I order Indian food far more than I should. I can’t help it, and the fact that I live a stone’s throw away from New York’s Curry Hill certainly doesn’t make it any easier.
There’s just something about the cuisine with its heady mix of spices that I love. Perhaps its because the food makes me nostalgic for my student days in London, living on Drummond Street when my flatmates and I would scour every restaurant on the block for the best deals, eventually finding a place with a £5 thali and BYOB that became a staple. Or, it’s the intense flavor that characterizes the dishes, making them filling without being heavy.
I’ve had this nagging sense that I could save myself a ton of money if I could simply learn how to cook Indian food myself. And, yet it’s the cooking that’s always eluded me. Each dish would be good, but, not quite there. Or, that was true until I found the recipe below.
The ingredients were mostly things I had on hand, or at the very least was familiar with, and the method couldn’t be more simple. The trick here is making sure that your spices are toasted well before adding any of the liquid. Let them go until they fill your kitchen with perfume. You’ll be able to tell when they’re ready just by the smell. Another trick, I suppose, is getting pointers from a South Indian friend whose mother taught her how to cook (see note below).
So, finally, curry from my own kitchen! And, now, yours, too.
The best part, aside from tailoring your dinner to your own personal tastes? Knowing it’ll be on your table in far less time than delivery.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
A few notes before you get started:
- Don’t get discouraged by the amount of spices that this recipe calls for. Once you have them around, the dish is basically a mix of pantry staples. And, what could be easier, or cheaper, than that?
- And with regard to those spices: Smitten Kitchen’s version of this recipe calls for Amchoor powder. I had no luck finding it despite going to Kalustyan’s, which sells every spice under the sun. It turns out it was there all along, I was just too short to find it. At any rate, I substituted Anardana powder, which is another souring agent made from pomegranate seeds. I’m sure that Amchoor powder, which is made from unripe mangoes, would be lovely as well. In either case, if you don’t want to make the investment in the spices, doubling up the lemon juice should also give you the desired sourness to tie the curry together.
- About the beans. Traditional chana masala is made exclusively with chickpeas. I used a mixture of chickpeas, red kidney beans and roman beans in the dish pictured here because I like the mix of textures and happened to have those varieties on hand.
- And, last but not least, a friend of mine whose family hails from Southern India mentioned to me that her mother used to add brown sugar to her curries to give them an added depth and curry leaves for the aromatic smell. I’ve added both here. They’re optional, but well worth it. Together they’ll make your dish taste far more authentic.
1 TBS vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp grated ginger
1 TBS ground coriander
2 TBS ground cumin
½ tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 anardana powder
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp garam masala
1 28 oz can of tomato puree
1 tsp crushed curry leaves (optional)
2/3 of water
6 cups beans
½ lemon, juiced
1 tsp Tabasco Sauce
2 TBS Brown Sugar (optional)
Heat oil in a large pan or dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook over a medium heat until browned.
Turn the heat down and add in your spices (everything from coriander to garam masala on the list above). Cook for about 2 minutes, until the spices get fragrant.
Add in your tomatoes, water, brown sugar, and curry leaves and stir. Once the liquid is incorporated with the spiced onion mixture, add in the beans.
Allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in salt, lemon juice and Tabasco sauce, and simmer for another 5 minutes so the the flavors have a chance to meld.
Serve with rice.