Chick peas (or garbanzo’s as they are known in other places) are one of the earliest known cultivated legumes. They can be found in the culinary traditions of most parts of the world, including Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and Mexico, and have been a feature in my kitchen for a long time. They are really one of nature’s most wonderful convenience foods, having the added bonus of being both highly nutritious and tasty. Chick peas are a great source of protein, zinc, folate and phosphorus, are low in fat and have a low glycaemic index and, as evidenced by the wide variety of cuisines in which they feature, are versatile.
What matters to me is that they are delicious and appeal to my picky kids. I can sling them into salads, tagines, casseroles, soups and – of course – hummus with confidence, knowing that they are both nourishing and acceptable. Up until recently I have mostly used canned chick peas. It is just too easy to have a few tins on the pantry shelf – there they sit, all cooked and ready to go. Of course it is more economical to soak and cook dried chick peas myself, but that generally requires a degree of planning and organisation that is missing in my make-up and lifestyle – we fly by the seat of our pants a bit in this house.
That is, until I made the happy discovery (although not rocket science, so I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before) that chick peas and other dried legumes can be cooked perfectly in the slow cooker. Not only that, but they can then be most successfully frozen – how handy is that! For a little over $2 I can buy a bag of Australian-grown chick peas (we are a significant world producer of these legumes) which yields about the equivalent of 4-5 cans, usually priced around the $1.50 mark.
There is no soaking with this simple method – I just tip them into a colander to rinse them and check for any manky peas, pop them into the slow cooker with a very generous pinch of salt, cover with water to 1 – 2 inches above them and cook on Low for 5-5 1/2 hours. I then use what I need and freeze the rest. If you need to use the frozen peas at short notice, a quick rinse under the tap and a 10 minute wait is all it will take to thaw these gorgeous, golden orbs out, making them ready for use. Using this economical method, you are only ever 10 minutes away from my delicious Moroccan Chick Pea Salad or this heavenly variation on the traditional hummus. My tweak adds almond paste (made by milling fresh almonds to a paste in a processor) to this traditional dish, giving it a little more depth of flavour and an extra creaminess.