While my mom is an incredible cook whose chicken pie would beat Jamie’s hands down, she’s not what you’d call adventurous in the kitchen. When I was growing up, the most exotic things she added to her dishes were Bisto and a bit of white pepper. So, I never tasted a proper curry till I was about 27, and in all the years since I’ve had to make up for lost time (though, I have to assert, she has since perfected a lamb curry that would make Madhur Jaffrey hang up her apron).
I do like me a curry. Like my mom, I’m a gooier, which means I gravitate towards forgiving dishes – ones that won’t sulk and flop on you if you add three cloves of garlic instead of one (what’s the point of one?). There is something so wonderful about toasting spices, throwing hefty hunks of meat in the pot along with a tin or two of tomatoes and smelling it thicken and glorify while you mess around on Facebook. It’s a really hard dish to get wrong.
But sometimes my curry cravings come on arbitrary Tuesdays where I cannot (CANNOT) deal with anything that takes longer than 7 minutes. So, I came up with this dish which does all the good things a curry should do without being a nuisance and, what’s more, you will have every single one of these ingredients, I swear. You’ll need:
1 clove of garlic (okay, three)
1 tin of chickpeas
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped/a tin of tomatoes
Curry powder (whatever strength you prefer. I say, go for the hotness)
Cinnamon/turmeric/dried ghania/masala spice/dried ginger/ whatever you’ve got lurking. You don’t have to have them all.
Spinach or frozen peas
Plain yoghurt and/or coconut milk (the latter is optional, and only if you were fancy at Pick n Pay)
Fry your chopped onion and garlic in a bit of oil, then and add your curry powder and whatever other spices you’re using. Be generous with the cinnamon. When they’re dark and your onion’s gone opaque, add the chickpeas. Shmoosh them around so that they’re covered in spices and then add your tomatoes. If using fresh tomatoes, add half a glass of water too or it’ll be too dry. Let this lot cook up a bit, maybe for five minutes. When it’s looking like a curry, add a tablespoon of chutney, a swirl of yoghurt or coconut milk and fresh spinach or frozen peas or both. Season, and stir them around until they’re heated through. Voila! Burning love. Without getting all Nigella, it’s spicy, warming and delicious, and when the world feels hostile – as it totally does some days – this just hits the spot. Curl up on the couch and eat it in a bowl with a spoon and some extra chutney. And don’t share it with your children. Some things need to be just for you.