Poets have been celebrating food and drink since time began, so it's a fair bet that someone - probably in Ancient Rome - wrote an ode to the venerable chickpea.
Cicer, the Latin for chickpea, gave Roman politician Cicero his name. The story goes that one of his ancestors had a pea-like wart on the tip of his nose. Yeah, right. More likely Senator Chickpea's ancestors grew rich by growing and selling the popular pulse.
These days, we don't have to soak the dried peas overnight. Buy them in cans - cooked and ready to roll. Results are equally good.
Rich in protein, cheap and sustaining, chickpeas have a knobbly texture and a subtle nutty flavour. Toss them whole into salads, soups, stews and curries, or throw them into the processor with a few key ingredients for appealing patties, dhals and dips.
The Arabic word for chickpea is hummus, which speaks volumes for the popularity of the creamy but sharp puree that has taken its name. Try making it yourself for a burst of fresh flavour. (You will need a pottle of tahini - sesame seed paste - available in the supermarket chiller.)
Rinse and drain a 400g can of chickpeas and put them in a food processor with 1 heaped Tbsp tahini, the juice of 1 large lemon, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 clove of peeled and crushed garlic, and salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Whizz to a paste, smooth or textured as you prefer, and taste and adjust seasoning. If mixture is too stiff, add a little water or lemon juice and briefly whizz again.
I like to heap it in a bowl, sprinkle with a pinch of cayenne pepper and scoop it up with warm pita bread and crunchy raw vegetable sticks. It is also very moreish dolloped on a lamb kebab. Half fill a pita bread with tabbouli, add kebab pieces and hummus and get stuck in.
The delicious spicy mixture in today's recipe is usually formed into oval-shaped balls and deep fried, but I like it best as burgers. Make some for lunch these school holidays - kids love to shape the burgers and dust them with flour.
FALAFEL BURGERS (serves 4)
|400g can chickpeas|
|2 spring onions, chopped|
|1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped|
|Handful fresh coriander or parsley, chopped|
|1 tsp ground cumin|
|1 tsp ground coriander|
|1/2 tsp harissa paste or chilli powder|
|2 Tbsp flour|
|Good pinch salt|
|1 Tbsp wholemeal flour (for dusting)|
|2 Tbsp sunflower oil|
|1 lemon, quartered|
1. Rinse and drain chickpeas and pat dry with kitchen paper.
2. Toss into a food processor with onion, garlic, coriander or parsley, spices, flour and salt and blend until mixture is fairly smooth.
3. With your hands, shape mixture into four flattish patties.
4. Dust with a little wholemeal flour to help shaping process and add extra crunch.
5. Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat until hot.
6. Fry patties for 5-6 minutes each side, or until golden.
7. Blot with kitchen paper and squeeze lemon juice over.
8. Have ready chopped lettuce, tomato and cucumber, grated carrot and some chopped coriander or mint.
9. Warm 4 medium pita breads in the oven until they puff up.
10. Line pitas with salad mix, add burgers, and top with hummus, mayonnaise or tahini.
- The Southland Times