One of my favorite things to make on a weeknight, these days, is a kitchen cupboard chickpea curry. It goes like this: I open my kitchen cupboard, pull out a can of chickpeas, a bag of rice, a tube of tomato paste, a can of coconut milk, and as many spices as I feel like using. It also helps to have an onion, garlic, ginger, lemons (or limes) and cilantro, but only the onion is essential there–the other stuff just makes it that much better.
Cook the rice any way you like–I use a rice cooker–and then, to get the curry going, chop your onion and add it to a pan coated with a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil. Crank up the heat, sprinkle with salt and get those onions brown. You can lower the heat when the browning starts, to coax a deeper, more nuanced color out of them (French onion soup style) but that’s not necessary. What is necessary is that you take them right to the edge because that’s where the flavor begins. So get them golden brown.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast some spices. For this particular curry I toasted coriander seeds, fennel seeds and cumin seeds:
When they’re nice and fragrant and just starting to color, tip them into a spice grinder, allow them to cool for a minute or two and then grind them into a powder. Set that aside.
Chop up a few cloves of garlic and, if you have it, some fresh ginger (peeled). Add that to the pan with the browned onions along with the spices and a squeeze of tomato paste (you could also add cayenne pepper here if you like your curry spicy):
Let that toast for a little bit–just until the garlic gives off its aroma–and then add a can of drained chickpeas:
Stir around to coat in the aromatics and season with salt. Cook for 30 seconds or so and then add a can of well-stirred coconut milk and, if you want, some slivered almonds because…why not?
Sprinkle in a little more salt, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes until the curry thickens and the flavors meld. Taste to adjust and, towards the end, add a few squeezes of lemon juice or lime juice to perk up the flavor:
Spoon the cooked rice into bowls and top with the chickpea curry (and lots of the tasty liquid). Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve with lemon or lime wedges:
And there you are—a cheap, healthy dinner perfect for a weeknight. And, if your kitchen cupboard is well stocked, you don’t even have to shop for it. Not bad, eh?