In a classroom full of every legume, the chickpea would sit front and centre, my star student to whom I’d show a certain degree of favouritism. It’s not that the chickpea is any better than its classmates, but, assuming the role of teacher’s pet, it is eager enough constantly to want to please. Its enthusiasm means it gets along with any personality – from fierce chilli to the outwardly funky parmesan – moulding itself unto their own qualities. Here, I’ve used the chickpea in its many forms – dried, tinned and floured – to showcase just how adaptable and malleable this magic bean truly is.
Confit tandoori chickpeas
These have won the hearts of many, and for good reason – cooking them in the oil without added liquid makes them go super-soft, allowing the dish’s pungent flavours to release into the oil. The best part, though, is that you throw everything into a pan and pop it in the oven, leaving it to its own devices. Use a non-dairy yoghurt to make this dish vegan.
Prep 25 min
Cook 1 hr 20 min
2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained (480g net weight)
11 garlic cloves, peeled, 10 left whole and 1 crushed
30g piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into julienne strips
300g cherry or datterini tomatoes
3 red chillies, mild or spicy, to taste, slit open lengthways
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp each cumin and coriander seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp red Kashmiri chilli powder, or paprika
1 tsp caster sugar
200ml olive oil
8 tbsp (15g) mint leaves
8 tbsp (30g) coriander leaves, roughly chopped
180g Greek-style yoghurt
2-3 limes – 1 juiced, to get 1 tbsp, the rest cut into wedges, to serve
4 pita breads (or other flatbread), to serve (optional)
Heat the oven to 170C (150C fan)/325F/gas 3. Put the chickpeas, whole garlic cloves, ginger, tomatoes, chillies, tomato paste, spices, sugar, oil and a teaspoon of salt in a large, ovenproof saute pan for which you have a lid, then stir to combine. Cover, put in the oven and cook for 75 minutes, stirring once halfway, until the aromatics have softened and the tomatoes have broken down.
Meanwhile, make the yoghurt dressing. Put the mint, coriander, yoghurt, lime juice, crushed garlic and a quarter-teaspoon of salt in the small bowl of a food processor and blitz smooth.
Serve the chickpeas directly from the pan (or transfer them to a shallow serving platter), with the yoghurt and lime wedges in two separate bowls alongside, with warm pitta or flatbread, if you wish.
Chaat masala chickpea and polenta chips
I use chickpeas three ways here: cooked chickpeas, chickpea water (aquafaba), and chickpea (gram) flour. Save on time, if you like, by using regular shop-bought mayo or yoghurt, although the chickpea mayo really is very special. If you can’t find chaat masala, which gives these fries a distinctly sour flavour, use garam masala or, indeed, any other spice you have to hand.
Prep 15 min
Cook 45 min
Set 30 min
Serves 4 as a snack
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped (90g net weight)
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and black pepper
2¼ tsp chaat masala
½ tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp olive oil
100g gram flour
100g quick-cook polenta
700ml sunflower oil, for frying
2½-3 tbsp coriander leaves, roughly chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped, seeds and all
For the chickpea mayo
1 x 400g tin chickpeas
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
½ tbsp English mustard (I use Colman’s)
½ tbsp lemon juice
120ml sunflower oil
Put the onion, lemon juice and a quarter-teaspoon of salt in a small bowl and leave to pickle and soften.
Line a 28cm x 18cm baking dish with a sheet of baking paper large enough to cover the base and sides.
Put two teaspoons of the chaat masala, all the turmeric, olive oil, 700ml water, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper in a medium saucepan on a medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat to low. Stir the gram flour and polenta in a bowl to combine, then slowly pour into the water, whisking continuously to ensure there are no big lumps (there will still be a few small ones). Cook for four minutes, whisking vigorously, until the mixture thickens and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, then quickly transfer to the prepared tin and smooth out the top with a spatula. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes, then cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes, until set completely.
Meanwhile, make the mayo. Set a sieve over a bowl and drain the tin of chickpeas. Separately measure out 50g chickpeas (save the rest for another use) and 40g of their water (discard the rest), then put in a food processor with the garlic, mustard, lemon juice and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt, and blitz smooth, scraping the sides every now and then as you go. With the motor running, very slowly drizzle in the sunflower oil, until the mixture comes together into a loose, mayonnaise-like consistency, then transfer to a small bowl (and refrigerate if you’re making this ahead of time).
Use the paper lining to lift the chickpea mixture out of its tin and on to a board. Trim the edges slightly, to give you a neat rectangle, then cut lengthways into 12 1.5cm-thick slices. Now cut again widthways in half, to leave you you 24 pieces in total.
Heat the sunflower oil in a medium saucepan on a medium-high heat. Once very hot, fry the chickpea pieces in about three batches for about five minutes a batch, until golden and crisp on the outside, using a slotted spoon to move them around a little as they cook. Transfer to a tray lined with absorbent paper while you cook the rest. Once all the pieces are cooked, sprinkle lightly with salt.
Stir the coriander and chillies into the pickled onion bowl. To serve, pile the chickpea chips on to a plate and sprinkle all over with the remaining quarter-teaspoon of chaat masala. Spoon the onion mixture to one side, put the mayo bowl on the plate and serve warm.
Buttery parmesan-braised chickpeas
This is inspired by cacio e pepe, the Italian pasta dish coated in lavish amounts of butter, spicy black pepper and cheese. The pickled chillies help offset the super-rich pulses, but if you don’t want the extra heat, serve it with a squeeze of lemon juice instead. Start by soaking the chickpeas the day before.
Prep 20 min
Cook 2 hr 10 min
3 tbsp olive oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1-2 parmesan rinds (60g), plus 80g finely grated parmesan
300g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in plenty of water and 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Salt and black pepper
2 red chillies, thinly sliced into rounds, seeds and all
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
250g baby spinach
4 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
100g unsalted, fridge-cold butter, cut into 2cm cubes
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4.
Put two tablespoons of oil in a large, high-sided, ovenproof saute pan for which you have a lid, and place on a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the garlic and cook for about 90 seconds, until it’s fragrant and just starting to colour. Add the parmesan rinds, drained chickpeas, bicarb, 1.2 litres water and a very generous amount of coarsely cracked black pepper (give it about 40 grinds). Bring to a boil, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface as it does so, then cover and transfer to the oven for an hour and 15 minutes. Add three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt, and cook for another 30 minutes, until the chickpeas are very soft and the liquid has reduced by about half.
While the chickpeas are baking, mix the chillies, vinegar and a small pinch of salt in a small bowl and set aside to pickle lightly.
About 10 minutes before the chickpeas are ready, put the last tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat and, once hot, add the spinach in batches with a quarter-teaspoon of salt and cook for about four minutes, until just wilted, then stir through the parsley.
When the chickpeas are done, remove the lid and, while they’re still hot from the oven but not on any heat source, add a quarter of the butter cubes and about 15g grated parmesan, stirring until the butter has melted into the sauce. Repeat, adding a quarter more of the butter and 15g parmesan each time, until you’ve used up all the butter and 60g cheese. Finally, add another very generous grind of coarsely ground black pepper.The sauce will by now have thickened significantly and coated the chickpeas. Top with the spinach mixture, the pickled chillies and their liquid, and a final sprinkling of parmesan, and serve with extra parmesan on the side.