Sundays are cruel. As a sort of high point to the week – a temporal summit – they offer reprieve for the tired wanderer. Hungover, overtired, and marshalled through midterm season by the passing of time, we the students are particularly affected: For the next five days, it’s an uphill battle. On Sundays, we acknowledge the laundry and the unwritten papers, and the absence of anything resembling a nutritious meal.
Now, the adult thing to do would be to get groceries, roast a chicken, and make some permutation of various root vegetables. Follow this with an uninterrupted communion with Microsoft Word and JSTOR, and you will emerge a champion.
Of course, that doesn’t happen. Further, the clock is unsympathetic: It’s now 8 p.m., you haven’t eaten, and despite an impending midterm, the quasi-concavity of functions is not a concept you understand. Yet, in precisely these conditions is every bite of your eleventh-hour boxed mac ‘n’ cheese so satisfying. Anything from lowly noodles to a scrambled egg is now an accomplishment.
But rest easy: From the backwater of your pantry, your canned chickpeas, tomato paste, and moulding onions can become not only an accomplishment, but a forgiving meal that will last well into the week. A loose adaptation of chana masala, or chickpea curry, can be prepared fairly quickly, and is (more importantly) actually kind of a nice dinner.
You’ll want to do your prep. work first (a great exercise in goal-setting): Finely mince onions, garlic and ginger—more or less to taste. Next, prepare your spice blend so that you have about two tablespoons per can of chickpeas. At some point when you’re feeling responsible, it never hurts to make a quick trip to the Cackling Goose to stock up on curry powder and/or garam masala, turmeric, chilli powder, cumin, and perhaps some fenugreek, ground cloves and cardamom. You can do some research on spice blends for authenticity, but I find your own tastes are a much more useful guide.
Don’t forget to rinse your chickpeas before proceeding. Heat a generous amount of neutral oil (avoid using olive oil here), and cook your onions until translucent. Toss in your minced garlic and ginger, and cook until aromatic. Then, dump your spices in and heat them until they too are fragrant. Adding your tomato paste and darkening for a minute is a good idea too.
In about two minutes you can add broth, with some coconut milk, cream, water, or some combination thereof, along with your chickpeas so that you have about two cups of liquid in the pan. If you’ve gotten this far, making a pot of rice wouldn’t hurt, either. When everything is tender and balanced, sit down and bask in the glow of your produce.