Now I'm the first one to admit that I always have a can or two of chickpeas on my pantry shelves in the event of a culinary emergency, so to speak. (With a tin of chickpeas in the house, you can always come up with a meal.) In fact, it wasn't all that long ago that I only ever used tinned chickpeas. Cooking my own just seemed like such a hassle - I would forget to soak them, or sometimes I would literally boil the bejeezus out of them and still they wouldn't soften (I've since discovered that this can have something to do with them having been heat treated), or they would cook inconsistently - some would be almost mushy and others would still be hard as all get out. So I just stuck to the convenience of cans.
That was until I stumbled upon 100 Ways to Use Slow Cookers and Crockpots by Alison and Simon Holst, wherein I discovered Alison's method for cooking chickpeas in, of course, the crockpot. (In case you were wondering, Alison Holst is the Delia Smith of New Zealand cookery.) There is no pre-soaking required. Simply put two cups of uncooked chickpeas into the slow cooker, along with six cups of hot water. I like to add a couple of cloves of garlic (just peeled and left whole), a couple of bay leaves, a few black peppercorns, one carrot (just cut into about four large chunks), a celery stick (cut in two), and some fennel tops (I never throw away fennel tops - I keep them in the freezer to use for soups, stocks, and occasions such as this). Then cook on high for 4-5 hours, adding 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of sugar after about 2 hours. This will yield about 5 cups of chickpeas, which I then bag up by the cupful with some of the cooking liquid.
Like many things, although there is nothing wrong with the canned product, I do believe the taste and texture is superior if you can find the time and effort to cook your own, and once cooked, despite a minimal amount of defrosting a bag of frozen chickpeas is as convenient as opening a tin.
I use these a lot in all sorts of dishes and salads, but my most frequent use is an almost weekly batch of hummus. As I've mentioned here before, hummus with pumpkin seed crackers is a frequent lunch for me, and as I don't eat a lot of meat is a good way of ensuring I get a serving of protein for the day (pulse + grain = complete protein). Now I have my usual "go-to" hummus recipe that I always use - I can pretty much make it with my eyes closed, and I never measure anything, but since our theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs is "lunch box" I thought I would have a go at making Mark Bittman's hummus for my lunch yesterday, the recipe for which I found in my trusty How to Cook Everything iPhone application. Now yesterday in Christchurch was definitely not a day for packing up a lunch box and heading out somewhere to enjoy this outside - more snuggle up on the sofa under a rug and watch a movie kind of day - but it nevertheless made a good lunch and easily lends itself to lunch box fare - great with any kind of crackers, pita bread or crisps, or even to dunk vegetables into. I made this according to Bittman's recipe, except that I left out the garlic - since I usually have this for lunch and then shortly after have to get "up close and personal" with my yoga students, I prefer not to eat garlic during the day. I have to say that my first taste of this (you know the one, when you dig your finger in - allegedly to test for seasoning - and then lick off a big blob of that velvety puree) was a little disappointing. I thought there was too much tahini, but much to my surprise the minute this stuff hit a sesameal cracker it was sensational!! I jazzed this up a bit by serving in a bowl, drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of sumac on top, instead of the cumin or paprika suggested in the recipe. I also roasted a few extra chickpeas in a shallow pan and sprinkled those on top as well. End result - despite my initial reservations about the tahini - I think this has just become my new "go-to" hummus, especially with the sumac and extra roasted chickpeas.
Adapted from Mark Bittman's
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
2 cups cooked chickpeas
(reserve cooking liquid if possible)
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic (optional)
juice of 1 lemon
flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cooked chickpeas
extra virgin olive oil
Begin with the garnish - heat just enough olive oil in a pan so that the pan is not completely dry - sort of just greasing the pan. Add chickpeas to the pan, tossing around from time to time, and cook until they are browned and toasty. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
Now to the hummus - put chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, garlic (if you're using it), lemon juice, salt and pepper into the food processor, and blitz until a paste forms. With the motor still running add a little of the reserved cooking liquid or barely warm water, until you achieve the consistency you desire. Taste for seasoning, adding more lemon juice, salt or pepper if necessary.
Serve in a shallow bowl. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the top and sprinkle on some sumac.