Soak stars,groovy chicks and pulse rates

Chickpea patties
Chickpeas! chiches pois! garbanzos! ceci! grao de bico! In anybody's language,these beige nuggets make a sustaining cold weather meal.This strange little pulse with its little cleft and curlicue,is full of protein.Chickpeas are the truly global ingredient.Versatile, nutritious and easy to prepare, their appeal is universal, but most of all the chickpea is perhaps the defining food of Portugal,Its subtle flavour gracing dishes as varied as soups, stews, puddings and pancakes.Roasted, boiled, puréed or just lightly seasoned, who would have thought that popping open a can could create so many possibilities.They love lamb and just adore garlic.
I mentioned "can" because who could bear the thought of soaking the dried variety for 24 hours,then boiling them the following day for at least a couple more.Chickpea minefield-  the dry variety may be years old, and the older they are the longer they will take to rehydrate and cook,There is no way of telling.I can remember cooking a batch of these little  for five hours and the damned things never softened."The devils pebbles" I muttered under my breath.By the time they had boiled dry I was then left with a saucepan bottom full of precious and artistic little imprints which took me weeks to get rid of.Next time I will take a leaf out of Marmaduke Scarlets hot tips for things to do with vinegar. If you are a chickpea virgin I urge you to flirt cautiously. Showing a slow cooked leg of lamb accompanied by a sloppy mash of chickpeas would be my simplest equivalent of hog heaven.Probably the best cold weather meal on the planet.Lets put the chic back in chick pea. From soak star to superstar, its a cinch.No matter what level your culinary skills are, you can produce a winning dish.

Chickpea Mash
3x 400g cans or jars of chickpeas
a small onion
3 plump cloves garlic
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
juice of small lemon
Flor de sal
Pimenton picante (hot paprika)

Drain the chickpeas and put them into a pan of lightly salted water.Bring to the boil,then turn the flame down to a simmer.This warms the chickpeas rather than cooking them.Peel and finely slice the onion and garlic, then let it soften with the olive oil over a medium flame. Let the onion colour a little.Join the warm chickpeas,garlic and onion in a food processor.Add the olive oil from the onion mixture, lemon juice and blitz to give a smooth luxurious purée.season with a pinch of pimenton, flor de sal and black pepper and whizz again,Serve with your lamb.
Chickpeas can be what you want them to be.So good they are as vehicles for carrying flavour.Whatever the circumstance,however,to give of their best,chickpeas must be fully cooked.Al Dente pulses are intolerable.As with any pulse its a mistake to salt them until they are fully cooked.The salt inhibits the cooking process.

Chickpea, feta and coriander patties
with harrissa
Serves 4

100g (3.5oz) feta cheese
2x400g (14oz ) can chickpeas drained and and rinsed
1 medium free range egg
1/2 cup chopped coriander (coentros) leaves
1/2 cup chopped mint
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon lemon rind
2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
1 chopped spring onion
1 heaped tablespoon of home made harissa paste
1 tablespoon of preserved ginger syrup
1 cup breadcrumbs
sunflower oil for frying
1 bunch rocket (rucola )( 100g /3.5oz )trimmed
Bread sticks to serve

Place the feta,coriander,mint,cumin,lemon rind,eggs, spring onion, garlic and chickpeas in a food processor and process until roughly chopped.Add the breadcrumbs. Shape into 12 cakes.Heat a non-stick frying pan over a high heat.Add a light coating of oil and cook the cakes in batches for 2 minutes each side or until golden on both sides.Transfer to a parchment lined baking tray and finish in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve the cakes with a rocket salad and raita.

Top notch Sierra de Gredos chickpeas from Spain, if you can get them, are worth their contribution to any stew.The main ingredient of Castilian stews are these chickpeas,cabbage and morcilla( blood sausage).In addition,like their Portuguese counterparts, all kinds of other sausages, pig tails and ears are the typical ingredients of stews.In Castilian cuisine the chickpea is the element which has been in the area for centuries, brought to Spain by the Carthaginians.
Keep a few cans of these chickpeas in the pantry and you´ll always have the humble beginnings of a quick dinner on hand.
Let them plump up your meals with their nutty flavour.
You´ll be amazed how quickly a simple dish of chickpeas will silence a grumbling tummy.


  1. I am so hungry and it's not even lunchtime, but I do have all of the ingredients except for the preserved ginger . . . I'm not sure I can wait long enough to go to the shops!


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