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Chana Masala-Stuffed Yams (or Winter Squash) - Irresistibly vegan recipes

Chana Masala-Stuffed Yams (or Winter Squash)

Chana Masala-Stuffed Yams (or Winter Squash)

Served with Indian-Spiced Cauliflower Wedges


Chana masala is a common way to prepare chickpeas in North India and Pakistan. Though it is a traditional recipe served with rice and some variation of flatbread, here the chana is paired with yams or squash. The yam/squash’s sweetness neutralizes the acidic nature of the tomato and makes a delicious and grain-free alternative to rice. Squeeze some lemon juice on top to make the spices dance, and taste the freshness of the cilantro along with the mild and creamy coconut yogurt.

   This delicious, lighter, and healthier version offers a vegetable too. Cauliflower

is the perfect pairing to make this dish complete and balanced.


Serves 4

Active time: 50 minutes (excludes overnight soaking and chickpea cooking time)

Chana Masala

1 cup (7 oz/198 g) dried chickpeas

2 bay leaves

½ teaspoon baking soda

4 medium (7-oz/198-g) yams, or 2 acorn, butternut,

   or kabocha squash

2 Tablespoons coconut oil, plus 1 melted Tablespoon 

   if using squash  

 ¾ teaspoon Himalayan salt, plus more for squash, or

    to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 medium tomatoes (18 oz/510 g total), or 1 ? to 1 ½

   (14.5-oz/410-g) cans diced tomatoes with juice

4 oz (113 g) leeks, cleaned and sliced into ¼-in

   (0.6-cm) rings

2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 teaspoons minced fresh turmeric

3 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground paprika

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

? teaspoon chili flakes or to taste

½ teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon brown sugar or coconut sugar, as needed

3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

¾ to 1 cup (6.2 to 8.3 oz/176 to 235 g) thick coconut

   yogurt (consistency of Greek yogurt), for serving

8 lemon or lime wedges, for serving

½ handful fresh cilantro (including tender stems), for


Cook the chickpeas: Soak them overnight in cold water with baking soda. (Baking soda makes beans soft and creamy and shortens the cooking time.) Discard the soaking water and rinse three or four times to avoid baking soda taste. Cover chickpeas in water three times their volume, and add bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until tender, 1 to 1 ½ hours. Strain, reserving 1 cup cooking water (save the rest for soups, broths, etc.); remove bay leaves.


 Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).


   Roast yams whole on a sheet pan lined with parchment, until tender, about 45 minutes (insert a knife to test for doneness). Alternatively, if using squashes, cut in half and remove seeds. Place them on a baking tray (cut sides up), brush with 1 Tablespoon melted coconut oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until soft, 25 to 30 minutes.

   Peel tomatoes: Cut a shallow x at the bottom of each tomato and place them in a heatproof bowl or a pot. Pour boiling water over tomatoes, covering them completely. Wait 5 minutes, then strain and peel. If the peels don’t come off easily, repeat. If they are still resistant, boil for 1 to 2 minutes before peeling. Cut into 1-in (2.5-cm) dice, or slice in a food processor.


In a medium pot over medium-low heat, sauté leeks briefly in 2 Tablespoons coconut oil. Add ginger and sauté for 4 minutes. Add turmeric and sauté for another 3 minutes. (Note: Use a red cutting board to prevent staining, if available. Turmeric stains respond well to very hot water, and over time they disappear, but prevention works best.) Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute.

   Dry-roast cumin seeds in a small pan over low heat until golden and aromatic, about 4 minutes. (Roasting enhances the taste of seeds, as their oils release with the heat). Avoid over-roasting to prevent bitterness.

   Add cumin seeds to the leeks, along with the rest of ground spices; simmer for 1 minute over low heat. Add tomatoes and simmer for about 35 minutes or longer if you have time. (The long simmering eases the acidity of tomatoes and allows the liquids to evaporate and the sauce to become rich and balanced.)         

   Add chickpeas and 1 cup reserved broth. Add sugar if needed to palliate the acidity of tomatoes, and squeeze lemon juice to add vibrancy. Simmer until the consistency of a stew, about 15 minutes. Add more broth if needed, taste and re-season if necessary.


Cauliflower Wedges

1 medium (2-lb/907-g) cauliflower, including young


2 Tablespoons avocado oil ½ cup (4.15 oz/117 g) thick

   coconut yogurt (consistency of Greek yogurt)

1 teaspoon Himalayan salt, or to taste

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon chili flakes

1 teaspoon nigella seeds, found in Asian, health

   food, and specialty stores

2 Tablespoons brown sesame seeds

2 teaspoons black sesame seeds

 Cut cauliflower in half from top to bottom. Make a total of 16 to 18 wedges, cutting from the core to the outside of each cauliflower half (keeping part of the core in every wedge will allow it to hold together). Place wedges on a parchment lined baking sheet.

   Preheat broiler to medium with a rack 4 in (10 cm) from the heat source.

   Make a paste with the oil, yogurt, salt, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chili flakes, and spread on each wedge.

   Broil about 8 minutes; sprinkle with nigella seeds and brown and black sesame seeds and broil 2 minutes longer, until al dente. If the topping starts to get dry but the cauliflower is not yet soft, sprinkle with some lemon juice, water, or a bit of oil, and broil for 2 to 3 minutes longer until tender.


To serve, slit each yam in half down the middle and top with a serving of chana masala. (If using acorn squash, fill each half with chana masala), letting it overflow on the plate. Top with 2 Tablespoons (or to taste) yogurt each (yogurt has a cooling effect to offset the spiciness), serve lemon wedges on the side, and garnish with fresh cilantro. Complete the dish by serving the cauliflower on the side.


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