punjabi spinach and chickpeas

This week has flown by. Reunited with my love of swimming (thank you, one-week trial gym pass!), I plunged into cool water on Tuesday night after two months of land-based workouts. I emerged an hour and fifteen minutes later with my sore muscles, a refreshed mind, and a hungry belly.

Thank goodness this was waiting for me when I arrived home.

spinach and chickpea curry

On Monday night I’d finally gotten around to trying this recipe, collecting digital dust in my recipe bookmarks. It’s the kind of thing you just might already have everything on hand for, provided you’re a hummus, stew, and salad eater who always has garlic around.

In other words, me.

spinach and chickpea curry

I don’t know why I bookmarked this particular recipe, and I don’t know what made me pick it out of my long list of delicious-sounding dinner candidates. It’s not that it looked that different—I make things with curry and tomatoes and chickpeas all the time. The appeal of habit? Perhaps.

Well, it lived up to its bookmark-worthy status. With a depth and complexity of flavor I can only describe as more “authentic” than my usual curry-powder based curries, this stew radiates turmeric, cumin, garlic, and ginger. I learned later that its author (the famed Indian chef Madhur Jaffrey) deems this dish characteristically Punjabi. Perhaps that’s why it seemed new to me.

spinach and chickpea curry

And I always like a recipe that surprises: usually, you chop up the garlic and saute it along with the onions, right? Not in this stew. I had to re-read the recipe about four times until I believed that yes, putting garlic, ginger, and water in the blender would produce something I’d want to add to my dinner.

This frothy mixture, and the addition of lemon juice at the end, take this bright yellow curry to a whole new level: you just might want to back your chair up a little from your co-workers if you decide to take it for lunch.

Punjabi Spinach and Chickpeas

Serves four (or one, many many times over)

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon canola oil (cut from the original 3)
4 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped2 ½ pound fresh spinach, trimmed of stems (to yield 1 ¼ pounds fresh spinach) — I just used a big bag!
1 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
7 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in quarters
2 tsp. ground turmeric
¾ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground coriander
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 28-ounce can tomatoes, drained
2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas
½ cup of broth or water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1 fresh serrano chile, minced

  1. Heat butter and oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add all but 2 tablespoons of onions and cook until golden brown, about 25 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, trim spinach and wash in several changes of water. Blanch in a large pot of boiling salted water over medium-high heat for 2 minutes, then drain in a colander and cool under cold running water. Squeeze out excess water and roughly chop.
  3. Using a blender or food processor, purée the chopped ginger with the garlic cloves and a ½ cup of water until all the pieces are blended through. Add this mixture to the cooked onions and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the turmeric, cumin, coriander, and cayenne. Reduce heat to low, add tomatoes (break up with the back of a spoon), spinach, and chickpeas. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Add water as needed.
  4. Finely mince reserved onions and ginger, and mix with lemon juice and serrano chili in a small bowl. Just before serving, stir this fresh sauce into the stew. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve hot over rice, with bowls of yogurt if people want to make a creamier stew right in their bowls.

modified from the original in Saveur magazine

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