If chana masala and saag paneer had a baby, this would be it.
Let me explain. Chana masala, also called chole, is an Indian chickpea curry loved by peeps all over the world. Saag paneer is a spinach and cheese preparation on every Indian restaurant’s menu. It’s delicious but often cream-laden and heavy. Not exactly what you need on a Wednesday night in.
This Wednesday night in, I wanted both dishes but I had less than 30 minutes to get dinner on the table. I also really wanted my kids to eat spinach because, I mean, who doesn’t. A burst of desperate creativity led to this concoction and let me say this, I AM HOOKED.
I’ve simplified the classical method of pureeing each component separately (when discussing this modification with my mom she was skeptical #purist #pureeist LOL 😉 ) so I took on the challenge of getting this spinach chana masala done in under 30 minutes with just one puree step in my @vitamix (any high powered blender will do).
The result is a creamy, cream-less, vibrant, green, spicealicious (you’re allowed to make up words if you’re a sleep deprived mom determined to do her first blog post of 2018) base sauce that you can lick with a spoon non-stop (I did). But you don’t have to stop there. Stir in chickpeas or paneer or chicken or potatoes or mushrooms and peas or really anything you want (stay reasonable). Ladies and gentlemen (and kids!) – dinner is served.
1 1/2 tablespoons avocado or coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced or finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound (16 ounces) frozen spinach (works better than fresh in this recipe)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1-2 pinches of cayenne (optional)
1 1/2 pounds cooked chickpeas (or chopped mushrooms, peas, potatoes, chopped chicken thighs or cubed paneer)
1 stick cinnamon, preferably Ceylon
1 bay leaf
Greek yogurt for serving (optional)
In a pot, heat the oil on a medium flame until it shimmers. Add the onions and sautee for 3-5 minutes until translucent but not brown. Add the garlic and ginger and sautee for a minute until fragrant.
Add the tomato paste, salt, and spices and sautee for 2 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, uncovered (this helps retain that fresh green colour) for 10 minutes or until the spinach is softened and cooked through.
Transfer the spiced spinach mixture a high powered blender like the Vitamix. Add 2 cups of water and blend until creamy and smooth. Taste and adjust salt if needed.
Transfer the pureed sauce back into the pot and add the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and chickpeas (or whatever you’re using). Simmer on a low flame for 10-20 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse the chickpeas. Add more water if you like a thinner sauce and adjust the salt to taste. Remove the bay leaf and cinnamon.
Top with fresh cilantro. Serve with rice, cauliflower rice, roti or whole wheat tortillas and plain Greek yogurt on the side. Like most curries, this dish will taste better the next day so double up and enjoy the leftovers.