With the help of a few simple pantry ingredients, the unassuming chickpea can be transformed into a hearty meal fit for any weeknight supper. If you want to make this with tinned chickpeas rather than dried and soaked ones, cook the sauce ingredients separately with about 600ml water until thick and rich, and add the drained tinned chickpeas for only the last 20 or so minutes. And if you can’t find tamarind, use two tablespoons of lime juice and half a teaspoon of sugar instead.
400g dried chickpeas
1¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
10 dried mild red chillies, or ¾ tsp chilli flakes
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp mild curry powder
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
105ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
100g tamarind block (the Thai variety), or 2½ tbsp tamarind paste
500g tomatoes, roughly grated and skins discarded (400g net weight)
2-3 tbsp coriander leaves, roughly chopped, plus extra picked leaves to serve
1½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted and roughly crushed in a mortar
1. Start the night before by putting the chickpeas and a teaspoon of bicarb in a large bowl and adding enough water to cover by about 4cm. Cover with a plate and leave to soak overnight, or for at least eight hours.
2. Next day, drain the chickpeas and put them in a large saucepan with the remaining three-quarters of a teaspoon of bicarb, the whole chillies (or chilli flakes) and 1.8 litres water.
3. Bring to a boil, skimming off any froth, lower the heat to medium, then stir in the tomato paste, curry powder, three-quarters of the garlic and four tablespoons of oil. Cook for 20 minutes, then add a teaspoon and three-quarters of salt and a good grind of pepper, and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the chickpeas are quite soft but not falling apart.
4. Meanwhile, put the tamarind in a heatproof bowl, pour over 250ml boiling water and leave to sit for 15 minutes. Using your hands, squeeze the pulp to release the seeds and extract as much flavour as possible, then strain through a sieve set over a second bowl and push down the solids, scraping them to push out as much liquid as you can; you should be left with about 140ml thick tamarind liquid. Discard the solids.
5. Add the tamarind liquid to the chickpeas and cook on a medium heat for seven minutes more, until the chickpeas are nice and soft, and the liquid has reduced slightly, then stir through the chopped coriander.
6. Drain the grated tomatoes in a sieve, discarding any excess liquid, then put the pulp in a bowl and combine with the remaining garlic, remaining three tablespoons of oil, half a teaspoon of salt and a generous grind of black pepper.
7. Stir half the grated tomato mixture into the chickpeas, then divide the stew between six bowls. Top with the remaining grated tomato, cumin and a few coriander leaves, and serve warm.