A healthful bowl of curried chickpeas with onions, tomatoes, and spices, served with fragrant turmeric rice and garlicky sauteed Swiss chard.
Outside India, when people think of chickpeas in association with Indian food, often the only recipe that comes to mind is Chana Masala, a spicy, tangy dish popularized by Indian restaurants and food blogs. But in my childhood home in Maharashtra along India’s west coast, my Maharashtrian mom, and later my Goan stepmom, rarely, if ever, made Chana Masala, which is a north Indian dish. What we did eat quite often was Chana Usal, made by cooking deep brown chickpeas in a coconut, spice and onion sauce. It was so delicious, the flavor of my mom’s Chana Usal still lingers on my tastebuds decades after.
I evoked that memorable flavor and richness for the chickpeas in my Curried Chickpeas Bowl with Turmeric Rice and Garlicky Chard.
When usal is cooked in Maharashtrian homes, the legumes used in it are always sprouted. I used the traditional brown chickpeas, which I find here at the Indian store and online, but regular chickpeas are a fine substitute. Sprout them as you would any legume, by soaking them for eight hours and then placing them in a colander. Rinse the sprouts twice a day and keep covered in a dark place until sprouts appear. It took me just about two days to get my chickpeas to sprout, in these crazy warm temperatures we’ve had this winter. Keep in mind that any Indian recipe does not require very long sprouts, the way some Asian recipes do. A tiny little shoot, about a millimeter or two long, is all you need.
To layer into my chickpea bowl, I made a rather simple and pretty Turmeric Rice scented with cumin. You can make this with brown rice, but factor in added time and water for cooking the rice to tenderness.
And finally, to complete this healthy picture, I sauteed some Swiss Chard, one of my favorite greens, with some garlic and mustard seed.
Altogether, the curried chickpeas, turmeric rice, and the garlicky chard made for a great-looking and delicious meal, and they went down rather famously with my little one too who loves chickpeas in almost anything.
Hope you try!
Curried Chickpeas Bowl with Turmeric Rice and Garlicky Chard
For curried chickpeas:
- 1 cup kala chana (brown chickpeas) or regular chickpeas, soaked overnight, then sprouted and cooked until tender. Pressure cooking is best for this (cook up to two whistles or 10 minutes after building up pressure in a cooker that doesn't whistle). If cooking on a stovetop, cover the chickpeas with water to cover by an inch, bring to a boil, cover, lower heat so the water just boils, and cook until tender.
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup grated fresh coconut
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2-inch piece ginger, chopped
- 2 dry red peppers, like Kashmiri chilies
- 2 tsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/2` tsp cayenne
- 2 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
- Salt to taste
For Turmeric Rice
For Sauteed Garlicky Swiss Chard
- 2 bunches Swiss chard, about 12 leaves
- 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp coconut oil
- Salt to taste
Make Curried Chickpeas:
- Heat 1 tsp of oil in a saucepan. Add the onions, dry red chili peppers, ginger and garlic, and saute until the onions start to brown. Add the grated coconut and saute another 3-4 minutes, or until the coconut starts to color slightly. Be watchful and don't let the coconut burn.
- Remove the onion, ginger-garlic, coconut mixture to a blender, add 1 cup of water, and blend into a smooth paste.
- Heat the remaining 1 tsp of oil in a large saucepan. Add the cumin seeds and as they begin to color, add the turmeric, cayenne and garam masala. Almost immediately, add the blended onion-coconut paste and the chickpeas. if you have the cooking water with the chickpeas, don't add it all at once-- use as needed to get the correct thickness for your sauce. Stir everything to mix.
- Cook the chickpeas for 10 minutes over medium heat so all the flavors merge together. Add salt, and stir in coriander leaves.
Make Turmeric Rice:
- In a large saucepan, add the coconut oil and heat. Add the cumin seeds and wait until they begin to change color and darken. Add the turmeric, stir quickly, and add rice and salt to taste.
- Stir-fry the rice for a minute or two until it starts to turn opaque. Now add the water, salt to taste, stir, bring to a boil, and then cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Let the rice stand an additional 10 minutes before opening the lid and fluffing with a fork.
Make Garlicky Chard:
- Heat oil in a skillet. Add the mustard seeds and when they sputter, add the garlic. Let it turn very lightly golden, stirring, and then add the chard. Stir-fry until the chard is wilted. Add salt to taste, cover, and cook another 3-4 minutes or until the chard is as tender as you want it to be.
- Now layer the curried chickpeas, rice and chard in bowls and serve hot.
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