The humble chick pea. High in protein, low in fat, low in salt, good at reducing cholesterol, high in fibre, full of vitamins (A, C, D, B12, B6), minerals (magnesium, calcium, iron), extremely versatile, vegetarian and tasty!
You’d think we’d find a way to add it to our meals every day – in some countries they do. Because on top of all these wonderful qualities, the humble chick pea is not expensive to buy and so pound for pound, it’s better for your pocket (as well as your diet) than most other foods.
If you shop carefully, you can reduce this cost further still: it is usually less to buy in tins on the World Food isles of supermarkets or you can soak them in a bowl of water for 12 hrs (overnight) to double their weight (they cost even less in dry weight).
If you are wanting to eat less meat but not loose out on protein, if you are thinking of low fat, high fibre, lower cholesterol or a more balanced diet, then adding chick peas to your daily diet is a very good start.
The chick pea is very versatile. You can cook it or use it in many different ways. Here there are recipes that use dried and tinned chick peas. You can use either, as long as you soak and rinse/rinse as required.
Use them as a base to a salad:
Chick Pea, Goats Cheese and Rocket Salad
- 200g dried chickpeas
- 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 large lemon
- 2 ripe plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
- Small handful fresh flatleaf parsley, chopped
- 50g bag wild rocket
- 150g mild, creamy goat’s cheese, crumbled
- Put the chickpeas in a bowl of cold water and leave to soak overnight.
- Drain the chickpeas, place in a pan and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil and simmer rapidly, partially covered, for 1 hour or until very tender. Drain well and place in a large bowl. While warm, pour over the oil and lemon juice and season. Cool.
- Toss the tomatoes, parsley and rocket with the chickpeas. Divide among plates and crumble over the goat’s cheese to serve
As a meat replacement:
- 1 pound (about 2 cups) dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans
- 1 small onion, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 3-5 cloves garlic (I prefer roasted)
- 1 1/2 tbsp flour
- 1 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- Pinch of ground cardamom
- Vegetable oil for frying (grapeseed, canola, and peanut oil work well)
You will also need
- Food processor
- Pour the chickpeas into a large bowl and cover them by about 3 inches of cold water. Let them soak overnight. They will double in size as they soak – you will have between 4 and 5 cups of beans after soaking.
- Drain and rinse the chickpeas well. Pour them into your food processor along with the chopped onion, garlic cloves, parsley, flour, salt, cumin, ground coriander, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cardamom.
- Pulse all ingredients together until a rough, coarse meal forms. Scrape the sides of the processor periodically and push the mixture down the sides. Process till the mixture is somewhere between the texture of couscous and a paste. You want the mixture to hold together, and a more paste-like consistency will help with that… but don’t overprocess, you don’t want it turning into hummus!
- Once the mixture reaches the desired consistency, pour it out into a bowl and use a fork to stir; this will make the texture more even throughout. Remove any large chickpea chunks that the processor missed.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
- Fill a skillet with vegetable oil to a depth of 1 ½ inches. I prefer to use cooking oil with a high smoke point, like grapeseed. Heat the oil slowly over medium heat. Meanwhile, form falafel mixture into round balls or slider-shaped patties using wet hands or a falafel scoop. I usually use about 2 tbsp of mixture per falafel. You can make them smaller or larger depending on your personal preference. The balls will stick together loosely at first, but will bind nicely once they begin to fry. *Problems falling apart! If you can get them into the hot oil, they will bind together and stick. If they still won’t hold together, you can try adding 2-3 tbsp of flour to the mixture. If they still won’t hold, add 1-2 eggs to the mix.
- Before frying the first batch of falafel, test-fry one in the center of the pan. If the oil is at the right temperature, it will take 2-3 minutes per side to brown (5-6 minutes total). If it browns faster than that, your oil is too hot and your falafels will not be fully cooked in the center. Cool the oil down slightly and try again. When the oil is at the right temperature, fry the falafels in batches of 5-6 at a time till golden brown on both sides.
- Once the falafels are fried, remove them from the oil using a slotted spoon. Let them drain on paper towels. Serve the falafels fresh and hot; they go best with a plate of hummus and topped with creamy tahini sauce. You can also stuff them into a pita.
On the Hob:
Chick Pea Curry
- 2 (400g) tins chickpeas
- oil for frying
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon of ginger paste (or 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger)
- 1 clove of garlic (peeled and chopped finely)
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 (400g) tin chopped tomatoes
- 2 blocks frozen chopped spinach
- Drain and rinse the chickpeas then soak in water for 10 minutes, then drain and rinse thoroughly.
- Fry the onion in a bit of oil until golden. Then add the garlic and the ginger paste along with chilli powder, salt, turmeric and garam masala. Stir until all spices are absorbed.
- Add the tomatoes and frozen spinach and stir. Add the chickpeas and stir lightly. Leave to simmer for 30 minutes (although the best curries are left to absorb the flavours for at least an hours – leftovers often taste better the next day!). If the sauce looks a little too thick add water.
- Serve with either rice, bread and bhaji or samosa.
As a side dish, dip or a spread:
- 150g (dried) chickpeas
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 3 tbsp tahini
- 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
- 120-140ml olive oil
- Soak the chickpeas overnight in a bowl of water. Drain, then boil in a pan of fresh water for 45 minutes-1 hour until very tender. Drain and cool.
- Place in a food processor with the lemon zest and juice, 3 tbsp tahini and 2 large garlic cloves. Whizz while gradually adding 120-140ml olive oil.
- Season well with sea salt and serve with toast.
You can add flavourings such as coriander (1tsp); spring onions (4 chopped) or red pepper (half a roasted pepper, sieved) to houmous. Experiment with your own.