Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chana Masala - Chickpea Curry

Growing up, I wasn't very much of an adventurous eater. My family is Swiss so most of my meals were European in nature, the closest thing I ate to Indian food was a veal dish my mum would make which had 'curry powder' in it. Delicious as it was, it didn't count. So when my palate discovered the yumminess of Indian food it took a little adjusting. I got the impression that creating 'real' Indian food would be complicated and time-consuming, what with the use of so many exotic spices and knowing how to combine them all.

Truth is, it's waaaay easier than you'd expect to create a yummy satisfying Indian meal at home. There is no need to buy ready made meals or spice pastes, don't waste your money! All you need to do is buy the commonly used Indian spices, get in the kitchen and have a go. Btw they are very economical if you buy them from Indian grocery stores or bulk stores (like Bin Inn here in NZ). You'd be surprised what quick and easy (and nutritious) meals you can come up with just with a few of them. You don't even have to follow recipes to the letter, you can customize them to your tastes (this is especially handy if you are afraid of the chilli).

Anyway, back to today's dish. It uses a spice that people may be less familiar with, but it is worth having if in your arsenal if you want to add a little more zing to your Indian creations. It's called Amchoor, a powder made from dried unripe green mangoes. It will add extra depth to curries due to its tangy and fruity nature. This dish is an accessible introduction to it, so feel free to adjust the other spices to your tastes, but don't leave it (or the lemon/lime) out as the citrus sour tang is what makes this dish stand out from the crowd. Chana Masala is often served as a dry curry, but I prefer a little more sauce so I don't reduce it too much, so feel free to cook it longer (or use less water) if you want. Make it whichever way you prefer.


1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped
1 heaped tablespoon cumin seeds, lightly ground in a pestle and mortar (feel free to halve the quantity of whole seeds and add some ground cumin if you prefer)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
2 heaped tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon amchoor (mango powder) 
1 400g tin of tomatoes in juice, chopped
1 cup water
Two 420g tins of chickpeas, drained and rinsed. (Or use up to 4 cups of cooked chickpeas)
Juice of half a lemon (If you have limes, even better)
Salt to taste (I tend to use about 1/2 a teaspoon)
Coriander leaves, chopped, for garnish


Heat oil over a medium high heat.
Add onion, fry for about 5 minutes or until they start to brown.
Add cumin seeds, cook for a minute or so then add the garlic, ginger and chopped chilli.
Cook for a few minutes more then reduce the heat and add all the spice powders.
Stir constantly for a couple minutes then add the tomatoes, mix well.
Add the water and chickpeas.
Bring to a simmer and let it bubble away uncovered for about 10 minutes, or longer if you prefer the curry drier.
Add the lemon juice then salt to taste.

Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with rice, chapati or even just bread.
It's also nice served with onion rings topped with black pepper and salt a squeeze of lemon/lime juice.

Serves 4

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Pikelets with Orange Cranberry Sauce

My boyfriend and I are a huge sweet-tooths, and we both love eating home made treats. So we often moan to each other about needing to stuff our faces with delicious sugary goodies. (We are pigs as well as sweet-tooths). Problem is, he doesn't bake so it's always me that is left to slave away in the kitchen. (Okay so I actually enjoy it most of the time). 

However, there are those times when I'm feeling lazy or uninspired, yet the sweet-tooth cravings must be sated. That's when I turn to those classic favourite recipes which are super easy and can be whipped up in a moment's notice, or before my boyfriend's tummy rumbling becomes deafening.  For me things like french toast and pancakes or pikelets  are my saviours. They can be made in under 15 minutes and the toppings are only limited by your imagination. 

The last time I made pikelets I found some cranberries in the freezer so I turned them into this simple yummy topping. The sauce is tangy and sweet and has a great citrus undertone. I also topped them with a bit of natural yoghurt to cut through the sweetness. A winning combination that I will be sure to repeat. A simple alternative to the standard jam and cream topping.

Btw if you don't know what a pikelet is, it's similar to a pancake but smaller and thicker. They are also really adaptable; I like to sometimes add grated apple or mashed banana into the batter, that way they are yum even without a topping. Yum!

Do you have favourite quick sweet treats you like to whip up when you get a craving?

The Cranberry and Orange Sauce:


200g frozen cranberries (fresh would obviously be fine too)
200g sugar
60ml water
Grated zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange 


Cook all the ingredients in a pot on a medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the mixture thickens and most of the berries have popped.
Let cool. Makes approx 1 cup.

The Pikelets:


1 cup (150g) self-raising flour (or add 1 teaspoon baking powder to plain flour)
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon caster sugar
3/4 cup (185ml) milk
1 egg 


Add the flour, sugar and salt to a bowl.
Whisk the milk and egg together. Gradually add them to the dry ingredients, whisking until smooth.
Heat a little butter in a frypan over medium heat. Drop tablespoonfuls of mixture into the pan. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface then flip over and cook for just another minute or until golden. 
Makes approx 20 small pikelets.