If you have never had the pleasure of experiencing African airline travel, I can tell you it's a joy. That time you boarded the plane for Algiers and you landed (oh oops!) in Oran and no one bothered to announce they changed the route? Yes. The guy bringing the chickens and sappling onto the plane? We've met.
Just last week I was thinking about how it's been over a year and a half since I've had any sort of sniffle/sickness/bug, when, of course, BAM! Hello, stomach virus! E coli I did not miss you. After trying in vain to change my flights, my 24-hour bug ended just in time for me to make it to the airport. Traveling while sick is just miserable, traveling while sick in North Africa is worse. There was the guy from Chad who kept wanting to take selfies with me on the plane. There was the entire (entire!) planeful of Berber old ladies returning from the Hajj with their white shawls and ink-dyed finger tips. Myself and my French compatriot may have been the only people on that plane above 4 feet in height. And then I caught a cold.
So, it's been a rough week. I'm looking forward to plenty of hot tea and rest and some minimal cooking. I made up this recipe the other night and it was exactly what I needed -- extremely easy to make, healthy, and with enough flavors and spices to cut through a sniffly nose. With some yogurt on the side, because salty yogurt with rice is the best comfort food this girl can think of.
Chickpeas in Tomato-Tamarind Sauce
If you want to take this in a more sweet-sour direction, try adding some minced ginger and golden raisins to the stew.
olive oil, salt
1 large red onion
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
2 teaspoons garam masala (or curry powder)
1 teaspoon harissa (or other chili paste, adjusted for spiciness)
2 cups tomato puree
1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate
3 cups chickpeas
1 cup chopped cilantro
1. Quarter the onion and slice it into half moons. Heat some olive oil in a pot. Saute the onions over medium heat, stirring, until they soften and start to caramelize, at least 20 minutes. Don't rush this step. When the onions are soft and brown, add the garlic and the spices and let cook a minute or so, until fragrant.
2. Add in the tomato puree, tamarind concentrate, chickpeas, 1 cup of water, and salt to taste. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then lower the heat and allow to simmer uncovered for at least 30 minutes, so that the flavors combine and the sauce reduces. The mixture should be thick. Taste for seasoning and stir in the cilantro, mixing to combine. Serve warm -- it is good over rice with some plain salted yogurt on the side, or with bread.