Tuesday, 2 September 2008

(Delayed) Friday Nibbles - Chickpeas

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.



Sam said...

I love chickpeas and your falafel flatbread sounds delicious!
Interesting post, it's nice to earn a bit about what I eat.

Dave said...

Your post makes me almost ashamed to admit that I use only have two applications for chickpeas: in soup, and sprinkled in a garden salad.

I resolve to be more adventurous with the ugly little nubbins.

Marilyn said...

A nice report on the stubborn but delicious chickpea. Stumbled across you blog, Alex, and enjoy your eating & cooking. I've linked to you at my site to spread the word. Keep up the tasty work!

Patrick said...

Hi Alex! A quick question for you. Do you find an appreciable difference in the flavor and or texture of dried vs canned chick peas. I've only ever used the canned. Just lazy I guess, but I never think to myself, I better soak some chickpeas for tomorrow.

Katie said...

Great post Alex. I love chickpeas too, esp. falafel although I am a bit slack and use packet mix- I did try to make it from scratch once and it all just disintergrated in the pan :(

Hollee said...

I found this at photograzing, and had to post. Chickpeas are one of the staples in our vegetarian diet. I put them in LOTS of things - most recently in a stuffed green pepper. Another favorite is made into a sandwich egg salad style (I posted this on my blog today) or simply mixed whole with parm cheese, lemon, and evoo. Sometimes I even eat them with just plain rice! My "trick" is that in the last hour of boiling I add spices, most recently I added Braggs amino acids, to the water. They added an AMAZING flavor. The Fat Free Vegan just posted about roasted chick peas - which is another fantastic idea.

Seriously, LOL, I could go on for DAYS about chickpeas!

Anonymous said...

falafel and flatbread recipes, please? THANKS!


Anonymous said...

Mmmm... you're making me hungry with all that talk of hummus! I miss it! Thanks for the good wishes on the blog. Things are just fine here and thankfully the threat of strikes on the utilities have subsided (hot shower tonight!). Hope all is well with you!

Alicia Foodycat said...

I do love chickpeas! Hardly ever cook them from scratch though! I'm sure dried are superior but I never really plan that far in advance.

Anonymous said...

Hi Alex! Just stumbling through and your post reminded me of something. When I was a militantly vegetarian teenager, we used to freeze cooked (or nearly cooked) chickpeas. It saves on the soaking and cooking each time you want to eat them.

Anonymous said...

Great post on chickpeas! We love them - complete staple around here!

Just Cook It said...

Hi Sam - thanks very much, I'll try and sort out a recipe as soon as I can. Glad you liked the post.

dave - gor for it, be more experimental with these 'ugly little nubbins', it's well worth it.

marilyn - thanks for leaving such a nice message, glad you like it. I'll head over to your blog and take a peek.

patrick - I think there is a difference in flavour, although tinned chickpeas are probably marginally better for making houmous. If you want to make falafel then you need dried.

Katie - thank you! Did you use dried or tinned chickpeas? I tried it once with cooked chickpeas and it was a real disaster.

hollee - thank you for leaving such a nice comment. They really are a fantastic ingredient.

heather - it's on its way, promise

urbanpilgrim - I don't remember seeing much hummus in Bangkok although I do seem to remember seeing a middle easter and Greek food place in MBK. Things are grand thanks!

foodycat - you should give it a go, it's worth the planning!

Hi Tom - Fantastic idea. I'll put it into action.

Chez US - thank you very much, much appreciated

Patrick said...

Hi Alex! I will anxiously await the recipe for falafel. That is a food I absolutely adore.

and... indeed, I'm a huge fan of the Shins. They are a fantastic live band!

Laura Paterson said...

Oh - I love chickpeas!! Especially slow roasted in a little olive oil and and spices - makes a gorgeous nibble!

I cook up huge batches at a time (I'm way to rubbish to remember to let them soak every time I use them!) I just put them in a big food bag in the freezer and grab a handful whenever I need them.

Katie said...

I used tinned chick peas because I can never follow a recipe- I always skim read the ingredients and then improvise. I think this is where I came unstuck. I will try again tho when you post your recipe and I promise to read it properly!

Thistlemoon said...

Um...I would love your falafel recipe- I have never found a GREAT falafel recipe, just OK. I am good on the hummus. :)

I love chickpeas!

Just Cook It said...

Patrick - I'll get on the case.

Kittie - Great idea, especially if you are as forgetful as me.

Katie - I do exactly the same thing, and often come unstuck myself.

Hi Jenn - I'll get round to posting it this week.