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Balti Style Pumpkin and Chickpea (Mild) Curry

I’m not a very authentic cook.  I cook by feel, working from the base of what I have in the garden and what is in season rather than from a recipe.  With the result that I often have to do the research afterwards to find out what to call it!  I think this is a Balti style of curry, because it has the sweet spices – cinnamon and cardamom and garam masala – and not much of the hot spices – in a yoghurt creamy tomato base.

Anyway, whatever you call it, this is a mild and a bit sweet curry. If you keep the chili level down kids are likely to enjoy it.  It doesn’t need rice to mellow it out like hot curries.  I like it best with garlic Naan bread to scoop it up.  It’s a great dish for using the last of the season pumpkin for a cold, wet winter night dinner.

There’s a little Tuesday Night Vego Challenge cheat in it: making it in half an hour requires cooked chickpeas (garbanzos).  You can use tinned ones, but that always seems like such a huge waste of energy to me – mining, smelting and manufacturing tins, cooking the peas, labelling, transporting, retailing – just so you can throw out the tin, which then becomes a problem to recycle or house in landfill.  So much easier and cheaper to buy (or grow your own) chickpeas and cook them.  If you soak them overnight, they cook in less than half an hour in a pressure cooker, or an hour and a half or so simmering. I often cook a batch of dried peas or beans of an evening, while I have the wood fired slow combustion stove going anyway to heat the house and the hot water, to use for dinner later in the week.

The Recipe:

Makes three adult serves.  Leftovers are even better the next day.

Soak ¹/3 cup chickpeas (garbanzos) overnight or for the day, then simmer or pressure cook them till they are quite soft.  This can take anything from 20 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on how old and dry your peas are, and whether you use a pressure cooker or not. It will yield about a cup of cooked peas.

In a big, heavy based pot, saute a chopped onion in a good swig of olive oil.

As it cooks, add (more or less in this order)

  • 500 grams of diced pumpkin
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • the seeds from 2 cardamom pods
  • ½ teaspoon (more or less to taste) chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • good grating of black pepper (or, if you have them, substitute nigella seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
  • 2.5 cm (1 inch) of cinnamon stick

Keep stirring till the onions are softened and the spices fragrant and coating everything.  Then add

  • ½ cup tomato passata
  • water – about 1 ½  cups but it will depend on how liquid your passata is, and what kind of pumpkin you use
  • pinch salt
  • the cup of cooked chickpeas
Simmer for about 10 minutes until the pumpkin is very soft.  Add a tablespoon of lemon juice and stir it vigorously, till the pumpkin semi-breaks-up. Then take the pot off the heat and stir in a couple of big spoonfuls of Greek yoghurt (low fat is fine).
Serve in bowls with a dollop of yoghurt and a sprinkle of chopped coriander if you like as garnish, and naan bread to scoop with.
{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Liz June 12, 2012, 10:04 pm

    My understanding is that the word Balti generally (but not always) refers to the dish the curry is cooked in. A balti pan is like a double handed wok. Balti cooking is most popular in the English midlands, particularly around Birmingham and when I’ve had it its usually been pretty hot. To be honest I think the line between Balti and other curries is pretty murky and I struggle to tell the difference (but then I haven’t eaten them in the midlands very often). Based on that I think you can call it Balti if you used a wok (or flew to Birmingham to cook it) or alternatively you can call it Balti if you want to, which is how I name most of my recipes too.

  • Linda June 13, 2012, 8:46 am

    Thanks Liz. I didn’t use a wok – just a big pot, and no Birmingham either. I wonder what it is called then? Any suggestions are welcome.

  • Jodi June 13, 2012, 4:05 pm

    Oh lovely Linda. We must have been channeling this was on the cards for tonight’s dinner. Well give your recipe a go!

    Take care,

  • Pat Machin June 13, 2012, 8:25 pm

    Birmingham is the home of many dishes known in the trade as ‘British Indian Restaurant’ (BIR) cooking! Recipes adapted to our tastes.

    About 10% of our population in my local area are from South East Asia and it is amazing how localized their dishes are. It’s like people the world over. I remember causing a near riot by asking a group of Italian women for their authentic recipe for ragu!

    Our Indian and Pakistani friends tell me that most of these ‘styles’ and ‘types’ of curry in England are just made up because the English like to categorize everything. It’s quite fun to name dishes!

    I’m thinking I could try your curry with butternut squash since we’re not in pumpkin season here and I really fancy it.

  • Sandy June 16, 2012, 5:35 pm

    Hi Linda, that looks delicious! Just checking though, did you get your cardamon pods from your garden? I’ve got lots growing but have been told I won’t get seed pods in Brissie…. Will definitely try the curry though

  • Linda June 16, 2012, 7:14 pm

    Hi Sandy, sadly I agree – no cardamom in Brissie. I have cardamom ginger growing, with leaves that smell and taste amazingly similar, but not actual cardamom. It’s really really tropical. I have a very flexible line in there – it’s ok to trade for little, high value things like spices from all over the world, trying as much as I can to choose ones that have been produced ethically. So I’m happy to buy cardamom, but tend to avoid coconut milk. My rationale is that the carbon footprint of all those food miles is negligible for small light things, and they have been traded for all of human history for the same kind of reason.

  • celia June 17, 2012, 8:19 am

    Adore chick pea curries! We have a freezer, so we soak, boil and stash large batches of chick peas, which lets us then use them at a moment’s notice. Will have to try this one, thank you!

  • Martin June 30, 2012, 7:11 am

    This may be a silly question, but are the cumin seeds and the cardamom seeds strait seeds? Or are they ground? Also, where does one buy cardamom? Do most supermarkets stock it?

  • Linda June 30, 2012, 8:59 am

    Hi Martin, not a silly question at all. You can buy cumin and cardamom as whole seeds or ground seeds. I buy mine from the local wholefoods shop but any supermarket will have them both ways. The cardamom will come as whole pods of seeds, and you need to break open the pods to get the seeds for this recipe. Some recipes use the whole pods, but the shell is a bit tough. I tend to use whole seeds of spices rather than ground spices – the difference in flavour is really noticeable – ground spices go stale really fast as the aromatic oils evaporate off.

  • Martin July 12, 2012, 9:18 pm

    Thanks for the information.

    I have cooked this recipe twice now and it is amazing. It’s a great, healthy and satisfying winter treat.

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