Indian Spiced Chickpea Skillet Cake


Here in Southern Ontario, the Greater Toronto Area to be exact, we experienced what is akin to a heat wave in winter this past weekend. Temperatures in the (low) double digits (Celsius that is) warmed our bodies and our souls and an abundance of sunshine made everything seemed brighter. Sigh, we collectively needed this! Or at least I needed this. Days like this weekend remind me that everything is going to be okay. Life will be okay. More than okay! Spring is around the corner, we just have to hang in there for a few more weeks.

You know what else warms the body and soul? Spicy, flavourful, easy dishes made with nourishing ingredients. You might have noticed that I love spice. A lot of spice. Like, all the spice in the world. And by spice I mean spices AND heat. In my world, the hotter the better. It’s like an addiction and I often crave spicy foods. My sister gets me. She’s just the same.


In this spiced chickpea skillet cake the spice comes from some wonderfully robust Indian inspired spices like cumin seeds and fresh ginger, as well as from green chilies which you can dial up or down based on your preferences. You can guess which direction I went! This skillet cake is modelled after an Indian dish called dhokla, if only in flavours and ingredients, not actual execution. Traditional dhokla requires a pressure cooker to make and yields a spongy, super light savoury cake. Like a cloud in your mouth! I rely on baking powder to help achieve a bit of this airiness, though my recipe creates something much more dense and filling. In any case, it’s taste is reminiscent of dhokla and that is all I can wish for. To make it a bit more traditional you could drizzle the finished skillet cake in black mustard seeds and chopped green chilies fried in oil. Alas, no mustard seeds in my cupboard and the stores were closed due to a holiday. I decided to go for it anyway!  


I love using chickpea flour as it is super cheap (I buy it at a bulk store) and packed with fibre, protein and a host of micronutrients. One 1/2 cup serving of chickpea flour (also known as garbanzo flour or besan) provides you with 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fibre, as well as about half of your daily folate and a quarter of your daily iron requirements. Please ask me where I get my protein from the next time you see me. It’s also naturally gluten-free (though if you have Celiac disease please buy it in sealed packages!)

Please excuse the seemingly long instructions but I get chatty. And also I needed to explain how I MacGyvered my skillet to have a snug lid to fit over top of it. Yup, using skills in the kitchen!


Indian Spiced Chickpea Skillet Cake

Serves 4-6

Prep Time 15 minutes

Cook Time 10-13 minutes


2 cups chickpea flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon ground turmeric

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 cups water

2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 small lime)

1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro, packed

1 Tablespoon neutral-tasting oil (avocado, canola, grapeseed, refined coconut)

1 Tablespoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds (optional)

1 Tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger

1-2 chopped green chilies, leave seeds in

Garnish: chopped fresh cilantro, sliced green chilies, lime


1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk chickpea flour, baking powder, salt and pepper to combine. Add water and lime juice and whisk well, ensuring batter is smooth and lump free. Set aside.

2. Choose an oven-proof, non-stick frying pan or well seasoned cast iron skillet, for which you have a tight fitting lid (I used a lid from a large stock pot and used a couple of pieces of tin foil to plug the gaps along the rim of the skillet). Heat oil over medium-high, then add cumin seeds, coriander seeds, ginger and chilies. Fry, stirring often, until fragrant and seeds begin to pop,  about 1-2 minutes.

3. Add fried spices, ginger and chilies to chickpea batter and whisk in. Don’t worry if you don’t get every seed and bit from skillet. Place skillet back on the stove and turn heat down to low. Carefully pour chickpea batter into the skillet and cover with the lid (no peeking – the key is to allow steam to build up and help in cooking the cake.) Cook over low heat for 6-8 minutes, until bubbles appear on surface and mixture starts to set (you will notice the top of the cake will start to dry out and become less jiggly.) Be careful not to burn the skillet cake! Low heat is key here. While cake is cooking on the stove top, set oven on to broil.

4. Once batter is mostly set, remove from heat, remove lid and place skillet on middle rack and broil for 2-3 minutes. Watch carefully to ensure skillet cake does not burn! This is not the time to walk away and start a new task. Carefully remove skillet from the oven (it’s hot!) and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, you can flip the  skillet cake out of the pan onto a serving plate, or serve straight  form the skillet. Top with desired garnishes. It tastes best when warm, so eat right away! Or store leftovers in the fridge and reheat before eating.


And now for a PSA: Let me know if you make this recipe! Share with your friends! Like and comment below!


Enjoy life and good food and sunshine,


Red Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma)


Sometimes life hands you lemons. Kernels of sourness. Little moments or truths or revelations that just make you pucker up and shake your head in disbelief. Like really universe? This is what you’re going to throw my way? You want to laugh and cry at the same time, on one hand feeling frustrated with the parade of disappointments, but on the other cherishing these moments for the inevitable memoir that will surely entertain the masses. In any case, I’ve learned that it’s best to take the Buddhist path in these instances – let go, live in the here and now and don’t sweat the future. Call up a good friend, shed a few tears, eat a cupcake, then laugh at the audacity of life. Good food helps. Especially a dish that warms from within to chase away the winter chill and nourishes your body with plant-based goodness that pairs plenty of exotic (but easy to find) spices with otherwise simple ingredients. This red kidney bean curry is known as rajma and hails from Northern India. Now let me qualify that a Polish-born Canadian girl making a very traditional Indian curry might take some  liberties with the recipe so this may or may not actually resemble what a real rajma looks or tastes like, but nevertheless I love (LOVE) the results. In fact, now that I think of it, I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually eaten authentic rajma. I’ve heard lots about it from friends and the families of South Asian decent that I counsel in my role as a dietitian (apparently rajma is a beloved dish for many children.) I’ve read and researched plenty of recipes when I decided to make my own many years ago – I can only guess at how close mine is to the real thing. In any case, as I said, the recipe that follows creates a beautiful, spiced dish that satisfies.


Red kidney beans are part of the pulse family (which includes beans, peas and lentils) and Canada is the world’s second largest grower of this nutrient-packed bunch (right after India). Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec grow hundreds of varieties and exports are a billion dollar industry! Talk about home-grown gold. Pulse Canada does an amazing job curating recipes, factsheets and lots  of great information about pulses – please check out their website. While 2016 was the Year of Pulses,  they are not going anywhere. In fact, pulses are gaining popularity and a larger share of the real estate on our plates. And this is no surprise really, they are incredibly cheap, versatile, brimming with protein and nutrients and hailed as a sustainable crop. The future is pulses! Did I mention the nutrients??


I used canned kidney beans for this recipe but give dried beans a chance too. They just require soaking overnight, then a quick rinse and boiling the next day. Mostly idle work. I make big batches at a time then store in zip top bags in the freezer. Check out cooking guidelines for various pulses here. I should  also say give (dried) peas a chance as well. Hehe.  


Red Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma)

Serves 4

Prep Time 15 minutes

Cook Time 30-35 minutes


3 Tablespoons avocado oil, or other neutral tasting oil (grapeseed, canola)

1 medium/large sweet onion, roughly chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic

2 inch chunk of ginger, peeled

1 Tablespoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh red chile, or to taste

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

4 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 (19oz/540ml) cans of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 1/2 cups water

Cooked grain of your choice (rice, quinoa, sorghum, millet) or flatbread, for serving

Chopped fresh cilantro, lime wedges and chopped red chile to garnish (optional)


1. Add ginger and garlic cloves to bowl of food processor and process until finely chopped (about 30 seconds). Add onion to the minced ginger and garlic and pulse until chopped. Alternatively, if you don’t have a food processor, mince ginger and garlic, and finely chop onion with a knife.

2. Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium heat, add ginger, garlic and onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 3-5 minutes.

3. Add in cumin seeds, red pepper flakes or red chile, garam masala, turmeric, coriander, salt and pepper, stir to combine and  cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

4. Add in chopped tomatoes, including any juices, stir to combine, and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until liquid has mostly evaporated and the oil starts to release from the mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low if mixture starts to bubble too fast and sticks to the pan.

5. Add in kidney beans and water, stir to  combine, cover with lid slightly askew (to allow steam to escape) and cook for about 8-10 minutes until curry thickens, stir from time to time to make sure curry does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Take off the heat. If desired, using a potato masher, mash some of the kidney beans in one corner of the pot; this will thicken the sauce a little bit while keeping most of the kidney beans whole.

6. Serve with cooked grains or flatbread and garnish with toppings as desired.


You can add more water to the curry after the last step if you prefer a thinner consistency.

You can buy all the spices at a bulk store if you prefer to buy smaller amounts.