Chickpea, tomato and spinach curry

This is curry in a hurry.

It’s nutty and warming, earnest, yet lazy. It lolls about in your bowl and calls for nothing but an errant pappadum and some yogurt, chilli and cucumber on the side.  If I skip the softened onion threads I can have it on a fork half way to my mouth in 8 minutes. It takes me longer to find my phone,  the number for take away and read out a credit card number.

If you want to devote half an hour to mixing and grinding spices for an authentic experience, this is not the curry you’re looking for. This uses a leap frog of a cheat;  curry powder (shhh). But sometimes life is like this. Previously I’d only put this powder to work when I couldn’t be bothered corralling all the spices for  Coronation Chicken Crowns. But with a little tomato paste and coconut milk it becomes a friendly, if luridly orange helper for a Tuesday night supper.

If you’re pressed for time and just want something tasty, vegetarian (or easily pimped with shellfish, fish or chicken)  and low carb, then skip ahead for the recipe.

But if you fancy a little story time with your dinner, then  keep reading.

To be honest, curry with raita hasn’t always been a safe place for me. In fact, it was once a very dangerous place.

If this was a film, the screen would dissolve and we’d scoot back to 2001. You’d know this because I’d be wearing bootleg jeans, chunky silver rings on the third fingers of my hands and ‘Drops of Jupiter’ would be playing on the radio. You’d find an optimistic, strident Tori surrounded by textbooks about feminist politics and  the theatre of the absurd after fleeing the shackles of a law degree. I’d also just been plucked to attend the Asia Pacific prep Conference for the UN’s World Conference Against Racism.

And yes, if you’re squinting at the photo on the side bar; that’s right. I am very, very Anglo.

I was the ultimate fish out of water.

It led to five fascinating days in Malacca, on the south of the Malaysian peninsula.  I listened a lot. Took notes. Helped facilitate discussion. And smiled.

The final day brought lunch at the local Hindi village. It was a banquet. Once again, I was the only white face in the crowd. And I was the only one whose palette was struggling with the spice level of the curry. In desperation I reached for what I thought was cooling cucumber dip.

Lesson learned. It was green chilli studded yogurt. So when someone thrust a glass of water in my hand and tears streamed down my chin I didn’t think to ask if it had come from the local well.

I’ll end the story here. E coli is not fun.

It took me a while to confidently face curry again. It took me even longer before I welcomed the prospect of yogurt studded with cucumber and chilli.

But after that day I never, accepted a glass of water while travelling without asking where it came from.

And I got much better at eating spice.

From here it’s  up to you. Make this curry as hot as you like it. Add a bossy amount chopped green chilli into your yogurt sauce if you fancy it (just make sure you’ve got a safe supply of drinking water handy).

Then use the time you save making this cheatingly quick curry to do something that makes you feel good.

Chickpea, tomato and spinach curry

(Inspired and adapted from the store cupboard chickpea and spinach curry in the great ‘Small Adventures in Cooking’ by James Ramsden. Do buy the book. It’s just lovely).

If you’re in a roaring hurry, you could skip the onions and the cardamom pods. The onions merely add another note of sweetness and a pleasingly soft texture. The cardamom pods are just there to add a bit more complexity. If you feel like changing it further you could also add diced courgette instead of the tomatoes. And if you want some extra protein, place 200 grams of diced chicken thighs, scallops, skinned fish pieces or prawns at the end and gently cook them in the curry (though please, make sure your chicken is really cooked).

Serves 2


1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 cardamom pods, crushed with the heel of your hand
1 red onion, sliced into thin half moons
1 tablespoon of medium spice curry powder (the better the curry powder you use, the better this will taste)
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 400 gram tin chickpeas, rinsed
175 ml coconut milk
15 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 handfuls of baby spinach, rinsed
1/2 lemon

To serve
1/2 cucumber, thinly diced
3/4 cup natural yogurt
1 green chilli, diced

Here’s how we roll

1) Soften the sliced onions and cardamom pods in the olive oil in a dutch oven/wok over a medium heat for 10 minutes.

2) Add the curry powder and cook for 30 seconds.

3) Add the tomato paste, chickpeas and coconut milk.

4. Stir to combine and bring to the boil.

5. Add the diced tomatoes and rinsed spinach leaves. Stir to combine and cook until the spinach and tomatoes have softened.

6. Add a good squeeze of lemon and a generous pinch of salt. The lemon and the salt will help the flavours meld together and stand up a bit straighter. Serve the curry in bowls with pappadums, yogurt, cucumber and diced green chilli on the side. Careful of the cardamom pods. Tell whoever finds them that it’s a sign of good luck.

  1. You have so many great recepies for pulses Tori, keep them coming – I can’t wait to try this one!

  2. Wow I just made curry too! I love spinach in curry. Your looks delicious.

  3. Oh dear I misread this originally as “lolls about in your bowel” which is NOT what you want from a curry! You are on a chick pea roll at the moment Tori – loving it.

  4. My kinda dish… and I love a story with my meal.

  5. Can’t wait to try this recipe.

  6. I’ve never tried Chickpeas before. This recipe sounds lovely. I really need to lose some weight around my waist and this seems to be a good starting point!

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