Chana saag, or curried chickpeas and spinach, is a beautifully flavoursome dish my Nan used to make all the time when I was a child. We’d cook it most holidays and I would always love to watch the abundance of spinach shrink into tendrils as they mixed with the hot chickpeas, absolutely fascinated by the transformation before my eyes. Although cooking was not a huge part of my younger years, I always found the food my Nan served made me feel so close to her and my family’s Bangladeshi history. Her style embodied everything we Ali’s represented – tradition with a twist!
Following on from her, I wanted to create a dish that celebrated her flavours with my own favourites and, truth be told, I do love a pasty. Quite far from the bhajis and daals she raised me to adore, but as a wholesomely comforting food, it’s hard not to get on board with this combination. The spicy chickpeas and spinach are paired with sweet potato and parcelled up an a crusty spelt pastry, making for the ultimate collaboration. If you like a little spice to your pie, then you’ll won’t be able to get enough of these!
Makes 6 small pasties or 4 larger ones
- 2 cups spelt flour (240g)
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil (Butter or ghee will also work)
- A generous pinch of salt
- 6-8 tablespoons ice cold water
For the filling
- 1 400g can of chickpeas (drained)
- 1 large bowl of spinach (around two large handfuls)
- 200g sweet potato peeled and chopped into 1cm square chunks
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 2 garlic cloves
- A handful of diced frozen white onions
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon hot chilli powder
- Salt + pepper to taste
- Olive oil
Sift your flour into a bowl with the salt and add the oil. Stir in, then use your hands to crush and crumble the dough together. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, continuing to mix with your hands until it is no longer crumbly. Kneed a couple of times, then wrap the dough in clingfilm and place to one side for 20 minutes – an hour. In the meantime, make your filling.
Steam you sweet potato for around 15 until soft. At the same time, bring a saucepan to medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil and the onions. Stir and cook until the onions have softened and turned translucent, then add the garlic and spiced, except the salt and pepper, plus a dash of boiling water. Mix and cook for around 5-6 minutes, continuously adding water in small amounts to form a paste and ensure it doesn’t dry out.
Stir in the chickpeas, tomato puree, spinach and sweet potato and cook until the spinach has wilted. Add the salt and pepper, then cover and cook for another 5 minutes until everything has soaked up the flavours. Turn off the heat and leave to cool.
Pre-heat your oven to 180°C. Take your dough and divide it into 6 or 4 balls (depending on how big you want them). Use a rolling pin to roll each one out into a flat circle around 1mm thick. You can either fill the pastry just like this or if you want to create a more flaky pastry, rub some extra oil into the centre slice long ribbons through one of the circles, around 1 inch thick. Use your fingers to roll up one of the outer ribbons, then place this at the bottom of the other outer ribbon and roll that up too. Keep rolling up each roll inside another until you’ve just got one big roll, then squash this down and roll out the pastry into another thin circle (pictured below). Repeat with the rest of the dough.
Spread 1-2 tablespoons of the chana saag on one side of the dough circle, just slight away from the edge. Fold the other half over the top to cove the filling and press the two edges together. To seal, fold the flaps back in towards the centre. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
Brush the pasties with extra oil or egg wash (1 egg whisk with 2 tablespoons of plant or dairy milk). Place on a lined baking tray and cook in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until lightly golden.
Remove and serve how you like – remember the filling is hot so be careful when you bite in. Enjoy!