So, onwards and upwards: another week, another book. The central concept of Skye Gyngell’s ‘A Year In My Kitchen’ is her ‘culinary toolbox’: a palette of different flavours to be added to and combined with the recipes in the main section of the book. These occupy a scale, from sky, or top notes, to earth, or base notes. For example, base notes include a toasted mix of earthy spices like cumin, coriander and cinnamon; further up you have slow-roasted tomatoes and roasted red onions, and moving into the top notes you have flavoured yoghurt and lemon zest. The idea is that all the dishes contain a balance of notes, so those savoury notes lower down the scale are lifted by fresher tasting notes at the top to create a harmonious, well-rounded dish. It’s a nice idea, and once you’ve made the effort to prepare some of the more time-consuming toolbox items it is glorious to know that you have these little jars and boxes of concentrated flavour in the fridge just waiting to be used. Not so great if you’ve undertaken a recipe only to realise that you should have been roasting tomatoes for 3 hours already but there you go…fail to prepare and you prepare to fail etc.
I was excited by this first recipe because a) as I think we’ve already established, I love pulses in all forms and chickpeas in particular and b) while the Italian way of eating was fun, we cook mainly vegetarian and that has meant a lot of dough in one form or another. I was starting to crave something light and fresh tasting. This way of cooking is almost the complete opposite of the River Cafe’s simplicity in its wilfully complicated piling on of flavours and textures and I was really looking forward to the promising combination of heat and sharpness and warmth all at once. And, being fair, this recipe did not fail to deliver that. Only, I appreciated it a lot more when I ate it for lunch on the second day – when I ate it after having made it, I was too consumed with the raging grump that overcomes me when I’m so hungry I feel like my stomach’s trying to eat itself. See, I looked at the ingredients list, assured myself I had everything, and mistakenly assumed this would be a quick post-yoga supper. Not so, as I discovered at my cost when sitting down to eat at 9, a mere 2 hours after having started. This is, although not complicated, a looooong recipe. So, make it – but not when you’re hungry already. Or just have a snack ready.
Chickpeas with chilli, lime, tamarind and coriander Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side
1 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
large bunch of coriander
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
2.5cm piece root ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp roasted spice mix (see below)
1 tbsp tamarind paste (Skye soaks tamarind pods in water and strains to make tamarind water – I had paste so used that)
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into small chunks
2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
2 cinnamon sticks
400g cooked weight chickpeas
100ml maple syrup
juice of 2-3 limes
For the roasted spice mix (makes small jar full):
1-2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
5 cardamom pods
2-3 star anise or cloves
50g of each of the following: coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds
Heat a heavy frying pan over a low heat. Add the spices and dry fry, stirring frequently, until you can smell the toasted aroma and the seeds start to pop. Remove from the heat and grind to a fine powder in a food processor or pestle and mortar (the second method is apparently better, but would have taken a more patient person than me).
For the main recipe, melt half the butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat, until foaming. Pour in the olive oil and add the onions. Sweat gently for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, wash the coriander, separate the leaves from the stems and chop the stems and roots until you have about 2 tbsp worth. I love this! She uses the coriander stems in everything!
Add the garlic, chilli, ginger, coriander roots and stems, spice mix and tamarind to the pan. Stir well for about a minute, then add the carrots, tomatoes and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Cover, turn the heat to low and leave for 1 hour (stirring occasionally).
Add the chickpeas, maple syrup and tamari and cook for a further 10 minutes or so. Add the remaining butter and lime juice and stir well. Now taste: you are looking for a balance of spicy, sour, salty and sweet which is “totally satisfying”. At first I thought mine tasted too salty – which is saying a lot for me – it seemed to mellow out later, but I would caution against using all the tamari at first. I’m also not sure the big clod of butter at the end was entirely necessary, so if you don’t like big clods of butter leave it out.
Finish by stirring through the coriander leaves and serve. I ate mine with brown basmati rice but I imagine flatbreads would also be nice, or have it to accompany a lamb dish as Skye suggests.
Taken from Skye Gyngell’s ‘A Year In My Kitchen’.