Not all chickpeas are created equal
Chickpeas are perhaps my number one base ingredient, although they’re not often the star player in my favourite curries, salads and soups they add an earthy, nutty creaminess that I just can’t get enough of. There’s also the fantastic chickpea flour or “gram” flour that I use for making farinata and the odd bhaji – it’s ludicrously cheap, easy to use and great for all the gluten-free clan. Then a couple of weeks ago I came across frozen green chickpeas in one of my favourite shops, Sweetmart in Bristol.
I turned my “fresh” chickpeas into simple lunch with potatoes, spices and plenty of fresh coriander. I do admit that I got a bit taken in by the lush green peas on the packet- they were more khaki in reality and didn’t look that appetising, also the texture was a bit more mealy than I was expecting. All in all, I have to be honest, I was rather disappointed – it seems to me that the chickpea, like so many things in life, benefits from a bit of ageing.
So, back to the dried chickpea (and it becomes more and more apparent that you really do get what you pay for – a can of supermarket chickpeas will be fine, but never sublime). The Spanish are serious legume lovers and have all sorts of different chickpea varieties on offer, whereas most of us Brit’s mistakenly think a chickpea is just a chickpea. I’d never seen a growing chickpea before spending some time in the beautiful Sierra de Francia, near Salamanca in Spain. The locals harvested their own crop and then had them drying out on mats in the street. I’ve thrown in a few gratuitous pic’s from Miranda del Castañar and the surrounding villages -it’s such a glorious part of Spain. You’re in Ibérico ham, cherry and legume land.
The caviar of chickpeas is , as far as I’m concerned,, the humungous blanco lechoso (the “milky white”) which has a fabulous sweet flavour and velvety texture. This is the perfect chickpea for making hummus – there must be equally delicious Middle Eastern equivalents available out there but I’ve yet to find them. Tinned chickpeas always seem to give a grainy textured hummus whereas these are silky smooth once puréed. My chickpeas are from a Spanish producer called Burcol and I tracked them down in the fabulous Papadeli in Bristol
I doubt that you’ll be needing a hummus recipe but just in case here’s one from my book Pulse.
Hummus Bi Tahini
300 g/10 oz home- cooked chick peas or 1 x 400 g/ 14 oz tin of well rinsed chick peas
juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
4-6 tbsp tahini paste
salt and black pepper or cayenne pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Place most of the chick peas (keeping a few aside for the traditional garnish) in a food processor with the lemon juice and garlic. Give the tahini a good stir and then add 4 tbsp along with 2 tbsp of water (preferably the cooking water if they are home cooked),
Blend until the mixture is really smooth and then add more water to thin it down if necessary. Season. You will need some salt, you can zip the dish up with cayenne or just use black pepper; to enrich the purée , add more tahini; or lift the purée with more lemon juice.
Serve in a wide bowl. Swirl extra virgin olive oil over the surface of the hummus. Sprinkle over the reserved chickpeas.
Try garnishing with:
Pomegranate seeds and coriander
Toasted pine kernels and long, slow-cooked caramelised onions
As always I’ve cooked up a large pot and plan to use the rest of the chickpeas in a salad tomorrow with left over roast chicken, roast pumpkin, rosemary, salad leaves and plenty of parmesan. The rest of the pot will probably be made into soup – I’ll give you the recipe v. soon, it’s sooo quick…. chicken stock from the carcass, lots of garlic, mint and chilli peppers and chickpeas of course.
AND For those of you in The West Country…. ……….It’s only a couple of weeks until the 2nd Bristol Food Connections festival – take a look at what’s on
On May 2nd Lou Marchionne and I will be giving a Pulse demo at the Better Food Company as part of the Bristol Food Connections Festival. It’s all about how to enjoy plenty of legumes in your diet, the health benefits and the tasty factor too. It’s a freebie – do come along – you can book tickets here
I’ll also be joining a panel of illustrious writers, earlier in the day at
The Business of Pleasure – Stem Rooms, At-Bristol, Anchor Road, Harbourside, Bristol
12.30 – 1.30: How to be a food writer/blogger: making your way in these parlous days of publishing, and how to diversify to best use your skills. With Xanthe Clay, Fiona Beckett, Claire Thomson, Sarah Lavelle, Jenny Chandler and Martin Booth. You can book here