Last Friday I made the mistake of committing myself to a regular and timetabled posting about a kitchen essential. Like the Chinese Olympian, Liu Xiang, I fell at the first hurdle and utterly failed to make a posting last week. There was a reason for this, it wasn’t merely laziness or plain old forgetfulness. I can’t now remember what that reason is but anyway, here is a Friday Nibbles post on a Tuesday. As a small concession to the fact that it is not a Friday, I’ve decided to make it about a general item rather than a specific product. So, essential item two for every kitchen cupboard is…
Chickpeas were one of the first vegetables to be domesticated. Archaeological evidence has been found dating them to at least 3500BCE, but the likelihood is that they were first cultivated even earlier than that in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East (the strip of land that runs between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, now mostly in modern day Iraq – it is a painful irony that archaeologically this area is referred to as The Cradle of Civilisation).
They are extremely high in protein, which explains their use in vegetarian and vegan diets, wonderfully versatile, filling, tasty and cheap - half a kilo of these brilliant legumes will set you back no more than fifty pence.
We always have a couple of bags of dried chickpeas on the shelf, as well as an emergency tin, just in case we have a pressing desire for hummus and have forgotten to soak some overnight. Raw chickpeas can be ground down and mixed with spices, garlic and coriander to be made into delicious falafel, cooked ones make a great addition to curries of all varieties and can, of course, also be made into creamy hummus by blitzing them up with some tahnini, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt and a little of the cooking water to thin the paste out. You can also add a wide range of Middle Eastern or North African spices to the resultant gloop to put a little twist on it. Cumin, cinnamon, chilli and smoked paprika are all excellent.
Barely a week goes by when we don’t indulge in flatbreads stuffed with hot and crunchy fried falafel tempered with cooling hummus, minted yoghurt and salad. Topped off with spicy chilli sauce, naturally. All recipes available on request.