, stir for a minute, or until the mustard seeds start to pop (they will pop all over the place so keep the lid on), add the onions (or other veggies) stir to cover with seeds and oil and leave to sauté gently for about 10-12 minutes. We are looking for what I call CURRY ONIONS *

When the onions are translucent and soft to the touch add the garlic and ginger, stir for about 3 minutes until fragrant, add the tomatoes, fill the empty tin with a third of the tin with water and add to the pan too (don’t go for ice water here, hot is best). If you are using plum tomatoes, gently squash these with a wooden spoon. Optional: Toast the ground spices together in a dry pan until fragrant – remove.

Cook for 10minutes until quite the curry looks quite dry but with a bit of liquid still left, add the chickpeas, warm the chickpeas for a few minutes then add the coriander, chilli, turmeric and salt. Then add the chopped (raw uncooked) spinach, FOLDING the leaves into the warm curry. This might look like way too much spinach for the curry but quickly the spinach will wilt and shrink fairly quickly into the curry mixture, have faith…

Cook for around 5minutes and serve along with your grain or roasted veggie of choice.

SERVES 4

TIPS & NOTES from my kitchen:

Neutral oil: I use a neutral oil for all my Indian cooking, for me olive oil is just wrong in spicy dishes. Neutral oils will include, canola, sunflower, rapeseed or grapeseed. You need to choose one that you are happy to cook with, always go for 100% of one thing and avoid blends as they normally use the worst (READ REFINED) of everything.
You can grate the garlic and ginger on a fine microplane for extra speed
I always roast my spices, whole or grounded, in a dry frying pan before adding to curries, it just brings the flavour to life
You don’t have to use tinned chickpeas, you can use your own cooked chickpeas. Soak 1/2 cup of chickpeas overnight and cook in cold & fresh water till tender, about 1 hour.
CURRY ONIONS: a term I use for onions that have been cooked down long and slow, they change colour from white, to light brown to golden. They will be 1/3 of the amount started and is a very important START to most indian cooking. The onions release all their natural sugars and you are left with this golden brown deliciousness – a art on its own.

VEGETARIAN: You could add a bit of grilled paneer to the curry
VEGAN ADD ON: You could easily add some tofu to the curry. I would give the tofu a bit of spice love before adding though. Mix some oil with salt, cumin & coriander powder and spread over the pressed tofu, bake in a pre-heated oven on 180, till warmed through.

WHERE TO FIND or BUY THE INGREDIENTS

Fine Microplane – a microplane will be on my ESSENTIAL KITCHEN LIST of must haves, I grate everything if I need to be speedy from garlic, ginger, chocolate, hard cheeses and even nutmeg. You only need one, but it needs to be FINE & DURABLE (because you are using a bit of force)

Organic Tinned Tomatoes – these tend to be ascorbic acid free. Ascorbic acid is added to most tins as a preserving agent, from what I have read, it can be natural and harmless. Organic tomatoes can be quite pricy

Recipe inspired by Meera Sodha