Indian cuisine was not among them. I expect that Dad’s preference for less spicy fare played a role.
It was also a very different time. Hard as it is to believe these days with the variety of ethnic and regional foods so readily available in markets, that was far from the case in my childhood.
Even with Mom’s cosmopolitan background, there was little opportunity to explore foreign foods in those days – and even less so in the rural areas where we lived.
It really is too bad, considering the healthy options Indian cuisine offers, to say nothing of its wonderful simplicity, low cost, and rich flavor. It would have fit right into Mom’s practical, no-nonsense approach to meals.
It was a taste sensation like none I’d ever experienced before, and I loved it instantly. To this day, Indian spices and flavorings rank right up there among my special favorites.
While it took me a couple of years to nail down this recipe, it is one of the very first I ever used in my regular repertoire. So it’s one of my oldest-- an old standby that I turn to often.
One reason for that is that it’s also one of my quickest and easiest. It takes minimal prep, and if you have cooked rice on hand from a previous meal during the week where you cooked extra – a meal planning approach that I recommend to save yourself time and effort -- it can be ready in about 20 minutes. That's a blessing for busy households.
And it’s also very versatile, meaning that you can use just about any vegetable your heart fancies or you happen to have on hand instead of the spinach or cauliflower I use here. I've made it with zucchini and with spinach combined, with great results, for example.
All that makes it pretty much a terrific meal option all around. Enjoy!
Here's the recipe:
Makes 6-8 servings
Total prep time – Approx. 15 minutes
Start to finish time - Approx. 20-50 minutes,
Depending on whether you have cooked rice on hand or not
Total recipe cost - Approx. $7.50
Total per person meal cost with rice, yogurt, and salad – Approx. $1.75
1½ cups uncooked brown rice
4-5 cups cooked, if you have some on hand
3-4 cans chickpeas, 14-16 ounce size
1 can crushed or diced tomatoes, 28-32 ounce size
10 ounces to 1 pound frozen or fresh cauliflower, spinach and/or zucchini (or other vegetable of your choice)
1 medium to large onion
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
3 large cloves garlic
2 tablespoons curry powder (or to taste)
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste – this is quite spicy)
1 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
¾ cup water
1- 2 teaspoons of salt (to taste)
Plain yogurt (optional)
(Recipe continues after photos)
- Place the rice in about 3 ¼ cups of water in a medium saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to medium and allow it to simmer for about 35 minutes, covered, or until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, but not mushy.
- Meanwhile, peel and chop or mince the 3 cloves of garlic and set it aside.
- Peel and dice the onion and set it aside.
- If you are using fresh cauliflower, wash it and separate the head into 1-2-inch florets by hand or with a knife.
- Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the diced onions. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 5-8 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
- Add the 2 tablespoons of curry powder, the 1 teaspoon each of allspice, nutmeg, and cumin, the 2 teaspoons of paprika, the ¾ teaspoon of pepper flakes, and the 1 teaspoon of black pepper, and stir to blend well.
- Add the ¾ cup water, and the 1-2 teaspoons of salt, the 28-32 ounces of canned tomatoes and bring to a boil.
- Add the 1 pound of frozen or fresh cauliflower, spinach, or other vegetable of your choice, and return the contents to a simmer. Allow it to simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste test and adjust the seasonings as needed.
- Meanwhile, rinse and drain the 3-4 cans of chickpeas and add them to the curry tomato mixture. Cover and allow it to heat through for about 5 minutes over medium heat.
- If you wish to thicken the sauce, you can do so by stirring a tablespoon of corn starch into 4 tablespoons of water until smooth. This creates a slurry that you stir into the pot until the sauce thickens somewhat.
- If you are using leftover rice from the fridge, add a tablespoon or two of water, cover it, and reheat it in the microwave for 1-5 minutes on medium power until hot (the time will depend on the quantity).
- Serve the chickpeas over the rice with naan or pita bread, a side of plain yogurt, if desired, and a tossed salad.