I think that for most people, chickpeas are one of those foods that fit into the category of take them or leave them. Certainly my taste buds always take them but my digestive tract would rather wish I’d leave them. My view is that, digestive problems aside, chickpeas are rather like tofu. All on their own they lack panache but they benefit from being flavour-leeches, tossing them with the right ingredients makes them taste, well, tasty. They also have an uncanny ability to undergo metamorphosis…chop them, bash them, mash them or puree them and they’re like caterpillars turning into butterflies. Although, I’m not sure that caterpillars should ever be used in the same paragraph as the word food, so I take that comparison back. Anyway, you get the point.
Far too frequently they are overlooked as simply the main component in hummus. And though I credit hummus rather highly in the rankings of culinary inventions, it’s really just the starting line for these beany numbers. There are plenty other ways to use them-salads, falafal, burgers, curries, soup and ground into flour they can be used to make baked goods* and breads. And unlike other ingredients, such as let’s say: Marmite, they actually take on other flavours rather than taking over. That’s not a diss against Marmite, which also holds a place very close to my heart and a jar of natural crunchy peanut butter.
I’ve used tinned chickpeas rather than dried in this recipe because during the week I’m not a very organised person when it comes to planning dinner at night- let alone the night before. On the weekends though, I would opt for the dried ones. Not because I think it really effects the flavour of the chickpeas (of which we’ve already established there’s not much of) but because it’s rather fun watching shriveled-up dried things grow into plump juicy things (feel free to make your own joke). But you can take your pick, bearing in mind that what you weigh out in dried will double in volume once soaked. What is true though is that this tastes even better after it’s sat around at room temperature sucking up the flavours of all the other ingredients. If when all is said and done these still don’t excite you then I suggest you throw in some cubed feta.
Spicy, tangy and herby chickpea salad
This recipe is adapted from Ellie Krieger’s: The Food You Crave, a book that has become a trusty stand-in for me over the past few of months- the title certainly attracts my eye when hunger becomes me. Ellie serves hers with a yogurt dressing on spinach but I think this also works well as a side dish, spooned onto toasted sourdough or part of a buffet spread. Play around with the herbs and feel free to substitute the lemon for orange or lime.
Difficulty: Chick-peasy (yeah i know, groan)
Diet facts: vegan, gluten-free
1 x 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
1-2 tbsp olive oil (depending on how you feel about fats)
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne or chili powder
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 small/ 1/4 cup diced red onion or scallion
small handful/ scant 1/4 cup chopped parsley and mint mixed
salt & pepper
1/ mix together all of the above ingredients, taste and adjust seasoning as necessary and eat. Drizzle with more olive oil if desired.
*Gluten-free biscotti ( using chickpea flour)