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Real Fast Food: Easy Chana Masala (Chickpea Curry)

chickpea curry, curried chickpeasI love legumes. They are the perfect convenience food – waiting on the pantry shelf to be turned into a fast, real meal whenever you need it. Chickpeas are high in fiber and protein, low in fat and packed with nutrients. They’re cheap, and easy on the environment. One of my favorite things to do with them is turn them into a fast curry; not only does it make a great dinner (without turning the oven on), it keeps very well in the fridge. It’s even better the next day, so leftovers make a great lunch to bring to work.

Chickpeas can be bought dried then soaked and simmered, and in fact, if you want to go this route, they can be frozen in zip-lock bags in their cooking liquid to thaw as if you were opening a can. But to be truly quick they need to be ready to go. This is one of my favourite ways to doctor up a can of beans. A quick turn in a hot pan with spices and chilies, finished with some tomato and a can of coconut milk (use light if you’re concerned with the saturated fat content of coconut milk), and it’s perfect atop some freshly steamed rice, (which, by the way, you can freeze in advance as well. Thaw it on the countertop and reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave with a spoonful of water.)

Quick Chickpea Curry

canola or olive oil, for cooking
1 tsp. cumin seed
1 small onion, chopped
1 small red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro (finely chopped stems are fine too)
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1-2 tsp. curry paste or powder
1-2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped, or 1 14 oz. (398 mL) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 19 oz. (540 mL) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2-1 can coconut milk (regular or light)
1 tsp. salt

In a large skillet, heat a generous drizzle of oil over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seed and cook for a minute or two, until fragrant. Add the onion and red pepper and cook for 5 minutes, until soft and starting to turn golden. Add the jalapeño, cilantro, ginger and curry paste and cook for another minute, then add the tomatoes, chickpeas, half a can of coconut milk and salt. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 5-8 minutes, until the sauce thickens. If it’s too thick, or if you like it saucier, add more coconut milk. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve hot, over rice.

Photo credit: istockphoto/LauriPatterson

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