The first time I tasted chickpeas was in the late 1970’s. My Mum, ever the gastronomic explorer used to cook up huge batches in the pressure cooker. They would be served just warm as a party nibble, tossed in salt and earthy spices. Most people had not even heard of a chickpea let alone preferred them to the cheese balls, crackers and dips that were also on offer. Needless to say, there were always bowls of chickpeas left at the end of these parties.
Tastes evolve and the 1980s saw a surge of interest in Mediterranean & Middle Eastern cuisine. You couldn’t go to any bbq without spotting a bowl of hummus with pita chips. Felafel became the ‘go to’ for feeding vegetarian friends at the same bbq. Where once you needed to plan days ahead, soaking the little chickpea bullets and then cooking them hard for several hours before you made your final dish, that all changed when tinned chickpeas arrived on supermarket shelves. Suddenly, you could drain a tin of chickpeas and whip up a batch of hummus in minutes.
Same Same But Different
Not all tinned chickpeas are equal. If you buy the cheapest ones on the shelf, you are likely to find that they are soft or broken, aren’t of equal size and don’t hold their shape. I find the ones from Middle Eastern supermarkets are generally good and tend to be a smaller variety. This is possibly something to do with the amount of chickpeas consumed by that community and therefore an expectation of higher quality. My favourite and most readily accessible tinned chickpeas are the Italian ‘Annalisa’ brand. Their beans, lentils and chickpeas are excellent with a very consistent quality. They never let me down and are the reason I break my own rule about buying Australian whenever I can. Whatever brand you buy, once you find one you like, I suggest sticking to it so you know how they will perform when cooked in different ways.
Having a tin of chickpeas that you can tumble into a salad or casserole means you can add variety to your repertoire at the wind of a can opener. Yotam Ottolenghi isn’t afraid of tinned chickpeas. He states that tinned are perfectly fine in this and several other of his recipes. Through some trick of the tastebuds, this dish tastes almost buttery, though there isn’t any butter in it. I think it must be the combination of oil and spices on the rice. A quick and versatile recipe when you are catering for the masses or need a do ahead dish. It goes well with grilled chicken, a casserole or roasted vegetables. Left overs can be frozen, re-heated or eaten cold in a salad the next day.
Chickpeas w Basmati & Wild Rice & Currants
- 50g wild rice
- 2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 220g basmati rice
- 330ml boiling water
- 2tspn cumin seeds
- 240g cooked or tinned chickpeas, drained
- 1 1/2 tspn curry powder or ground cumin
- 180ml vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, finely sliced
- 100g currants
- 1/2 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1tbsp each of coriander, dill & mint, chopped
- salt and pepper to season
- Place wild rice in a small saucepan with plenty of salted water and boil for approximately 40 minutes (or as per directions) until the rice is cooked but still firm. Drain and set aside.
- Pour 1 tbsp of olive oil into a medium saucepan (that has a tightly fitting lid) and place on a high heat. Add the basmati rice, 1/4 tspn salt and stir to warm rice. Add boiling water, stir and reduce heat to very low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, uncovered.
- Remove basmati rice from the heat, cover with a clean tea towel then place lid on. Set aside for 10 minutes (off heat).
- Whilst the rice is cooking, heat remaining oil on a high heat in a frying pan. Add the cumin seeds and curry or cumin powder and after a few seconds, add the chickpeas and 1/4 tspn salt.
- Remove from heat and stir for a minute to two to allow spices to coat chickpeas. Removing from the heat makes sure the spices don’t burn. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- Combine finely sliced onions and flour in a bag or bowl. Mix throughly untill all slices are coated and shake off excess flour.
- Wipe out frying pan thoroughly that chickpeas were cooked in and heat vegetable oil over a medium high heat. Oil is ready when a piece of onions sizzles.
- Place some of the onion in the pan and cook vigorously until onion browns and is crisp. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towel.
- Repeat with remaining onion until it is all browned and crisped. Do not overcrowd the pan and watch it carefully whilst cooking. The onion will brown quickly. You are after golden, not burnt.
- Combine both types of rice, chickpeas, currants, chopped herbs and 3/4 of the crisp onions.
- Serve hot or at room temperature with the remaining crisp onions scattered over the top.
Serves 6 as a generous side