Chana Masala has got to be one of the simplest – yet most delicious – curries out there, but it is often overlooked. Relegated to the (side dish) sidelines, it’s about time this recipe claimed its rightful place in the league of flavour-packed, spice-punched, healthy and delicious meals.
Have I mentioned it’s also a 30 minute, one-pan wonder?
Yes, it really is that quick and easy to prepare!
Now, you might be thinking that there’s something wrong with that – curries shouldn’t be rushed; the flavours should be drawn out and intensified through slow cooking. And you’re right, this is true for a lot of recipes (particularly so for meat-based curries), but the great thing about this Spinach Chana Masala is that the incredible flavours come primarily from fresh ingredients, rather than ground spices. Fresh ginger (and lots of it), fresh tomatoes, spinach, curry leaves and a shot of cayenne pepper give this dish a really satisfying heat and zing, without all that goodness being lost in a heavy, oily sauce.
I love to round off this recipe with fresh coriander and a squeeze of lemon to lift the flavours even further – I don’t think I’ve ever tasted such a light and bright, yet still complex-tasting curry.
The mustard seeds, tempered with a little oil, give this dish one of its many layers of flavour. They bring a nuttiness and earthy taste to balance the fresh zing of the ginger and lemon juice. Paired with the curry leaves, this is one delicious and surprisingly sophisticated-tasting curry. And if you prefer your spice to be on the milder side, just use the amount of cayenne that suits your tastes!
This is a real weekday meal champion in our house. It’s:
- ready in under 30 minutes;
- thrown together in one pot;
- healthy, light and low in fat, yet still a high-hitter in the taste department;
- a super source of fresh vitamins and antioxidants from vitamins A and C in the tomatoes (great for skin, eyes and heart health), to the anti-inflammatory and digestive-calming effects of fresh ginger;
- full of chlorophyll, iron and antioxidants from the spinach, which is one of most nutrient-dense vegetables you can eat;
- packed with selenium, from the mustard seeds, which is thought to have anti-cancer properties; and
- a less-than-10-ingredient-meal, most of which you probably already have in the store cupboard or fruit bowl, so get cooking!
I love to serve this with fragrant brown rice (which takes the same time to cook as the Chana – excellent!), fresh steamed greens and my Whole Roasted Cauliflower, which compliments the dish wonderfully and adds an extra texture and subtle sweetness. This also makes a great light lunch served on its own – who could resist a lovely colourful bowl of fresh and spicy chickpeas?
- 2 tsp oil (light olive, coconut, rapeseed, sesame)
- 1 tbsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 10 fresh curry leaves
- 1 inch fresh ginger
- 1 red onion
- 1 tin chickpeas (400g / drained weight 240g)
- 5 fresh tomatoes
- 200g spinach
- To garnish: lemon juice, fresh coriander
- Peel and slice the ginger into thin matchsticks and chop the red onion.
- Chop the tomatoes into small chunks.
- Heat the oil in a saucepan on a moderate heat and add the mustard seeds, cayenne pepper and curry leaves. As soon as the mustard seeds start to pop add in the ginger and onion and stir for a minute or so until the onion starts to soften.
- Add the chickpeas and tomatoes, stir then cover with a lid. Leave to cook for 15 minutes.
- To finish, stir in the spinach until it wilts, then serve. Squeeze over the fresh lemon juice and sprinkle with coriander.
If you're serving this curry with rice, put it on to simmer at the same time as heating the oil.