Indian cuisine is one that makes use of a huge range of what are, on the face of it, expensive ingredients. This recipe for Chana Masala, for instance, uses a total of five spices plus a few other fresh ingredients; garlic, ginger and chilli. While the initial outlay for these flavourings may seem quite the investment, shopping carefully could mean that the spices you’ve bought will be enough for perhaps 40 similar dishes. Indian cuisine is probably the most frugal culinary avenue out there!
In Britain, at least, every supermarket has a spice aisle that stocks a fairly comprehensive array of commonly used spices in small jars. This is actually a very expensive way to purchase your spices; 38g of whole cumin will set you back at least 68p (£1.84 per 100g). However, if you visit large supermarkets or, preferably, your local Asian supermarket you can pick up a 400g bag of whole cumin for as little as £1.88 (47p per 100g). Shop carefully, spice buyers. Oh and always buy whole spices to toast and grind yourself, they will retain their flavour and stay fresh for longer.
Being so simple and frugal, Chana Masala has become one of my favourite curries. However, as you can see from the spice list below it also possesses a great deal of flavour, from the base of cumin and turmeric all the way up to the fragrance of garam masala. The other benefit of Chana Masala is, of course, the short amount of time it takes to prepare. Indeed, you could be enjoying this fantastic curry a mere 20 minutes from now… the clock is ticking.
• 2 red onions, finely sliced
• 3 tbsp vegetable oil, or similar
• 2 tsp whole cumin
• 1 tsp whole coriander seed
• 1 tsp turmeric
• 1 tsp garam masala
• 1 tsp paprika
• 2 dried red chillies, ground
• thumb sized piece of fresh ginger,finely minced
• 1 tin of whole plum tomatoes
• 100ml water
• 2 tins of chickpeas, or equivalent dried and cooked
• 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
• 1 tsp salt
• 2 fresh green chillies, finely sliced
1. Gently fry the sliced onions in the vegetable oil. Meanwhile, toast your whole spices and grind them into a fine powder along with the dried red chillies.
2. Once the onions are translucent tip in the ground whole spices, turmeric, garam masala, paprika and fresh ginger. Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes to allow the spices to release their flavour.
3. Tip in the water and tomatoes, cook for a further 5 minutes. Break the tomatoes down into small pieces before tipping in the chickpeas, garlic and salt. Allow to reduce for 10 minutes over a low heat.
4. Sprinkle with fresh green chillies before serving with rice or flatbreads and mango chutney/pickle.
Cost: As mentioned above, once you’ve purchased all of the spices necessary to make delicious Indian food there is little further investment to be made for quite some time. This is particularly true when making a curry like Chana Masala because chickpeas are incredibly cheap compared to meat or even paneer. As such, this recipe should set you back no more than £1.50.