Lentils for breakfast- welcome

Here is your invitation to sample beautiful recipes that are good for you, good for the planet and good to eat. They mainly feature plants, because that's what I try to eat the most. I am not a fancy cook, but I believe that food is one of our greatest pleasures and deserves to be celebrated. Real food, whole food, kind food. Welcome to the feast!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Why I love chickpeas again

Add a dollop of yoghurt to chickpea tagine. Yum.

I stopped eating chickpeas for several months last year when I was attempting to live la vida slow-carb.

Why? Well, in his dietary prescriptions the mighty Tim refers to them as 'domino foods' and as such to be avoided: "eating one portion often creates a domino effect of over-snacking."

Just like that, chickpeas were off the menu. Which is silly because I wasn't following the diet properly. The chickpeas would not have made one bit of difference to my total lack of weight loss. General non-compliance did that.

So, I've welcomed them back. And while I often sneak 1 or 2 (OK, 8 or 10) while they are draining in the colander, I don't oversnack.

Cans or dried?
We buy loads of cans of beans each week: chickpeas, canellinni, pinto and black beans, sometimes refried beans (my husband makes beautiful bean burgers with these). Often I have perfectionist stabs of guilt about not buying dried beans and soaking them overnight. Much cheaper, greener and probably tastier.

But cans are so convenient. And there are plenty of organic brands available in cans not lined with BPA. Goes some way to assuage the guilt.

But, if you do want to soak them, then I suggest you add a teaspoon of yoghurt to the soaking water. This adds bacteria that break down the phytic acid.

Why does this matter? Phytic acid is the naturally occurring compound that binds the minerals in the legumes and makes them less bioavailable to our digestive enzymes. Adding vitamin C to beans (tomatoes, for example) also helps to improve bioavailability by breaking down the phytic acid.

What's great about chickpeas?
They are probably the most versatile little member of the legume family. They work so well in various cuisine styles: Italian, Indian, North African, Middle Eastern. And a good humus is definitely a more-ish domino food!

Nutritionally they're heavy lifters:

  • plant protein
  • soluble fibre
  • several vitamins
  • minerals, including folate, iron and zinc

So, unless you're a serious slow-carber who's following the diet properly, or a Paleo who doesn't eat anything discovered as recently as 20,000 years ago, I'd recommend having a can on hand.

You could give this a whirl, for example.

Those shrivelled looking things were some leftover mushrooms that I roasted with the sweet potato. They were swell for breakfast on sourdough toast with a boiled egg.
Morocan chickpea tagine
This is a recipe I made up myself. Go me. As Tamar Adler says, cooking is at heart instinctive, and most of us know more about creating recipes than we think.

Typically, I've found a way to make it so it takes ages, a good hour. But it's really hearty, it's fragrant and inviting and it can accommodate whatever vegies you have on hand. Here's what I made the other night.

1 onion & 1 or 2 cloves of garlic
olive oil
1 sweet potato (or half a butternut pumpkin)
1 or 2 cans of chickpeas
tomato passata (we use Bio-Organic)
Herbie's tagine spice mix (or 1 tsp each cumin, cinnamon, coriander, paprika)
green vegetable (spinach, green beans, peas, silver beet)
1 potato and/or 2 carrots
1 block of tofu
fresh coriander
one-quarter preserved lemon or fresh lemon juice

First of all, put on some music. I love cooking to Laura Marling at the moment.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Peel the sweet potato (or pumpkin), toss in 1 tbs oil, season with salt and paper (and some paprika, if you like it) and roast. If I'm using carrots, I like to roast them as well.

Chop the onion and garlic and heat in 1 tbs of oil until soft and sizzling. If I'm using a potato, I'll add it now. Rinse the chickpeas, nibble a few absent-mindedly while they're draining, then add to the potatoes and onions.

Add the spice mix and coat the vegetables. Then add the passata. I usually use about half a bottle that contains 690 g, and then add water or stock as the tagine cooks to obtain a lovely consistency. Leave to simmer away.

Prepare and steam the green vegetable you've selected.

Cut up the tofu into chunks and fry in olive oil. It takes a while to fry each side of the cubes, but does give a good, firm result. A resident teenager for this job is handy. They are useful occasionally.

Add the tofu, roasted vegetables and steamed vegetables to the chickpea mixture. Adjust the liquid. Add the coriander and lemon and you're finally done.

Fragrant with lemon and Moroccan spices. 

Serve with yoghurt. My husband and daughter eat this with flat bread, but a meal of tofu, pumpkin and chickpeas is enough carbohydrate for my waistline.

If I have steamed and roasted vegetables already pre-prepared, then this is a quick meal. But making the vegetables separately does add time and effort to the procedure. Of course, you could add the sweet potato and carrot to the onion mix, and then the green vegetable after the  passata and leave it all to stew in the tomato sauce.

However, I think it improves depth of flavour to roast pumpkin or sweet potato and this adds richness to the finished dish. And steaming green vegetables means they retain a bright green colour. That boiled green look? Not so appealing.

And tagine keeps beautifully for subsequent meals. Like breakfast, slow-carbers.

What's your favourite chickpea recipe? Have you ever stopped eating something because you read it in a book? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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