This is the story of chickpeas.
It is a long history. This bean is loved throughout the world, from India, throughout the Middle East, into Europe and beyond. From spicy curries to soft and unctious beans in salads. From pasta dishes to omlette like soccas and farinatas. Ground into flour and cooked on its own or mixed with other flours. This humple little pea sure is powerful.
About The Chickpea
Most popular in the Middle Eastern dish hummus, chickpeas are a roundish, beige to light green members of the legume family. They are grown primarily in Asia, India, and in the Mediterranean.
Other Names for
There are basically 2 types – Kabuli, or the larger European chickpea, and Desi, the smaller Indian variety.
In addition to the usual white chickpea, there is also a black variety and a green one.
Chickpeas are used a lot in Italian cooking, being used to make pasta and bean dishes. They are added to marinated vegetables and in antipasto. The French love the chickpeas and chickpea flour also.
Gram Flour – Chickpea Flour
Chickpeas also can be ground up and used as a flour called gram flour. Gram flour is used widely in India, and elsewhere to make falafel, or in Burma to make a variety of tofu, known as Burmese tofu.
If you are out of gram flour it is easy to make. Lightly toast chickpeas by heating them in a frying pan until they colour slightly, shaking the pan to prevent burning. Place them in a blender and blend until they reach the consistency of flour.
Chickpeas are great for vegetarians. A half a cup has about 17 grams of dietary fibre and 19 grams of protein. They are also considered more digestible than most other beans – ie less gas!
Chickpea Nutrition: From a nutritional standpoint, chickpeas are an excellent source of protein. With respect to other legumes they have a higher fat content, which makes them more caloric; they are therefore not what one wants during a diet. However, they are quite rich in calcium, making them a good choice for combating osteoporosis, are also rich in iron, and are an excellent source of fiber. They’re instead sodium-poor, which makes them a good bet for those on reduced sodium diets.
There is some confusion about whether chickpeas contain purine or not. The general consensus from my readers (see the comments) is that they do. But you will find some sites on the internet that indicate that purine is low. So please, do your own research if purine or lack of, is important to you.
You might like to read these articles:
- A great, lay person’s explanation of purine, citing research that indicates purines from plant sources is used by the body in different ways to purine from animal products: WHFoods
- This document on Diabetic Information, indicates that chickpeas can be eaten if you have gout, but in moderated amounts.
And there is much more conflicting information. Be guided by your doctor and your own research.
Soaking and Cooking Chickpeas
You can buy chickpeas in a can, but they taste so much better if you cook them yourself. If you buy raw chickpeas, in fact any dried bean or pea, check the production date on the package, because if they are too old they simply won’t soften no matter how long they soak or cook.
Soak the chickpeas overnight or for 24 hours if you can. If you like, add baking soda when soaking chickpeas, as it is said that it prevents the skins from slipping off during the cooking process and keeps the beans intact.
Cook them for around 1 – 2 hours until nicely soft but not falling apart. I add a pinch of turmeric to the water as they cook. Don’t use salt – it toughens the skin. When cooked, they will have a rather creamy texture.
Because they take so long to cook, they are good to cook in the colder weather to warm the kitchen. But they can be eaten at all times of the year.
They can also be cooked very slowly in the oven. This produces a very soft, wonderful chickpea.
Chickpeas can be cooked and then frozen for later use in hummus or curries.
Removing Skins from Chickpeas
See this post for the solution.
- The easiest way to serve them is still hot, drizzled with a extra virgin olive oil and seasoned to taste with celtic sea salt and pepper. Serve with bread and a salad for a light lunch or as part of a larger meal.
- Hummus is a must.
- Use in salads and snacks as well as curries and bakes.
- Chickpea curry is wonderful.
- Chickpeas can also be fried for a wonderlicious snack.
- In antipasto. In tomato paella. With beans. In pasta dishes.
In the local Hindu temple, we make garlands from soaked chickpeas for Siva. It is because the chickpeas resemble rudraksha beads. I also like the thought that, as chickpeas come in two halves, cojoined to make 1 chickpea, they represent the Siva Shakti bond, or even more, the Saivite monistic dualism – 2 yet 1.
More Cooking with Chickpeas – Try these Recipes
Some recipes are mentioned above, and you might like to try these also.
- Baked Chickpeas
- Pearly Chickpea Hummus Salad
- Chickpea, Almond and Sesame Spread
- Chickpeas with Ginger Root Salad
- Chickpea Keep it Simple Salad
- Chana Chat with Chat Masala
- Cheat’s Hummus – Hummus made from a can of chickpeas or butter beans
- Chick Peas
- Meet Mr. Channa Chat Man, selling chickpea snacks on the beach at Kovalam.