I love chickpeas. Not only are they tasty in themselves, they are also extremely versatile. They’re happy alongside almost any flavour, from spices to vegetables or meat. If using readily cooked chickpeas – from a can, jar or freezer – they’re even ready to eat in a matter of minutes. No wonder chickpeas were among the first crops to be cultivated by humans.
When I’m in the mood (or need) for something quick and simple, chickpeas are therefore very often the answer. I usually boil half a kilo of dried chickpeas at a time, equivalent to around 5 cans of tinned, readily cooked chickpeas. I freeze anything that won’t be used in a day or two, so I always have those home-cooked chickpeas at hand for a healthy meal on those busy days. Using canned or jarred chickpeas are of course perfectly fine too, but if you eat chickpeas regularly, you will notice a marked improvement in the flavour and texture of your chickpeas if you start boiling your own from dried.
This dish of fried chickpeas, pumpkin and tahini sauce is a sort of winter version of spiced chickpeas with chopped salad. I think it’s nearly impossible to go wrong with quickly fried chickpeas (choosing your spicing carefully), some roasted veg and that simple sauce that improves just about anything – lemony tahini sauce.
You may substitute sweet potato for the pumpkin, if you prefer or that’s easier for you. I use pumpkin because it’s available – Güncü Osman at my neighbourhood market keeps me supplied all winter round. Sweet potatoes are, unfortunately, harder to come by in Turkey, and when you do, they tend to be expensive. You can also use another vegetable altogether – cauliflower, for example, will also work well.
It’s worth seeking out whole cumin and coriander seeds. Used whole, they add a different, slightly more subtle flavour. Lightly toasted and freshly ground, their flavour is far superior to that of their readily ground versions. If the latter is all you have, however, you may of course use that. But do make a mental note to pick up a packet of each next time you see it in your food shopping.
Serve the dish as is, for dinner. A simple green salad and, if you have it, some fresh bread is perfectly enough alongside for a satisfying and comforting, yet light, dinner. It can also be eaten as a side dish with borek, chicken or fish – or you can serve it as part of a larger table of sharing plates. Serves 2-4, depending on what, if anything, is served alongside.
Fried chickpeas, roast pumpkin and tahini dressing
Inspired by a similar dish served at Morito restaurant, London.
- 1 kg pumpkin (or sweet potato), peeled and cut into 1.5-2 cm chunks
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 red onions, halved and cut into slices
- 1 generous handful of flat leaf parsley or other herb of your liking (coriander or dill also work well)
- salt and pepper
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed to a paste with a little salt using the flat side of a knife or a pestle and mortar
- 50 ml (50 g) tahini
- 2 tbsp lemon juice (about half a lemon)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 tsp whole cumin seeds (or 2/3 tsp ground cumin)
- 1 tsp whole coriander seeds (or 2/3 tsp ground coriander)
- 3 tbsp sunflower, rapeseed or similar oil
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 500 g cooked chickpeas (from 2×400 g cans, rinsed and drained, or 200 g dried chickpeas)
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 220 C.
- Mix the chunks of pumpkin with 2-3 tbsp olive oil and a little seasoning. Spread onto a sheet pan in a single layer, lining with baking parchment or a little extra oil to avoid sticking. Bake for 15 minutes. Mix the large oven dish, making sure chunks are as separated as possible. Mix the red onion with the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil and add to the sheet pan. Continue baking until the pumpkin and onions are soft, 15-20 minutes (30-40 minutes in total), checking occasionally to make sure the onions don’t burn.
- While the pumpkin is roasting, make tahini sauce by mixing the crushed garlic, tahini, lemon juice and olive oil. Add water, little by little, until you have the consistency of a runny yoghurt. Season with salt and pepper.
- If using whole seeds of cumin and coriader, gently toast in a dry frying pan until you can smell the aroma and the seeds start to pop, 1-2 minutes. Shake the pan regularly to avoid the spices burning. Roughly crush using a pestle and mortar. Skip this point if using ground spices.
- A few minutes before the pumpkin is ready, heat the sunflower or rapeseed oil and olive oil for the chickpeas in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Pat the chickpeas dry with kitchen paper or a kitchen towel. The drier the chickpeas are, the less oil will spit. Add to the hot oil and fry until golden, 3-5 minutes. Make sure to stir regularly. Once ready, add the spices and seasoning. Stir and transfer to a plate or bowl lined with baking paper or kitchen paper to drain off any excess oil.
- Add the fried chickpeas and the fresh herbs to the roast pumpkin and onion. Plate and top with a little of the tahini sauce, serving the rest of the sauce alongside. Serve immediately.
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