Chickpea Curry with Sweet Potato – Chole Shakarkand


Chickpea Curry with Sweet Potato – Chole Shakarkand



Although I love curries and cook them frequently for home and the restaurant, I haven’t put many on this cookbook blog yet because they require a number of spices, some of which are rarely in American home pantries. But I will start posting some of my favorite curry dishes, and readers who get the basic spices will be able to make a number of  them.


Served with Basmati rice
I was familiar with Indian curries before I went to live and work in Southeast Asia for seven and a half years. But based in Malaysia, which has a sizable Indian population, I got plentiful exposure to curries from many parts of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as well as Malay, Indonesian, and Thai curries. I also spent a number of months, for work, in India and Pakistan. Whenever I could, I got to know and cook with people who grew up in those countries, and ate extensively in local restaurants in Asia and ethnic restaurants in the US.


“Chole” is the more standard Indian vegetarian curry made with chickpeas (Kabuli Channa). It’s particularly associated with Punjab, in northwestern India and western Pakistan, but is made in other parts of the Subcontinent as well. A richer-flavored, fancier version is “Channa Masala.” Although Chole typically has chickpeas as the only vegetable, there can also be a second vegetable, such as spinach, added for variety. My granddaughter Clara, who does not eat meat, loves sweet potato curries, and Chole with sweet potato in particular. Chole can be served as part of a dinner along with other curries, rice and condiments, or it can be eaten more simply as the principal dish, accompanied by rice or chapati, which are thin griddle-baked wholewheat flatbread.


The recipe makes enough curry to serve six or more people. It should be accompanied by unsalted white rice, such as Basmati (see the index in this blog for a method for cooking Basmati rice), or with warm chapatis. Chole is typically garnished with chopped cilantro, and sometimes with diced onion as well.


1 large onion

1/4 cup sunflower, canola or other (not olive) vegetable oil, or part butter

1-inch piece raw ginger

1 large or 2 medium cloves garlic

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons turmeric

2 teaspoons paprika

1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

A pinch of ground cloves

1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes or finely chopped fresh tomatoes

1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt

1 cup water, plus more as needed

1 medium-large sweet potato

1-1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed

2 (14-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzos)

Several sprigs cilantro for serving


Finely dice the onion and fry it in the oil over low heat in a heavy pot, stirring from time to time, until starting to turn golden.


Meanwhile prepare the other ingredients. Scrape the skin off the piece of ginger, and mince the ginger finely together with the garlic on a cutting board, and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the seven spices. Have the ground or chopped tomatoes and the yogurt ready. Peel the sweet potato. Quarter it lengthwise, then cut it into 1/2-inch lengths and set it aside. Open the chickpea cans, and holding the covers in place, let the liquid drain off. Fill the cans with water and drain this off. Set the cans aside until needed.


When onions in the pot are becoming pale golden, add the ginger-garlic mixture and without raising the heat, stir and  fry it into the onions for 2 minutes. Add the mixed spices and stir and fry 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and yogurt. Increase the heat a little and heat the mixture, stirring frequently, until bubbling. Add the water, stir, and let the mixture simmer several minutes.


Add the prepared sweet potatoes and simmer them in the mixture, covering the pot but stirring often, until becoming tender (test them by piercing several with a toothpick). Stir in the salt. Add the rinsed and drained chickpeas and, stirring from time to time, let the mixture simmer, covered, about 10 minutes. If the liquid is drying down add some water as necessary to keep a creamy sauce in the pan.


Taste the sauce and several chickpeas. If they seem under-salted, add a little salt. Simmer another 5 minutes or so, and taste a final time, and add a little if needed. If the sauce has dried down, add a little water as needed. There should be some creamy sauce.


The curry can be served now or, for more mellow flavor, cooled, stored, then reheated to serve. (I like reheating in a casserole dish in the microwave, but the curry can be reheated in a pan on the stove, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan well so the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom.)

When serving, sprinkle some coarsely chopped cilantro on top. Accompany with boiled white rice or chapatis.


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