Chicken Masala with Chickpeas and Chard

Before the newly college graduated daughter came home to visit she emailed me a few recipes she wanted to try cooking with me during her upcoming visit. Needless to say, I was thrilled to see she was taking an interest in learning to cook. Looking through the recipes, I was intrigued with the chicken and potato curry dish. It called for garam masala which I had heard of but really had no idea what it was. If the college grad wanted to try it, I was certainly game. So off I went to Whole Foods in search of spices. Whenever I need spices, I like to go to a store that sells in bulk. In addition to being able to buy quantities which I will be able to use in just a few months, it is also significantly less expensive. On this particular trip I bought the garam masala, turmeric, and ground coriander for less than a dollar combined compared to the three to five dollars I would pay per bottle of spice.

Spices

Oh, that garam masala. My new love. It is everything I ever dreamed of all in one spice mix. Although there are infinite variations of garam masala some of the most common ingredients are cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg. The mix from Whole Foods smelled strongly of these spices. The sauce made with this just filled my mouth with warmth, comfort, love. The version we made originally used chicken and potatoes and cream, not exactly eating light! While I loved the flavor profile, I knew I could lighten it up with vegetables and chickpeas in place of the potatoes and yogurt instead of cream. This new version was perfect. This recipe is full of vegetables and very low in fat. All the fabulous taste without out the diet demons!

Veggies chard

Cooking with the college grad was tons of fun. We were able to spend time talking about food and life and a lot of little nothings. Our first run through of the recipe she found was pretty much as written. Some of the best advice I got while learning to cook was to follow the recipe exactly the first time through. You learn what you like and don’t like and then make adjustments from there. We both agreed that the cream needed to go. It has too much fat and for her too much lactose. Yogurt is lower in fat and Greek yogurt in particular is much lower in lactose because the whey which is high in lactose is stained off the yogurt. I wanted to get rid of the potatoes and liked the idea of using more vegetables.

Back at the Mueller Farmers Market, the rainbow Swiss chard looked fabulous. As always carrots were plentiful. Both of these vegetables are year round crops in Austin. Up north in Michigan, the chard is grown in hoop houses and is available early in the growing season. And in the category of you never know what you might find at the farmers market, Anjore had their own blend of garam masala which included a few locally grown spices.

Dinner

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 Cup dry chickpeas
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1/2 bunch rainbow chard
  • 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 inch piece ginger root
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste

Rinse chickpeas then put in sauce pan with about 2 or 3 cups water. Bring the water to boil, turn off heat and let beans soak for four to six hours.

Prep your vegetables. Dice up the carrots and onion. Rinse and remove the stems from the chard. Dice up the stems and set the leaves aside.

Heat a large French oven or similar pan. Add oil and swirl to coat bottom of pan. Spread the chicken thighs evenly in the pan. Brown on both sides and remove to plate. Reduce the heat and add the vegetables to the pan and additional oil if the pan seems too dry. Saute the vegetables until soft, then add the minced ginger root and cloves. Stir and cook the mixture until the ginger and garlic is fragrant. Be careful to keep the heat slightly low to prevent burning the garlic. Add all of the dried spices along with the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes more. Add the drained chickpeas and stir to coat. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes and yogurt and thoroughly mix in the yogurt. Put the chicken thighs back in the pot and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. Put the lid on the pot and let simmer for about an hour. Check on the pot periodically to make sure it is simmering.

About ten minutes before serving cut the chard into half inch strips then stir into the pot and let cook until just wilted.

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