This chickpea curry is full of fruity flavors, thanks to the zest, juice and leaves of kaffir lime, and a generous sprinkle of amchoor! Whole spices in the form of panch phoron add warmth to the dish, and everything is rounded up nicely with coconut milk. The supporting roles are played by romanesco and potatoes! The end result is an aromatic vegetarian dish that I personally love to just spoon up straight from the bowl! You can of course serve this also with rice 🙂
Chickpea curry, stew, mush…
Different kinds of chickpea dishes have been a huge part of my life since my twenties. A simple chickpea curry is easy to whip up, even on student budget! With a small investment in some spices, a can of chick peas can be transformed into a warming bowl of comfort food a multitude of times. Money well spent if you ask me!
My most typical chickpea “curry” is simply seasoned with a garam masala sold at Finnish supermarkets, often accompanied with some additional jeera and coriander seeds. But given a chance, I prefer to source a plethora of whole spices from the international stores of Helsinki and experiment with what I find! Recently I’ve been lucky and ran into fresh kaffir limes – both the fruit and the leaves – for the first time in my life! They are a joy to play around with and eventually they found their way into the humble chickpea curry too!
Kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix / thai lime / makrut lime) is a small, wrinkled and wildly aromatic citrus fruit that one rarely gets a hold of here in Finland. It’s called a “ryppylimetti” in Finnish, which roughly translates as “wrinkled lime” 😀 very appropriate! Kaffir lime is most known for us Finns from thai curries and soups, but internet tells me it’s also used in Laos, Kambodia, Indonesia and India among others.
Kaffir lime has a distinct scent (that I actually associate with Sprite) and the glossy green double leaves are easy to recognize. The scent is strong not just in the fruit but also in the leaves! It’s so addictive, that I can’t resist sniffing these wrinkley little balls whenever I have them around! No wonder this fruit is also used in the perfume industry…
I’ve understood that the juice or pulp of kaffir lime is rarely used in cooking. Understandable, given the fruit is so full of seeds! For me personally it feels like a waste to not use the entire fruit though. After all it’s flown a long way to end up here in the North! So, I’ve been squeezing also the juices to my dishes. Maybe my feelings would be different, if I had a kaffir lime tree growing in my back yard?
At this moment, my favorite use for kaffir lime has been chickpea curry! One that has the other two ingredients I’m currently obsessing over mixed in, to be exact! A chickpea curry with kaffir lime, amchoor and panch phoron!
The spice blend sold here under the name panch puren (panch phoron/paanch phoron/bengali five spice?) ended up in my shopping cart recently as an impulse buy, and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. It’s a mix of five different whole seeds: fenugreek, mustard, fennel, jeera and nigella. When you fry up those seeds in some fat, the whole apartment smells incredible! I read from this blog post, that this spice blend is an essential part of Bengali cuisine. The name apparently translates as panch = five, phoron = tempering – so I guess i better learn to do this tempering thing properly!
Munching away a dish that has whole spices makes the eating experience like a roller coaster ride to me. Each new mouthful gives a bit of different flavor profile: sweet, bitter, nutty, herbaceous… The flavors linger in my mouth for a loooooong time! Paired with the aromatic fruity dried mango powder amchoor and kaffir lime, this dish takes me far from the grey and wet Finland!
Panch phoron has an equal ratio of mustard, fenugreek, jeera, fennel and nigella seeds.
Deciding how to name this dish has been a journey… I feel like I ought to try open up the thought process a bit for you on the other side of the screen! The dish I’ve come up with is flavor-wise somewhere between Thai curries and the few Indian “curries” I’ve experienced. But when I say the dish reminds me of “Indian food”, it’s really important to put that in the right context!
- I have no idea if there’s a “curry” made with these ingredients somewhere in the world.
- My first hand experience with Indian cuisine is very limited.
- I’ve never been to South Asia…
- and there aren’t many Indian restaurants in Helsinki!
What I do know however based on a little reading, is that the quantity of food cultures and regional cuisines in India are numerous. And more importantly, that a curry isn’t really much of a thing in India at all!
This is not something an average Finnish person would be aware of, and neither was I until recently! Because there are limits to my online research, I’m not even sure how accurate the information I’ve gathered is. But, I’ve learned that the word curry likely dates back to the era or colonialism, when India was under the rule of England. In fact, the word might have it’s origins in the Tamil word kari: gravy! Clearly, what it’s come to mean around the world is something quite different. (This article was an eye opener to me, but you can read about the topic also from here!)
Depending on the context, a curry can mean a spice blend, a certain dish, a sauce… It even means the yellow turmeric based spice mix that was popular here in Finland during the 80’s! Yup, I grew up eating a lot of “chicken curry” at the school canteen back in 80’s…
So. When I use the word curry I’m making a reference to the complex and multifaceted network of things “curry” has come to mean in this world. I’m not trying to mimic any specific dish, although the ingredients I’ve used are commonly used in the Indian subcontinent 🙂 I’m very happy that I managed to come up with something I enjoy intuitively, without having grown up with these flavors! Aaaaand I’m calling the dish a curry, because it’s the closest description I can think of… After all, it’s a dish made with Indian ingredients by someone who is clueless of what all the different foods in India even taste like. I wouldn’t want to name this dish something that I have even less understanding of, if that makes sense?
I’d love to hear if the dish I’ve come up with reminds someone of a certain recipe and educate myself more!
Amchoor / dried mango powder
The finishing touch on this curry of mine is definitely the addition of another spice from the Indian peninsula: amchoor. Amchoor is a fruity and refreshinly sour powder made from sundried green mangoes. As a lover of all things sour, I’ve fell in love with mango powder instantly! I sprinkle it happily to anything that need a dose of sourness, similarly to how I use sumac for instance. They both have become an alternative for lemon, lime and vinegar, regardless of the cuisine!
Amchoor tastes wonderful to me especially with fatty ingredients like salmon, but I’ve mixed it up in dips, soups, stews, sauces… I can’t get enough of it! To be honest, I also just dip my finger in it 😀
Chickpea curry with kaffir lime and amchoor
- 50 g ghee (/ c. 3 tbsp coconut oil)
- 1 tbsp panch phoron -spice mix
- 1 tsp ground jeera
- 1 tbsp turmeric powder
- 0,5-1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2 tsp mild chili flakes
- 10-12 curry leaves (I use dried ones, you can use fresh if you have them!)
- 1 yellow onion (iso)
- 2 cm knob of fresh ginger
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 5 fresh kaffir lime leaves (or 7-8 dried or frozen kaffir lime leaves)
- 400 g crushed canned tomatos
- 400 g starchy potato
- 200 g chickpeas (cooked)
- 2-4 dl water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- salt (to taste)
- 300 g romanesco broccoli (or broccoli / cauliflower)
- 250 ml coconut milk
- 1-2 tbsp amchoor
- 1 kaffir lime (zest + juice)
- Wash the kaffir lime and lime leaves well. Chop up the romanesco to bite sized pieces (try to get the pieces evenly sized so they cook in the same time). Peel and chop the potates to bite sized cubes. Peel and mince the onion and garlic, peel and grate the piece of ginger. Open the can of tomatoes and coconut milk, wash and drain your chickpeas if using canned stuff (which is what I use most of the time)
Tempering the spices:
- The spices come alive when you temper them in hot ghee or oil. However, they burn very easily, so once you start tempering, have all the other ingredients ready to go so you can act fast when necessary!
- Heat the ghee or oil to medium heat in a large pot. Add in the panch phoron spices and fry for a short moment. Add in ground jeera, turmeric, black pepper and chili. Stir and allow to cook until the mixture is fragrant and the mustard seeds start to pop. Add in curry leaves, chopped onions, garlic, ginger and a pinch of salt, and continue cooking until the onions soften and turn translucent.
- Add in a stick of cinnamon, the kaffir lime leaves (I like to smash and rub them between my hands to release the aromatic oils), the crushed tomatoes, chopped potatoes, chickpeas and just enough water to cover the ingredient. Leave to simmer on low heat covered by a lid until the potato is cooked.
Finishing the chickpea curry:
- Once the potato is cooked, add in the coconut milk and romanesco. Season with salt to taste and mix well. Keep simmering on low heat until romanesco is cooked to your level of doneness - I prefer mine ever so slightly undercooked, especially if I plan on reheating the dish later!
- Season the chickpea curry with amchoor and adjust the amount to your liking. Grate the fragrant green outer zest of the kaffir lime into the curry, followed by the juices through a small sieve to catch all the seeds. Last chance to adjust the flavors - add more salt if needed.
- Serve the chickpea curry from a bowl with a spoon as is, or ladle on top of some rice. I like to finish my bowl with a bit more freshly grated zest of a kaffir lime, and very thinly sliced kaffir lime leaf. (And some more amchoor...)