18 June 2009

Chickpeas are awesome in general.

I was in the vegan chat room today, and got to chatting with someone from Australia, who was just starting out her exploration of the humble, yes awesome, chickpea. She's been roasting them in the oven, and spending upwards of half an hour on the process, as the oven takes its own sweet time in making the roasty magic happen. I gave her a detailed explanation on how to roast chickpeas on the stove. She seemed shocked that it only takes a few minutes!

You can hear the results of the conversation here, on the new podcast episode. It was basically me catching up with my listeners, by reading their emails, and then plunging in head-first into chickpea heaven.

You start with a screaming hot skillet, some oil, some mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and sesame seeds. I get into more detail about the conditions of the whole thing in the podcast episode, and in the cook book, so either way, read up or listen up to the whole popping spices deal before attempting this. If you don't have the book, listen to the pocast which is free. Either way, you'll get the idea.

After the seeds are popped, throw in the well-drained chickpeas WITH NO AROMATICS. Aromatics kill caramelisation of your ingredients. They exude water, and increase the cooking time. This is supposed to be a quick five minute thing. Besides, adding aromatics adds to your prep time. Bother with that stuff when you don't care about time!

Then, you roast the chickpeas on high heat for about five minutes. If you want them more brown, keep going. Do not fear oil! Stove top roasting is a bit more oil intensive than oven roasting. If you see the skillet drying out, add a bit of extra oil, until the chickpeas are slightly shiny from the oil, and keep roasting. You won't get that beautiful brown unless you use a bit of oil. If you are watching your calories, read on, and I'll explain how to do them in the oven.

After the five minutes (or however long you decided to roast them) is up, turn off the heat, and let the chickpeas rest for a minute, while you contemplate how to eat them. They're excellent in a pita pocket, with some alfalfa sprouts, cilantro, and tomato. They're good over hot steamy rice. They're quite nice all by themselves, as a snack. You can use them as croutons over a salad. You can add a cup or two of water, and make it a soup (to thicken up the soup, either mash with a potato masher or grind in a blender about 1/2 of the chickpeas). I discuss other possibilities in the podcast.

If you are watching your calories, and want to reduce the amount of fat, use the following ratio for 1 pound of cooked chickpeas:

1 teaspoon oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt, to taste

Mix the oil, sesame seeds, and turmeric powder into a spice paste. Toss the spice paste with the well-drained chickpeas. Arrange them onto a baking sheet, so that they have a fair bit of space between them. For me, a pound of chickpeas takes two baking sheets. Your sheets may be bigger or smaller. The idea is that you don't want to crowd your baking sheet, or else the chickpeas will not roast on all sides.

Sprinkle generously with salt, to taste. Let them roast in the oven for about 20 minutes (at 180ºC or 350ºF), and check and see if they're brown enough for your liking. Feel free to shake the pans a bit to turn the chickpeas over. Also, feel free to rotate your pans. Some ovens have "hot spots", and you might do well to move the baking sheets around your oven, so that they can all get cooked evenly.

If they are brown enough to your liking at 20 minutes, remove them. If not, keep roasting them until they're at the brownness and crispness of your liking. The longer you let them go, the more they dry out, and the more brown they get.

If you find that they are taking too long to roast, chances are that you're crowding the pan, and having them steam first, then roast. Make sure there's plenty of breathing space for the chickpeas in the pans.

Now go out and roast some chickpeas!

By the by, this whole entry and discussion with my friend on the chat room was spawned because of the mid week feast I made for Puppy. I've got the picture below and above this entry.

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