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Wednesday 17 August 2011

Sindhi Style Chickpea Curry

I have just returned from a weekend of what can only be described as 'bareback' camping, in a friend's valley. (Yeah, my friend has a valley. What of it?) There are no facilities in the valley. It was an interesting (and sobering) experience, and I learned several things about life, myself and what we shall call 'the human spirit'.

Firstly, running water and modern sewerage systems are a blessing. I give thanks for all of us here and now. Washing up in cold stream water in the rain is a chore that would cause most people to contemplate suicide seriously (which is why I am particularly thankful to Rish - Mr. R - for doing most of it), and when the lavatory is a shovel and a quiet spot in the woods near the slate quarry, well, let's just say that I was quite happy to get home a few days ago.

Secondly, positivity and happiness can be achieved by looking for the good points in the numerous evils which we face daily. In the context of bareback camping, this means giving thanks for the acrid, woody and black smoke emitted from the enormous campfires (Mr. Other P and Julia are a little over-zealous where log and flames are concerned) in front of your tent. Yes, it gives you red eyes and makes everything smell horrendous, but it does keep away the dreaded mosquitoes. Vile little bastards, I wish death upon thee.

I also learned that Coca Cola cleans grease and filth off of extremely dirty frying pans simply by being heated inside them. People of the world: stop putting this stuff into your bodies. I mean it!

It's not my first time in the valley, and it definitely will not be the last, but we certainly had less than ideal weather conditions this weekend and I can safely say that I am more 'The Call of the Mild' than full-blooded outdoor enthusiast. Still, we are all of us Campers Who Cope and I loved it. So thanks guys for a great time, if you're reading.

(You better had be.)

Now: back to the matter in hand - my curry. I made this a while ago, and wasn't going to post it, since it doesn't contain any sugar and I know what my readers want. But it was so good that I ended up taking this picture of the leftovers and filing it away for when I had time to write about it.

I make a lot of Indian food (and yes, I am perfectly aware that Sindh is a province of Pakistan, but the recipe is from 50 Great Curries of India, so leave me alone), and love curried lentils and pulses. A good dal is one of the most amazing things to eat in the whole wide world, and the fact that they cost next to nothing to make is all the more reason for gleeful indulgence and hysteria.

This chickpea curry is savoury and well-spiced, and was just delicious with some brown basmati rice. I have adapted it slightly here, purely because my spice cupboard doesn't run to amchoor (dried mango powder). I wouldn't normally dare make a change to a cuisine I don't fully understand but I have been spurred on by a recent run of successes.

Usually, I follow the lead of my beloved Sanjana. I have cooked my way through a good five or so of her recipes and never had any problems. If you fancy trying some Indian dishes in your own kitchen, you'd do far worse than start off with something from Ko Rasoi.

But recently, I realised (while, unable to sleep, I was flipping though Camellia Panjabi's book) that I'd never made a curry (or anything at all for that matter) with real, proper chickpeas, the kind that come dried, in a packet, and need soaking, instead of ready-to-go canned ones.

Well, readers, until several years ago when I first went to the valley, I'd never had a bath in river water either, but the fact is that there is a first time for everything, and this was it for me and dried chickpeas. The fact that as curries go this one could scarcely be easier leads me to suggest you make it your first time too. And if you manage that successfully, well, who knows? You might even be ready for bareback camping.

Sindhi Style Chickpea Curry

You will need:

250g dried chickpeas
3 large onions
a thumb sized knob of fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 black cardamoms
8 cloves
2 bay leaves
15 peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper

  1. Soak the chickpeas overnight in cold water.
  2. Chop two of the onions roughly, and the third very finely with the garlic and ginger.
  3. Put the soaked and drained chickpeas into a cooking pot with half of the roughly chopped onion, the black cardamom, the cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns, cumin seeds and a teaspoon of sea salt. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil, before simmering the mixture for 50 minutes or so, until the chickpeas are softened. Drain, reserving the liquid (you can through away the spices now).
  4. In another pot, heat the oil and sauté the remaining chopped onions slowly for about 20 minutes or until browned. Add the finely chopped onion, garlic and ginger, then cook for another 10 minutes.
  5. Now add the turmeric, garam masala and coriander, stir for a minute or so, and then add the tomatoes and chickpeas. Add as much of the reserved cooking liquid as you like to make a gravy (it can be thick or thin, whichever you prefer), and cook for a few minutes until everything is warmed through. Season well.


  1. This looks awesome! I'll have to make it when I'm able to eat carbs in a week or so. You should do more savory dishes if this is the kind of main courses you cook for yourself an.d Mr Other P

  2. That surely a slightly different method and I would love to give it a try. I so agree with you that people shouldn't drink coke :)

  3. I have a friend who has a hill. It's the Black Hill actually which I believe is in your neck of the woods. We once spent a weekend camping under the stars and eating magic mushrooms... but that's a whole other story. I applaud your camping bravery and I applaud your curry x

  4. Priya - I know what you mean. I found it odd that you add the onions in three parts; usually I would brown all of them at the start, because I like the flavour of brown onions and also the colour you get. But this way did work, so let me know if you try it out.

  5. My hair STILL smells of woodsmoke after about 300 showers. I had so much fun, so glad you were there.

    Also, we are just zealous, not OVER-zealous. ;)

  6. I would not survive camping. I'm not so good with nature. I like hotels, hot showers and actual toilet.
    The curry looks fantastic. Love chickpeas. I really enjoy your savoury posts.

  7. looks delicious! i love curries, in whatever form with whatever base.

  8. Yes! and Yum! Looks so delicious! I must try this soon!

  9. When you say 2 black cardamoms, do you mean pods or seeds? I ask because I can get them either way.

  10. Mike, I have naver seen black cardamom in seed form. They are great big, black cardamom pods and are also sometimes called 'giant cardamom'. Does that sound like what you can get hold of?

    Green cardamoms are green and smell fresh and musky. Black cardamom, to me, smells smokey. If in doubt: ask Sanjana!

  11. Thanks! That's exactly what I needed to know. My spice source sells black, green and white pods but they also sell seeds, thus my confusion.


That's what he said.

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