In the past, when I’ve been asked which food-and-beer pairing I’m most proud of, the first that comes to mind is one from our book, The Beer Lover’s Table – the cover recipe, in fact – for prawn and mango coconut curry, paired with a hazy, tropical double IPA.
New England IPAs and their ilk can be difficult to have alongside food – they’re so potent, so rich and bold, that they overwhelm many dishes. The secret is to find food that matches their intensity, ideally with some complementary flavours; maybe it isn’t so revelatory after all that fruity, pungent curries are quite at home alongside fruity, pungent beers.
That same principle is at work in this pairing, which has become another immediate favourite – even if the details are a little bit skewed. Begin with this distinctive chana masala, which has fast become my favourite version of the dish.
Adapted from a recipe by the James Beard-nominated cookbook author Nik Sharma, this is a much drier, less saucy version of the curry – I like it best scooped up with roti, rather than soaked into rice – and also distinctly sour and musky, courtesy of the amchur, lime juice and asafoetida, or hing.
That last ingredient is absolutely key, even though you might see “¼ teaspoon” and be tempted to skip it. Best used in tiny quantities, this spice packs a wallop.
It has a fennel-like sweetness that immediately gives way to an intensely savoury, allium-like, borderline sulphuric quality. If you’ve never used it before, and if that sounds a bit forbidding, know that that same flavour profile is present in many beloved hop varieties – particularly those New World hops which have come to characterise so many modern, East Coast-style IPAs.
Though Duration x North’s Gracefully Facedown is billed as a West Coast DIPA, I like to think of it as Mountain-style – halfway between West Coast and East, the best of both worlds. Slightly hazy rather than opaque, balanced with a dry and bitter finish rather than ultra-sweet, it’s hopped with Mosaic and Citra rather than some of the more bracing C hops – Columbus, Centennial, Cascade, Chinook – you might expect in a classic Westie.
The result is a beer that aligns with my current preferences pretty much perfectly, and also one that really resonates alongside this chana masala. Those musky-fruity-edging-on-savoury aromas burst through on the nose, and are picked up again in a follow-up mouthful of curry. If you’re looking for a candidate for a Friday night curry and beer, skip the delivery apps this time – this easy-to-throw-together recipe is worth doing the dishes for.
Adapted from Nik Sharma
250g dried chickpeas (or use tinned chickpeas, see note in recipe)
Fine sea salt, to taste
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 bird’s eye chilli, minced
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons garam masala
¼ teaspoon asafoetida
1-2 tablespoons tomato purée
2 teaspoons amchur powder (optional)
Juice of 1 lime
1 large handful fresh mint, roughly torn
Your preferred flatbread or steamed rice, to serve
1. First, prep your chickpeas. If, like me, you’re using an Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker, add the dried chickpeas and water directly to the bowl, seal and pressure cook for 50 minutes on high before letting the pressure release naturally. Strain and reserve the remaining cooking water. Season the chickpeas with fine sea salt, to taste.
Note: I like this Instant Pot method because it yields very tender chickpeas with almost custardy centres, but tinned chickpeas can work equally well. (You can also cook the dried chickpeas on the stove for approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours
after soaking overnight, but that’s definitely the most time-consuming option.) Dried chickpeas roughly double in weight after cooking, so you can skip this step and replace with 500g of tinned, drained chickpeas, if preferred. (Note that 400g tins of chickpeas typically have a drained weight of 250g, but check packaging when purchasing.)
2. Place a large frying pan over medium heat and add the oil or ghee. Once hot, add the onions, as well as the cumin seeds. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add the bicarbonate of soda and stir through; this is a trick that helps caramelise and break down onions very quickly. Once the onions are deep golden and melting, add the ginger, garlic and chilli. Cook for 2 or so minutes more, stirring frequently, or until they lose their raw smell.
3. Next, add the turmeric, garam masala and asafoetida, and stir into the onion mixture. Once the spices are very fragrant, after about 30 seconds, add the tomato purée and cook, mixing through, for 1-2 minutes more.
4. To the frying pan, add the prepared chickpeas, as well as 125ml of their reserved cooking liquid. (If you used tinned chickpeas, you can substitute with water or stock; I find the liquid in the tins can be a bit gloopy.) Gently fold through and mix to combine. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Taste and adjust seasoning, if need be.
5. To finish off the curry, add the amchur powder, if using (this is dried mango powder, which imparts a pleasing sourness). Remove from the heat and squeeze over the lime juice before mixing through. Garnish with the fresh mint leaves and serve with your preferred flatbread or with steamed rice.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen.