Curried Chickpeas and Tofu

This was one of the first recipes I made during my three-year vegetarian period back in high school and college.  I was so proud of myself for finding it in a cookbook (I don’t even remember anymore), driving in my beat-up stick shift Honda (the one I had to drive with platforms on, as I couldn’t reach the gear pedals) to buy ingredients, and acting like I was Queen of the House when I took over the kitchen for an afternoon to make this.

It came out awesome on the first try.  I was expecting big praise for my culinary adventurousness and excellent execution.

Instead, I got a lot of grief about staining my mom’s pots, some snarky comments about the smell of curry pervading her home, and a vocal prohibition from ever making it in her kitchen again.

I moved out of the house four years later for grad school.  And guess what was the second dish I made, in my own tiny Montreal kitchen and with my own damn pans?  Yep, curried chickpeas and tofu. I almost called her to go “nya nya nya” over the phone, but being a broke grad student not keen on facetious expensive phone calls, I zipped it.

I stained the pan AND the wooden spoon I used to stir it, but no staining of cutlery would be bad enough to stop me from making this EVER again.

Just not in my mom’s kitchen.


I know it looks like there are lots of ingredients, but most are spices and, except for the tofu, things that hang around most people’s fridges and cupboards anyway.

To get your cook on, round up the following suspects:

  • Onion:  I used two medium, or about 1 1/2 cups chopped
  • Garlic:  6-8 cloves, more to taste (I always go for more garlic–one head went into this one, or 8-10 cloves)
  • Firm tofu:  one pound (I recommend freezing the tofu and then defrosting before using, for the sake of texture–and because I buy lots, then freeze and thaw when I need it–but it’s totally up to you.)
  • Chickpeas:  1 14-oz can (if you can find a good organic brand and/or a reduced-sodium brand, better yet, as you’ll be able to use the liquid from the chickpeas)
  • Tomatoes:  1 1/2 to 2 cups, chopped (or, if you don’t have fresh tomatoes, you can replace with three-fourths of a 14-oz can of tomatoes, chopped)
  • Vegetable oil:  1-2 tsp.
  • Curry powder:  1 Tbsp. or more (I use 1 1/2 to 2, but I like strong curries)
  • Turmeric: 1/2 tsp.
  • Cumin:  1 Tbsp. (see curry powder–same thing goes)
  • Coriander: 1 Tbsp. (see curry powder–same thing goes)
  • Garam masala:  2 tsp (or more to taste)
  • Salt:  to taste

Now, channel your favorite TV chef:

  • In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and garlic and saute until they are translucent (about 5 minutes, in my kitchen).
  • When the garlic and onions are softened and translucent, add the curry powder, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and pinch of salt to the pan, stirring fairly constantly for a couple of minutes to  prevent sticking.
  • After 2-3 minutes of stirring, add the chickpeas (undrained if you’re using organic or reduced-sodium chickpeas) and tofu; if you didn’t add the chickpea liquid, add about 1/3-1/2 cup water, enough to create a bit of sauce and keep things from sticking to the pan. Cover and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and garam masala, stir, and simmer for a few more minutes (or until you are ready to eat).

I always eat this  over rice (brown or white) these days, but I’ve had it on couscous and it’s quite tasty that way, too.

Oh, and be careful–it stains like the devil.


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