By Isabel Dwyer
I find curries hard to get right at home. Usually, they need tons of ingredients and a great deal of cream to get even remotely near restaurant-standard, but this issue’s recipe is both simple and clean. It comes all the way from Beira, Mozambique, where it was shared with me this past summer, and I haven’t met a recipe for curry that I’ve preferred since. It’s an almost-vegan, sweet and salty chickpea curry, with a thick sauce that will succeed in warming you during this very Galway autumn – a difficult feat.
You’ll need a tin of chickpeas, a tin of coconut milk, a butternut squash or a sweet potato, onion, garlic, ginger, curry powder, stock cubes of your choice, honey, and some rice. The honey and stock cubes (even vegetarian stock cubes sometimes contain animal products) are the only non-vegan ingredients here. To make fully vegan, swap out the honey for maple syrup and take a trip to a health store, like Evergreen, for some vegan stock cubes. Whether you use a butternut squash or a sweet potato is totally up to you. The recipe calls for butternut squash, but if you’re cooking for just yourself you might find it hard to use up the giant vegetable that it is. As for price difference, both cost more or less the same in Mastersons on Headford Road. You can use fresh ginger (about half a knob) or ginger powder (about four tablespoons); fresh ginger is better, but it’s entirely up to you – and your bank account. Save yourself some yo-yos by cooking your rice from scratch instead of buying those pre-cooked microwavable pouches. Not only is it better for your pocket that way, it’s also more environmentally friendly than to be throwing out all those unrecyclable pouches.
Start by prepping your vegetables. Chop up your garlic, onion, and ginger if you’re opting to use it fresh as opposed to powdered. The amount of garlic cloves you use is, as always, up to you. If I wrote down the amount that I used, I’d probably be excommunicated. Chop up your veg of choice too, into small chunks. If you’re using a sweet potato, you can use a whole one, while you’ll only need half of a butternut squash. Don’t forget to peel the squash too.
Heat up your oil in a big enough pot and add the ginger and garlic. If you want to add a bit of heat to the dish, now would be the time to throw in any chili flakes or chili powder you have in the press. After a minute or so, fire in the chopped onion. Give it a mix and let it turn translucent. Keep mixing, or everything will stick to the bottom, especially if you’re using ginger powder. Now turn up the heat and add the squash/potato chunks, and the tin of chickpeas (strained). Add a stock cube and lots of curry powder now, about five heaped tablespoons. Mix well, then empty in the tin of coconut milk. You can keep the heat on high for a bit, still mixing, until the veg starts to soften. Then, turn down and cover with a lid, letting the sauce reduce. Sometimes, to help the sauce reach the texture I want it to be, I use a potato masher to smush down just one section of the contents of the pot, then I mix those mashed bits among the un–mashed. If you want, now would be the time to add any leftover veg that’s close to going off in the fridge, like tomatoes or spinach. Anything goes, there are no rules. Live wild.
When cooking the rice, there should be double the amount of water as there is rice. It should start off cold. Then, bring to a boil. When boiling (big scary bubbles), turn it back down, cover it, and leave it alone to do its thing. Simples.
I like to then leave the curry cooking away on a low heat for ages, just because hard chickpeas are, in my humble opinion, the devil’s children. Once they’re nice and soft, I taste and add a glob of honey for sweetness. Use your instincts and add more curry/ginger powder if needed. Sometimes, I add a dash of soy sauce here.
This recipe freezes really well, so chuck the leftovers into a lunchbox and try to fit it into the freezer that has been taken over by your housemate’s abnormally large garlic baguette collection. To free up some space, steal some of said garlic baguette. I won’t say anything if you don’t.