Mary’s African-style Chick Pea, Cauliflower, Yam Curry

The end result taken with my iPhone.

I’m a freestyle cook. That’s fancy talk for “unable to follow directions.”  I never make the same dish the same way twice. But, now that Joyce Dick, my high school English teacher, has asked for a recipe, I’m committing to one I made August 7, 2010.

This recipe is loose amalgamation of a Kenyan curry that a friend made for me several years ago and a South African recipe I found in a book I bought of traditional South African cuisine. Food alchemy is what I call it.

I am an omnivore who is just as happy eating vegan fare as I am a bacon sandwich. So, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, this is a great dish for you. Feel free to adapt it to your taste, heat sensitivity, and dietary needs. It makes a great standalone meal or extra dish if you’re having a curry feast.


1 medium-sized leek finely chopped deep into the green

1 large yellow onion finely chopped

5 cloves of garlic peeled and very finely chopped

3-5 Thai green chilies sliced into rounds (I do 5-7 but I have a high heat tolerance when it comes to food)

3 Tablespoons of crushed fresh ginger

2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes chopped

1 head of cauliflower broken into 1-2 inch chunks depending upon how chunky you like your curry.

1 large or 2 small yams peeled and sliced into 1 inch chunks

(Optional) ½ cup of any other vegetable you have lying around (last night I added a summer-squash like vegetable that my house sitter left in the fruit bowl. Fresh green beans are nice and Kale packs the vitamins)

1 14-oz can of light coconut milk (I like the Trader Joe’s brand and it is 65% less fat)

1 15-oz can of Garbanzo beans drained well (chick peas in some areas)

4 tablespoons high heat tolerant cooking oil such as canola, peanut, or coconut (I always use coconut oil because it’s so great for you and adds a touch more exotic flavor)

In a spice grinder (or mortar and pestle) crush together until fairly fine:

2 tablespoons ground tumeric

1 tablespoon curry powder (I use hot of course but use what you like)

2 tsp. coriander seed or powder

1 tsp. cumin seed or powder

½ tsp. mustard seed

1//2 tsp. salt (to taste)

Heat oil in a large cast iron or other heat tolerant pan over medium high heat until it sizzles. Add leeks and cook for about 3 minutes until they start to wilt. Then add onion and garlic and cook until dark golden brown. This should take about 15 minutes. Keep stirring it so it doesn’t burn but don’t be afraid to go pretty dark. This mixture should be quite pasty. It’s the basis of all great curries.

Turn the stove down to warm and add the spice mixture, ginger, and chilies and stir well so it gets all mixed up. Let it mellow over the warm heat for about 5 minutes while you gather your vegetables.

Next add the tomatoes and stir well. Then add the cauliflower, sweet potato and extra vegetable (if you have any) and coconut milk. Turn the heat up to medium high and bring to a very light bubbling. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are just tender. Then, add the garbanzo beans and heat for another five minutes. Let the whole mixture sit for at least ½ hour before serving to enhance the flavors. It’s even better if it sits overnight. Let it cool completely before you refrigerate and then warm it up before you serve it.

I serve this particular curry with quinoa. I always add a little chopped dried fruit to the quinoa during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Apricots are my favorite but cranberries work well too. Yesterday I added raisins because that’s all I had. You can also garnish with plain yoghurt and fruit chutney.

Let me know how this recipe works for you. If you add anything interest, I’d love to know.


2 thoughts on “Mary’s African-style Chick Pea, Cauliflower, Yam Curry

  1. Katie Biesty

    Hi Mary, my sister and I tried this recipe but unfortunately we actually used a yam! and not a sweet potato! The whole dish tastes not good and perhaps the name of this could be changed to Mary’s African-style Chick Pea, Cauliflower, Sweet Potato Curry, to avoid confusion! I’m sure with sweet potato this tastes great!

    1. Hi Katie, I am glad you tried the recipe but really sorry it didn’t turn out well for you. I actually do use yams but I have to be very careful not to overcook them because they can get mushy. Although I see I wrote “sweet potato” at one point in the recipe, I actually meant yam. I’ll have to try it with sweet potato as well. Let me know more about what you didn’t like about the taste and maybe I can make an adjustment to the recipe and / or description. Also, if you cook it with sweet potato, let me know how that turns out. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Cheers, Mary

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