A good sense of houmous, The Panissa and Revithosoutzoukakia mystery

Chickpea Patties with Thick Tomato Sauce – Revithosoutzoukakia

“Perfect recipe, sir? Oh, I’m sorry. There is no such thing as a perfect recipe".  
A good mystery should be a treasured find, and I think I unearthed that treasure while dining out with friends recently.I want you to accompany me on an adventure as I try to uncover the truth and track down the source of a dish we recently ordered in that restaurant. Nothing works up adrenaline for me like playing the part of  a hard-hitting detective tracking down a recipe. Nothing excites the logical parts of my mind like trying to be a skilled sleuth, unravelling the convoluted trappings of a masterchef´s intrepid schemes.As a bumbling detective I love to unravel more than one veritable stew of palatable secrets, ending up solving the enigma. It was hard for me  to whittle down which of the great detectives that have been created for humanity by the minds of writers throughout the years, I would be.Was I Julienne Poireaux, Hercule´s long lost transgender sister, portmanteau in hand, or would I be a culinary Columbo getting the job done only in part because of my tendency to talk too much? Do I seem to be a bit of an airhead,though in reality having a keen attention to detail and a quick wit that helps me piece together the ingredients of the chef I am investigating? I would rather hope for the latter.
My investigation took me from a gastro bar in Tavira,Portugal to  Liguria,to Noli, a small  village on the Ligurian coast, not far from the larger city of Genova. This little village on the Italian riviera is home to panissa, a fried appetizer made with chickpea flour.The investigation then continued to Exampela, a village on the island of Sifnos, birthplace of one of the most influential cookery writers of modern Greece.Nikólaos Tselementés was a Greek chef of the early 20th century who created a recipe called revithosoutzoukakia, from the Greek word revithi which means chickpea.You can see where this investigation is going.The suspect in question called itself "deep fried chickpea cakes with houmous and tomato emulsion" My initial enquiries found that there are two types  of panissa in Italy.There is  a version from Piedmont that is a completely different dish to the panissa served in Liguria. Panissa from Piedmont is a type of risotto with dried beans and sausages, whereas panissa from Liguria is a fried appetizer made with chickpea flour.  Who knows how two such different recipes came to have the same name! You certainly can’t mistake one for the other, even on a dark night.My next discovery was that this type of Ligurian polenta involves a cooking method not for the faint-hearted or weak-armed and  has never really been associated with being formed into patties or cakes of the type we had sampled, so step two of my investigation drew a blank.Delving further into culinary realms I unearthed a Greek recipe called revithosoutzoukakia from the Greek word revithi which means chickpea.The chickpea patties are made with a combination of the chickpeas along with fresh tomato and then drenched in a rich red sauce made with tomato paste and olive oil.This seemed more like what we had been served in the restaurant.The hunt for the killer recipe was narrowing in.Always fascinated by fusion, what I deduced was that we had eaten a  dish that brought together an Italian regional cooking method combined with a strong Greek recipe served in a modern Portuguese gastro bar. I had finally unwrapped my gourmet detective mystery.Now I had to take my evidence to the lab for analysis and scrutiny, and test my findings.The dish posing as  panissa we had ordered in the restaurant now appeared  to be some sort of mutant. What we had sampled was lacking in flavour for a start, there was not one ingredient that our strong palates could detect.
What I must clarify first is, was the offending suspect covered in an emulsion at all or was it a sauce masquerading as an emulsion?
 I ask you jurors, what do mayonnaise, hollandaise, and vinaigrette have in common? They’re all emulsion sauces, which means they get their luscious mouthfeel from fat suspended in water. But we all know that fat and water don’t mix, so emulsified sauces are always on the verge of “breaking,” or separating (as you can see from the pictures). Knowing the science behind that separation can help you prevent it, and create a smooth sauce.Ahh I am getting somewhere.
What exactly is an emulsion sauce? 
Emulsion sauces are made by mixing two substances that don’t normally mix. To do this, you have to break one of them into millions of miniscule droplets and suspend those droplets in the other substance by vigorously whisking, or better yet, blending them in a blender or food processor. 
When two substances don’t naturally mix, it’s because the molecules of each are more attracted to themselves than to the others, so even the most thoroughly combined emulsion sauce will not stay combined for long. To prevent separation, a substance called an “emulsifier” is often mixed in. Emulsifiers, such as egg yolks and mustard, are made up of big, bulky protein molecules. When combined with fat, like oil or butter, and watery ingredients, like vinegar, lemon juice, and of course, water, these molecules get in the way, making it harder for like molecules to find and bind to each other. Therefore, there’s a better chance that the emulsion will hold. 
Some of the most common emulsion sauces are vinaigrette (oil suspended in vinegar, sometimes emulsified with mustard), mayonnaise (oil suspended in lemon juice and water, emulsified with egg yolk), hollandaise (melted butter suspended in lemon juice and water, emulsified with egg yolk), and beurre blanc (butter suspended in white wine vinegar, emulsified by the milk solids in the butter).So I can now safely say that the substance our suspect was covered in was a sauce not an emulsion.
Having pieced all my evidence together I now set about creating what I thought was an authentic, not counterfeit, dish.

Chickpea Patties with a houmous and tomato emulsion – Revithosoutzoukakia

The Greek cuisine and diet provides an abundance of vegan recipes, and this is one of them. Greek cuisine is known for many vegetable patties and one of them is the chickpea patties which are very similar to the famous falafel, but a bit softer in texture. This recipe though is a bit different.As I mentioned above the cooking method for making an authentic panissa is "not for the faint-hearted or weak-armed" so I have taken a short cut and blitzed cooked chickpeas in the blender combined with tomato, rather than cooking chickpea flour with water and turning it out to set as in the traditional Ligurian tradition.
For the Patties
3 cups boiled chickpeas (canned or boiled from dry)
1 medium tomato
½ cup parsley
2 garlic cloves minced

¼ cup water
½ cup all purpose flour or more as needed plus more for coating
½ teaspoon baking soda
salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for frying 

For the sauce
2 teaspoons tomato paste
heaped tsp houmous
½ cup water
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon sugar
Salt/pepper to taste

In a food processor mix the chickpeas and tomato, do not over mix, the mixture should be grainy.
Add the garlic, parsley, 1 tablespoon olive oil, water, salt, pepper and baking soda and blend. Again do not over mix.
Place the mixture in a bowl (dough will be very sticky) and add flour, 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time. Knead with your hands, the dough should be soft but firm enough to shape into patties.
Roll into balls , flattening them a bit, using about 2 teaspoons of the mixture for each patty. Coat with the flour.
Heat olive oil in a pan (oil should be about ¼ inch deep in the pan).
Fry the patties about 2 minutes on each side.
Remove and place on paper towels to absorb any oil and set aside.
Begin the sauce by heating the tomato paste, olive oil and water along with the sugar, salt and pepper in pan, let it come to a boil and then lower the heat.
Add the chickpea patties to the sauce and spoon the sauce gently over the patties.
Heat for a 1-2 more minutes and serve.


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