Dinner is a minefield with my toddler. I try to make a meal that my husband and I will like and my son will also eat. When he first started eating normal food, I would make him a separate dinner from what my husband and I ate because I was concerned that my food would be too spicy, too crunchy, too anything. When we went out to eat, we immediately gravitated to the children’s menu. Then, while watching last season’s Top Chef season wrap-up, I heard Antonia Lofaso comment that she thinks kids’ menus are insulting to kids. When I heard this a bell went off. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. She’s right, of course. Kids’ menus, like television and strollers, are a crutch for us to lean on instead of doing the hard parenting. It’s much easier to say, “Okay son, tonight you can have a hot dog,” than to order or make something that will challenge his palate and help him grow to enjoy healthier options. I think that I’ll be a better parent if I abandon the kids menu at restaurants and in my own home and let my son eat from the regular menu or even my husband’s and my plate.
There are already a few meals that are home-runs for everyone in the house, and most of them are no surprise. I don’t think anyone would find it amazing that meatloaf is a hit, same with meatballs and chicken pot pie. But what about chana masala? This is my son’s favorite restaurant meal, hands down. My kid, the one that the restaurants think should be eating hot dogs and chicken fingers, loves the stuff. Pair it with the brown rice he loves, and he’s eating a good meal that I’m proud of.
Chana Masala is one of those dishes that just plain-and-simple doesn’t need meat. All by itself it’s rich, flavorful and satisfying, but when you add some chicken, it becomes a hybrid dish that really starts to sing to you. This recipe isn’t really a true chana masala because of the addition of chicken, so we’ll just call it Chicken and Chickpea Curry. There are so many reasons I love this dish; not only because my son will eat it, but also I love the simplicity of using all-in-one curry powder instead of a list of fifteen ingredients, I love that it is very low in fat, and I love that is dairy free. Most of all I love this dish because it is so luscious and savory without being overly spicy that I could eat it all night long. Believe me, this is one of those curry dishes that will make picky eaters into Indian-food converts, and it’s easy enough to make on a week night!
Chicken and Chickpea Curry
This dish is very good as a vegetarian dish; just leave out the chicken and use veggie broth. Without the chicken it serves 3; with the chicken it serves 4.
2 tbs olive oil
1 lb boneless skinless chicken pieces (I use chicken breast, but chicken thighs would be oh so delicious!)
1 lg onion, diced
1 tsp plus 1/2 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp grated ginger
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 15 oz cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
2 cups low sodium chicken broth or stock (or veggie broth)
1 tbs sweet curry (I use Penzeys – which you can get here)
1 tsp garam masala (I use Penzeys for this too)
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
2 tbs lemon juice
Heat olive oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper and add to pan. Brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and set aside to cool. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt to remaining oil in pan. Turn heat down to medium low and cover pan, cook until very soft (about 10 minutes) stirring once or twice. It is okay for the onion to get lightly brown, but if it starts to get very dark, reduce the heat. When onion is soft add garlic and ginger; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and cook for another five minutes.
Now, if you are cooking for a group of non-picky normal adults and not toddlers (or adults) in the “ew, yucky” stage then you can skip this next step. As for the rest of us, scrape the onion and tomato mixture into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is almost smooth. Return to pan.
Once the chicken has cooled, use a fork to shred the meat into bite size pieces. Add chicken, chickpeas, chicken broth, curry powder and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt to the pan and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low. You can simmer the curry for a little as 1/2 hour or as long as 2 hours. The longer you let the curry simmer, the more tender your chicken will get and the better the flavors will blend.
Right before serving, stir the garam masala, cilantro and lemon juice into the curry. Serve over rice or with Naan.
And here’s the play by play (scroll down below this for the naan recipe!)
Sautee onions with tomatoes, garlic and ginger
Size up your crowd and decide if you want to pull out the food processor. If you have a toddler, it is highly suggested!
You don’t need the chicken to make this curry scrummy, but it does send it over the top!
Add the garam masala (the spice in the middle of the picture) right before serving so you don’t mute the flavors.
Makes 6 naan (but the picture only shows 4 because two didn’t last that long!)
For ten years now, I have used a Madhur Jaffrey recipe for Naan that I modified for a bread machine. The original recipe can be found in her book, Indian Cooking, which is about all you need if you want to learn how to cook Indian food. The original recipe is also here. This dough is very versatile, and can be used to make a million different things, but if you make it, why would you want anything other than Naan. You can add pretty much anything you want when you are forming it right before baking. Some people have told me they add carmelized onions, sauteed garlic, nigella seeds, and lots and lots of us just cook it plain and slather it with a little butter and sprinkle of salt when it comes out of the oven.
2/3 cup warm skim milk
2 tsp melted butter
2 tsp instant yeast
1 lb all-purpose flour (approx. 4 cups)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbs olive oil
2/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 large egg
2 teaspoons sugar
In the mixing bowl of your bread machine, add ingredients as suggested by your bread machine manufacturer. Set the bread machine to the dough setting and let it run through the cycle. Depending on humidity and air temperature, you may need to add extra flour, so about halfway through the mixing cycle check to dough to see if it is too sticky to work with. It should be sticky, but workable with floured hands. Add extra flour one tablespoon at a time if needed.
When the cycle has finished, transfer dough to a bowl and let double in size, about 30 minutes, and preheat oven to 500 F. I have a convection oven and like to use it when baking this bread, but I’ve made this in the past in a thirty year old electric oven in a dumpy apartment kitchen and it worked just as well. I will say that if you have a baking stone use it – it makes a huge difference, just be sure to preheat it.
Once the dough has risen, separate it into six equal sections. Using a rolling pin or your hands, flatten dough out to ovals about 1/3 inch thick.
When the oven has pre-heated, place ovals on pre-heated stone or heavy baking sheet. Bake on top shelf of the oven for two minutes; the naan should start to puff. If you want dark, crispy naan or do not have a convection oven, switch the oven from bake to broil for an additional minute or until the top starts to brown. When brown on top, remove from oven and cover with a towel while you finish baking the remaining loaves. Before serving, brush the naan with melted butter.