The inspiration for new recipes strikes in many ways. A couple of months ago I enjoyed a curried chickpea and white basmati rice dish with yogurt and spinach at a local restaurant. The chickpeas were mildly spiced, and I found that everything came together harmoniously in the stylish bowl it was served in. Afterwards, the taste memories kept dancing around my mind, so you know what that means … I’ve been playing around at creating my own version of this dish.
I wanted a more robust and even healthier version of what I had at the restaurant. So, I curried chickpeas with black mustard seed, kalonji and chana masala. They turned out flavourful, spicier than the restaurant version but still in the mild range. The contrast of the jet black kalonji and dark mustard seeds against the tawny chickpeas draws the eye; I like whole spices not only for flavour, but also for their visual appeal.
I’ve been curious about cashew cream for some time, so I decided to make a sour cream version with cider vinegar to replicate the tang of the yogurt in the original dish. The heat of the Kasmiri red chili powder that I stirred into it raised the oompf factor. (For me, at least. My idea of oompf may be wildly divergent from yours since I’m a self-confessed spice weenie. Do add more spice if you scoff at my idea of hot enough.) Yep, cashew sour cream did the job just as I intended it to, serving as the sauce that pulled the whole dish together. If you don’t want to go with cashew cream, I suggest some thick, creamy plain yogurt with some chili powder and a pinch of salt stirred in.
Brown basmati rice added more flavour and nutrition. I didn’t season it beyond a bit of salt and pepper, because the idea is to mix it in with the spiced elements in the bowl. The final touch was a few handfuls of spinach that I rinsed and wilted in the same pan used to curry the chickpeas, to take advantage of any residual spiciness.
I’ve made this meal twice now, and it comes together quickly. You do have to plan ahead a bit for the cashew cream since the nuts have to soak a while before you use them. The second time I made the cream a couple of days ahead and then gently warmed it before dolloping it onto the plate.
I enjoyed every bite of this dinner and think you will, too. The fact that it happens to be vegan is a bonus, because now you have something in your repertoire that everyone around the table can enjoy when you need to feed a vegan. Not that I’d wait for one to ring my doorbell before serving this.
Note: Photographs for this post were shot with an iPhone6 and edited in iPhoto.
Curried Chickpea Bowl with Spiced Cashew Sour Cream
Start by cooking the brown rice well in advance. If you have extra on hand in the fridge that you can just heat up, all the better. Brown rice takes 40 to 45 minutes to cook, so keep that in mind. For two servings, I used 1/2 cup of rice and 1 cup of water, with a bit of salt and pepper.
This recipe makes two servings.
Spiced Cashew Sour Cream
To make cashew cream from scratch you need to soak the cashews in cold water for about 8 hours or 2 hours in boiling water. To help speed mine along, I drained and replaced the boiling water a couple of times.
- 1/2 cup raw, whole cashews
- boiling water to cover
- 1/4 cup cold water plus more if needed
- 1/2 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- pinch salt
Cover the raw cashews with the boiling water and set a plate on top of the bowl. Soak for a couple of hours. I drained and replaced the hot water a couple of times.
When ready to process, drain the cashews and place them in a blender or food processor. (This batch is too small for my huge and powerful blender, so I used my cheapo mini processor which did the job, but a better machine would have given me a smoother cream.) Add 1/4 cup water and process until a thick paste forms. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the chili powder, salt and vinegar and process further. Should you wish the cream to be thinner add more water in increments until you’ve achieved the desired consistency.
Taste, and adjust the chili powder and vinegar until you reach the level of both spiciness and tang that’s right for you.
Cashew cream can be kept in the fridge for a few days once made. Warm it gently over low heat until it reaches room temperature; it doesn’t have to be hot.
- 2 tsp coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp kalonji (nigella seeds)
- 1 tsp chana masala
- 1 19-oz can of chickpeas, rinsed
- a pinch or two of kosher or sea salt
Heat the oil over medium heat in a small skillet and add the spices. Stir, and once the mustard seeds start popping, tumble in the chickpeas. Add 1/4 cup water, sprinkle on the salt and cook covered for 10 to 15 minutes to heat the chickpeas through, stirring from time to time. Remove the lid and cook until the liquid is reduced to almost nothing. Decant the chickpeas into a bowl and keep warm.
For two, rinse about six handfuls of baby spinach (6 to 8 ounces) and put in the pan that you used for the chickpeas, over low heat. Cover for a few minutes, then toss about with some tongs. Add a pinch of salt and a grating of pepper. The spinach will pick up flavours from the pan as well.
Plating Tips: I like to put the rice, chickpeas and spinach in a ring around the plate or bowl, with a nice big dollop of cashew cream in the middle.