Vegan-boy wants chana masala. Teenage-boy prefers something with Korma sauce. Helicopter-dad doesn’t care. He’ll eat anything. Although he prefers to avoid chickpeas. They make him gussy. Neurotic-mom is up for Indian but not korma. It’s too sweet for her. To please everyone, including herself, she makes her chana masala recipe, but adds chunks of butternut squash and creams it with cashew cream. They eat it with basmati rice. Everyone is satisfied.
Most Indian dishes are easy to make and pretty quick if you don’t have to peel and grate ginger and garlic, which are key ingredients in the Indian kitchen. My ex-neighbor, Satya, makes a big batch of ginger and garlic paste, which she keeps in the fridge, and adds it to curries and biryanis. You can buy a pre-made jar of this paste in the Indian store but the problem is that most of them contain preservatives. The ones without don’t last long. Thus I make a batch of ginger & garlic cubes in advance and keep it in the freezer.
Plant-based Creamy Chana Masala
- 2 tablespoons avocado or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon curry powder - I used Madras curry
- 1 onion - peeled and sliced
- 1 ginger-garlic cube - or 2 crushed garlic cloves + 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- About 2 cups butternut squash - sliced or diced
- 1 tablespoon pickled lime or preserved lemon - optional
- 4 tomatoes - peeled and diced (or 1 small can)
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 can - rinsed
- Handful cilantro - chopped
- 1 cup cashew cream - or coconut milk
- To make the cashew cream: put ½ cup cashews in a mug or bowl and cover them with boiled water. Soak while the dish is cooking.
- Warm the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the spices, onion, garlic and ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, occasionally stirring.
- Add the butternut squash, tomatoes and salt, and bring into a boil. Lower the heat to simmer, cover the pan and cook until the butternut is tender, about 10 minutes. Add the chickpeas and cilantro.
- Drain the cashew and put them in a blender (Ninja) with ¾ cup filtered water, lemon juice from ½ lemon (optional) and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth and creamy. Pour the cream into the pan and raise the heat to medium-law. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and serve with Basmati rice (and if you have any, a small cucumber salad mixed with yogurt.)