Chickpea Stew with Collards, Dried Shrimp, and Peanuts
Every now and then I get a craving for a dish that doesn’t quite exist yet. It’s usually a combination of different cravings that come together at first in a vague longing, and then cohere into a recipe as I get closer to actually cooking it. I have a feeling that that’s how a lot of us cook, but I’m only just beginning to recognize the tendency in myself.
This stew of chickpeas, collard greens, peanuts, and dried shrimp grew out of a craving for collards (a common occurrence for me), to which my wandering appetite then added the other ingredients as the dish started to take shape in my head. The final dish is deeply savory, earthy, a little spicy, and wonderfully satisfying. I eat it all on its own but you could serve this over rice and be all the richer for it.
CHICKPEA STEW WITH COLLARDS, DRIED SHRIMP, AND PEANUTS
5 large cloves of garlic, unpeeled
2 medium tomatoes
For the spice paste:
2 tsp moderately spicy chilli flakes (or to taste)
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp dried shrimp
¼ cup skinless roasted peanuts
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 14 oz cans chickpeas
1 large bunch collard greens, finely chopped
Stock or water
In a cast-iron skillet on the stove top, or under the broiler, char the garlic cloves and tomatoes until they are blistered all over. Discard the garlic skins and set the tomatoes and garlic pods aside.
In a medium kadhai or wok, heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil till it begins to shimmer. Add the chilli flakes and cumin and allow to sizzle briefly in the hot oil till they become fragrant and lightly toasted. Add the dried shrimp and peanuts and stir into the hot oil till glossy and fragrant—less than a minute. Add the chopped cilantro to the pan and stir into the hot oil till the leaves collapse completely.
Tip the contents of the pan into a large, heatproof mortar along with the tomatoes and garlic and pound till you have a fairly fine, but not entirely smooth mixture. Set aside. (You can do this step in a food processor if you don’t have a large enough mortar and pestle, though in that case let the mixture cool a few minutes before adding it to the processor.)
Set a clay pot over medium heat (a large Dutch oven will work here, too, but I do prefer clay). Heat 2 teaspoons of coconut oil till it begins to shimmer. Add the spice paste and allow it to warm up and sizzle in the bottom of the pan.
Add the finely chopped collards and cook for five minutes until the leaves are shiny and have begun to shrink and give off some of their liquid. Add the chickpeas and enough stock or water to cover by at least an inch. Add two teaspoons of salt, stir well and leave to cook, partially covered, over low heat, for 20–30 minutes, until the greens are silky and tender to the bite.
Check for salt and adjust as needed. Eat while still piping hot over rice or, as I did, all on its own.