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.
- 150 gms cooked chick peas
- ¼ cup almond paste
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Juice of 1-2 lemons (to taste)
- 1 Tbsp tahini
- 2-3 Tbsp cold water (depending upon consistency required)
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp cumin
- Process all ingredients together until smooth and creamy.
- Add more water if a thinner consistency is preferred.
- Drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with cumin to serve.
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While my lovely northern hemisphere readers are all huddled into their woolly sweaters, enjoying belly-warming soups and casseroles and sipping steaming mugs of hot chocolate we are cooking in an altogether different fashion down here in the wide brown land. This summer started off hot and fiery early in the season and shows no signs of changing it’s colours. There are terrifyingly huge fires burning in many regions of the country at the moment and hundreds of people have already lost their homes. Here in South Australia we have endured some scorching days of late, including one that went up to 45C last week – that’s over 110F in northern hemisphere-speak !
Needless to say, salads have been the only things to come out of my kitchen (once again) over the last week or two. These were initially augmented with the Christmas ham leftovers, cooked free-range chooks from the shop and seared flesh from the barbecue, but in 45C weather it is way too hot to be standing over a flame flicking sausages. However, there is only so many times I can get away with the regular repertoire that the family deems acceptable, so I’m always scratching around looking for something newish.
The hunt took on an added urgency a couple of weeks back when I invited my vegetarian friend Jennifer, from Delicieux, and her family over for a barbecue while they were visiting Adelaide. Now, I’m a resourceful cook and can churn out any number of respectable veggoe dishes, but this meal was going to be heavy on the meat – not least because Jennifer’s husband has two hungry boys! In light of that, I was very keen to find a dish that would be delicious and nutritionally balanced enough to pass the scrutiny of both a gourmet vegetarian and a bunch of blokes! I had a memory lingering in the back of my mind of a particularly good chick pea (garbanzo’s to you chilly northerners) salad that another friend of mine made for a group meal early in December. A quick email, a few tweaks and I was happy!
Using canned chick peas (not the imported ones, folks – pay the extra for the Australian grown) makes this a fabulously quick and simple salad – the spices make it a stand out one! I think this dish is truly embodies what I love about sharing food – a salad developed from a recipe by my friend Liz and made for my friend Jennifer. Perfect!
- 2 400gm cans chick peas (garbanzos) drained, rinsed & strained
- 6 spring onions, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup currants
- 1 preserved lemon, rind only, finely chopped
- Juice of 1 fresh lemon
- 200 ml olive oil
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1 Tbs paprika
- 1 Tbs ground cinnamon
- Baby spinach leaves
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 200-300 gms Greek-style yoghurt
- Pomegranate molasses
- Combine chick peas, onions, garlic, currants, preserved lemon, spices and olive oil, lemon juice and soy sauce in a large bowl. Mix and leave to marinate for several hours. The salad should look rich and red from the paprika.
- To serve, line a shallow dish with baby spinach leaves, pile the chick peas on the leaves, then dollop the yoghurt on top. Drizzle generously with pomegranate molasses (or honey) then sprinkle with parsley.
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Yippee!! Spring is finally starting to show itself in our Food Connect boxes – have a look here.
We will all be turning out brilliant salads this week full of fresh, organic nutrients!
We have asparagus this week and ours was the first thing to vanish from the box. I just lightly steamed it and served it drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice to let the fresh flavour shine through. It is also simply heavenly dipped into melted butter or, if you can be bothered, drizzled with a rich, buttery hollandaise sauce.
Broad beans are at their very best at this time of the year – very young and tender and therefore requiring much less work. These are very popular in Middle Eastern food, where they are known as Fava Beans and generally used in their dried state when out of season. A fresh Fava bean dip is simplicity itself to make, tastes wonderful and is ridiculously healthy. Just lightly steam the beans then, unless the beans are very young, slip the skins off. Toss quickly in a pan with some finely chopped garlic and however much chilli you dare. Place the beans, chilli and garlic into a processor and, with the motor running, pour in a thin stream of extra virgin olive oil until you reach the desired consistency. Season to taste. You can play with this recipe to your heart’s content – adding fresh herbs (parsley or coriander), dried ground cumin and/or lemon juice. Yottam Ottolenghi suggests serving it with hommous in his new book “Plenty”. Knock yourself out!
Does anyone out there have any other great ideas for fresh broad beans – I’d love you to share!