Channa Masala with kale & sweet potato

kale-sweet-potato-chickpea-masalaI’m drawn towards orange and green. These earthy colours feature in my food too: pumpkin, sweet potato, Tuscan kale (cavolo nero), silverbeet, spinach and rocket are just some of my favourites.

Usually the colour of the vegetable tells us a story about its nutritional content. Orange ones are full of beta-carotene, which gets converted to vitamin A in the body. And green ones typically give us vitamin A, C and K. Both colours also mean plenty of antioxidants are in store. So, may be I should call this colourful dish ‘antioxidant channa masala’? 😉

Channa masala (spiced chickpea curry) is a traditional Indian dish. My version isn’t authentic, though – mainly because I’ve added vegetables. But it is quite yummy. I was after a convenient meal that would give me a protein and veggie hit in the one pot, and some spicy notes to warm me up during the cool Melbourne evenings. I hope it warms you up too. If you’re not used to making curries, don’t shy away from this dish because of the spices. Most can be found in supermarkets now. And it’s really quite easy to make, especially if you’re using canned chickpeas.

Recipe

Serves 2 to 3 

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 15 g tamarind* pulp (a small knob, about the size of an Aussie 10 cent piece) or  2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 sprig curry leaves (about 10 leaves)
  • 1 brown onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
  • 4–6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 20 g ginger, peeled and crushed or grated
  • 1 red chilli (if you prefer a milder heat, remove the seeds), finely sliced
  • ½ cups golden sweet potato, diced into 1cm sized cubes
  • 1 heaped cup cooked chickpeas (1 400 g can, or cook ½ cup dried chickpeas, keeping the water you cook them in)
  • 3 cups finely chopped Tuscan kale
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • sea salt, to taste

* A sour-tasting fruit of the tamarind tree, sold as a thick pulp. Used often in Indian and Asian cuisine and can be bought in Indian grocery stores.

Method

First make your masala mix: Keeping the mustard seeds aside, dry roast the other seeds and the cloves in a fry pan over moderate heat. Shake the pan occasionally so the spices don’t burn. When fragrant, tip into a mortar or spice grinder and grind into a fine powder. Then mix in the turmeric powder and ground cinnamon and set aside.

If using the tamarind pulp, soak it in 2 tablespoons of hot water for about 5 minutes. Using your fingers, mash the pulp into the water. Then squeeze as much of the liquid you can from the undissolved pulp before discarding it. Set the tamarind juice aside.

In a large heavy-based pot, heat the olive oil over moderate heat and add the curry leaves and mustard seeds. When they start to pop and splatter, stir in the onions and sauté for a few minutes until translucent. Tip in the chilli, and crushed garlic and ginger. Sauté for another couple of minutes before adding the masala mix. Stir continually for another minute before adding the sweet potato and cooked chickpeas. You can add about half a teaspoon of salt here. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes over low heat. Stir occasionally.

Next add 2 cups of water. If you have used dried chickpeas, you can the water you cooked them in. If you don’t quite have two cups, just make it up with normal water. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Then stir in the kale, coconut milk and tamarind liquid or lemon juice. Cook for another 5 minutes or until the consistency is to your liking. It shouldn’t be too runny. If it’s too watery, you can mash some of the sweet potato cubes to help thicken the sauce. Season to your taste and serve this colourful dish with basmati or brown rice for a complete meal.

Hearty chicken, barley & vegetable

hearty-pearl-barley-poached-soup1Ingredients

  • 1 cup pearl barley, soaked overnight, then drained and rinsed
  • 1 bunch Dutch or heirloom carrots
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra
  • 1 leek (white part only), finely chopped
  • 1 brown onion, finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, diced
  •  2 tbsp mirin or a splash of white wine
  • 6 cups homemade stock (either vegetable or chicken)
  • 4 cups shredded kale or silverbeet
  • 8 medium mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 chicken breasts, diced into chunks
  • freshly ground salt and pepper, to taste
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
Note: You can also throw in some thyme and a couple of bay leaves. I didn’t have any, so went without. It was still delicious though!

Method

Preheat oven to 180ºC and lightly oil carrots before roasting for 30 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, slice into 1 cm-thick rounds and set aside.

Next, heat the oil in a large heavy-based pot. Sweat the onions, leek, garlic and celery for about 10 minutes.

Then add the pearl barley and stir continually as you sauté for a couple of minutes.

Add the mirin (or white wine), and once it has evaporated, add the stock. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and check periodically to make sure there’s enough stock (you could always add some more if needed). I also used a diffuser so that the barley doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. The pearl barley will take an hour or so to cook. Longer if you’re using organic pearl barley.

Once the barley is cooked (I check by tasting it), add the mushroom, chicken and kale. Simmer for another 10 minutes to make sure the chicken is cooked, then stir through the carrots and lemon juice, and season to taste.