As I sit here in the middle of another Minnesota winter, I’m beginning to get “homesick” for my days in Kabul, Afghanistan where I lived and worked there for ten years between 2003-2018. When you’re in one place that long it starts to feel like home, as much as my beloved native Minnesota does.
But, the winters in Kabul are not easy. The city sits at an altitude higher than Denver, Colorado and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains for most of the year. The snowfall can be heavy in the winter which is made worse by the lack of snow removal equipment. The cold bites hard too, dropping into the 20’s with people coping as best they can without indoor heating systems of any kind other than small wood-burning braziers that entire families will huddle around to absorb some warmth.
Special foods also have a role to play in helping people get through the rough winters. Hot green tea (chai) with sugar is consumed by everyone year-round, but in the winter months more sugar, green cardamom pods, and ginger are added to provide an inner warmth, especially on very cold mornings. But there is one savory dish that I particularly remember that was warm, spicy, and delicious and have started to crave now in the middle of our long Minnesota winter. The dish is called “chana-ye-garm masala”, or “spicy chickpea curry.” Curry is not used much in Afghanistan cuisine and is more of an Indian or Pakistani staple, but it is often incorporated into dishes in the winter months to bring some heat and savory flavoring.
I have tried to remember the recipe and have experimented with a few versions of this now and think I have hit upon a winner, at least for me. This makes a very nice side dish that would go well with just about any main course, but especially chicken or fish. It can also be served as the main course itself (how I usually eat it) as a stand-alone vegan dish or with some shredded chicken, cubed white fish, or shrimp mixed in.
The prep and cook time for this is no more than 30 minutes and something you can throw together really fast. Simply delicious!
- 2 diced cloves of garlic
- 1 diced yellow onion
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon curry (I like to use Vindaloo curry blend, but you can use any curry powder you prefer.)
- 1 can of drained chickpeas (15oz)
- 1 can of diced tomatoes (15oz)
- 1 cup of whole coconut milk
- 2 cups of roughly chopped spinach leaves
- 1 cup of roughly chopped cilantro leaves
- Salt & pepper
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, salt and pepper, and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Then add the remaining spices: coriander, ginger, cumin, turmeric, and curry powder and stir in for about 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and coconut milk. Turn down the heat and let simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes. Stir in the spinach, cilantro, and lime juice for 2-3 minutes.
- Take off the heat and let stand for about 5 minutes and serve up in individual bowls or spoon over rice on a plate.