Mais oui, I have so many discoveries and photos to share about my trip to Paris last weekend, but before then I promised my long-term-long-distance buddy Helen I would write this recipe up for her via Instagram, and everyone knows sisters-come-before-awesome-vegan-burgers-with-melted-vegan-cheese-from-Paris-of-all-places! So you'll have to hold out a little longer for those revelations. First we have this curry to deal with.
And what a curry. This is a battleaxe of a recipe, but once you've got it down it's a great one to have in your arsenal (Metaphor cringe! Go with it!)
I started making channa dhal, i.e. dhal with split chickpeas, by accident, after buying a pack of dried chickpeas in the local shop and thinking they were yellow lentils- they do look very similar initially but the end result is quite different. What I like about channa dhal is this keeps a bite- if you've ever had the aubergine and chickpea curry at Tayyabs- that's the consistency you're aiming for- it's got all the amazing flavours of a dhal, but just a bit less 'soup'. It takes a damn sight longer to cook but entirely worth it. I made a huge pot of this for 9 friends that came to dinner a few weeks ago and left it on the stove for everyone to help themselves, adding a coriander and tomato salad at the side and basmati rice- it's super easy if you need a vegan and gluten-free option, and is never going to cost you more than £5 to make, even scaling this up to ten people.
My main trick here? Chicken curry seasoning. You heard. If you've used local shops as your main supermarket replacement for a number of years you may already know what I'm talking about. You'll find these babies usually by the dried noodles or jars of spices. Dry powder curry seasoning contains all the different spices and ingredients you need to make specific curries, without having to track down and scale up each ingredient. Of course check the ingredients list to make sure it's a) entirely vegan and gluten free and b) no weird additives or extras you can pronounce, but I'd say 90% of the time these packets stick to traditional store cupboard items you'd need to make a curry, and are so useful (and cheap- mine cost about £1.19 each and last me about a month) for creating a proper flavour that's not overly salty, spicy or cinnamon-y (always my mistake!). Stock up on a few, I find the chicken versions of the vegetable curries you want to make work best, and you can add them in whenever anything needs a kick of flavour- I even add mine to my vegan haggis recipe!
Makes enough for ten. Because.
** IMPORTANT THING TO READ BEFORE LEAVING THIS RECIPE TO THE LAST MINUTE** The split chickpeas need to be soaked over night or at least for four hours, or this will take about 3 hours of solid cooking time for the chickpeas to tenderise. It still takes about 2 hours in total to cook this, so it's possibly one to save for a day at home.
500g split chickpeas
2 white onions, chopped small
Salt and pepper
3 red chillies, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 large bunch coriander, stalks chopped down small, leaves loosely chopped
Juice of 4 limes
1 pack of chicken tikka masala or channa masala dry spice mix
4 spring onions, chopped, as garnish
Extra cumin seeds dry-roasted in a frying pan for garnish
Soak the chickpeas in a large mixing bowl full of cold water- you may spot a few wayward lentils etc popping up from the mix- fish these out and then leave the chickpeas to stand over night or for at least four hours.
When the four hours are up, drain the chickpeas and set aside. Heat the onion in a large pan with a little salt and pepper. Allow them to sweat for a few minutes so they begin to smell great, then add in the chillies and garlic and cook for a few minutes more. Now sprinkle in the cumin seeds, turmeric and the chopped stalks of the coriander, along with half the lime juice. Stir so all the flavours can combine, then add in 2 tablespoons of the dry spice mix. Cook for a further few minutes (your kitchen should smell great by now), and then finally add in all the chickpeas. Pour in boiling water until it just covers the chickpeas and allow to cook for a good hour, stirring as you go and continuing to top up with water so nothing sticks. It's a slow process but it's worth it!
After an hour, start tasting the chickpeas to see how much longer they need- in this time you can also prepare the other dishes to serve along side this- I warmed some Turkish pide bread (because it's the best) in the oven for my friends to stop them from getting too impatient, and also started to make the tomato and coriander salad that tastes great with the chickpeas here. This curry definitely allows for you to pause and have a beer with your friends which is always a plus!
Another thirty minutes later and try to stop adding any more liquid as the curry thickens, but do add in a few more teaspoons of the dry curry mix if it needs more flavouring, more salt and pepper is required, and some more lime juice and coriander leaves- adding them now will stop the leaves from getting cooked to oblivion so you can still spot them when it's time to serve it up.
Finish by covering the curry with the toasted cumin seeds and spring onions, and allow ten more minutes of cooking time so the chick peas can soak up as much flavour and possible and the curry can reduce a little more. Use the photo of the curry in the wok above as a guide for when it's ready too!
Serve with basmati rice, chopped tomato salad, soy yoghurt and chopped cucumber and as many plates as you have and dig in!