Chickpea and Sweet Potato Curry - april 17, 2010 

Today I picked up Alice Water's latest book - In the Green Kitchen. It looks to be an interesting mixture of essential basics for simple home cooking, gathered from people she knows, most of whom are chefs. She also has a website with each featured person giving their cooking lesson, a recorded series that was begun at Slow Food Nation in 2008. I love the book's lime green spine, and it has gotten me all fired up to revisit The Art of Simple Food, which is still sitting on my bookshelf only partially read. Maybe I'll get to it in time to pull some recipes out for late spring and summer of this year.  

The most exciting thing I discovered about In the Green Kitchen, so far, is that the photographs were taken by Christopher Hirsheimer, one of the women behind my favorite, Canal House Cooking. She has taken a major role in remaking food photography, as far as I can tell, starting with the casual, real-world photos in Saveur Magazine, which she co-founded, maybe in 1996? I can't find the date. In the Green Kitchen has some truly wonderful portraits - one of Alice Waters in what I assume is her own kitchen (p 1), Peggy Knickerbocker (p 120) and Darina Allen (p 30). I especially love how Christopher's photos aren't all the same - she constantly surprises me with unexpected details. And in this book, Gilbert Pilgrim's guacamole page is just so fabulous! Though I have to say that isn't the way I make guacamole. But its pretty close.

Yesterday's quiche with asparagus and morels was a big hit - I left the veggies off the top for the kids' half, and all five of them gobbled it down and asked for more. The recipe was a combination of the Sunset one I listed on my calendar and a quiche lorraine from Joy of Cooking.  I'll post it sometime soon. Huh. I had no idea The Joy of Cooking had its own website, I'll have to check it out.

Dinner tonight also turned out really well - a chickpea, sweet potato and pumpkin curry from Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries. The only complicated thing were the chickpeas. I woke up this morning and soaked them, then in the evening put them in the pressure cooker for about thirty minutes, turned it off and let them sit until the rest of dinner was ready. That worked.

The curry was super fragrant, it cozied up the whole house. I served the kids on their partitioned plates, with buttered rice in one, salted chickpeas in another, curry in the third and leftover lollipop from this afternoon's birthday party in the last. Their curry didn't get eaten, I heard many complaints of "too spicy". But they tried it at least, and ate everything else.

Chickpea and Sweet Potato Curry: (adapted from Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries)

200 g dried chickpeas (about 1.5 cups) soaked for several hours in water

2 medium onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 red chiles (fresh if you have them, otherwise dried)

3 carrots

one medium squash or pumpkin

one large sweet potato

2 Tablespoons tomato paste (or 1 tomato if they're in season)

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

6 green cardamom pods

2 Tablespoons peanut oil

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

coriander leaves (to garnish)

yogurt (to garnish)

Drain the soaking chickpeas and cook them in boiling water, until reasonably tender, about 45 minutes. Or you can put them in the pressure cooker for less time, about 30 minutes. Peel and chop the onions and garlic. Heat a heavy pot, add the peanut oil, and cook the onions and garlic over medium low heat, until they are translucent and starting to color. 

Stir in the mustard seeds, coriander, cardamom, turmeric and chiles. Leave them to sizzle for a minute or so, then add the vegetables, all cut into one inch pieces. Add water to the pan, until it is about halfway up the height of the curry. Put a lid on halfway, turn the heat down to low and let the curry cook until the vegetables are soft all the way through. Be sure to add more water if the pan dries out. Serve it with rice - my favorite is to add five cloves, three cardamom pods, a stick of cinnamon and a pinch of saffron to the rice cooker before you start it.

Mix the chickpeas in with the curry right before serving, and garnish with cilantro.


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