The little chickpea must be one of the most under rated ingredients going. Since I started following a plant based diet, the chickpea is the main ingredient of some of my tastiest mainstay dishes. The chickpea is the main ingredient for gloriously yummy hummus, but that's just the start of it. Chickpeas are extremly versatile and can be used in so many different ways. They are also super nutritious, being a great source of plant based protein and iron and high in dietary fibre. They are really inexpensive making them great for those on a budget. You can buy chickpeas tinned or dried. If you buy them tinned, they are ready to use straight away. You just rinse them and away you go. If you buy them dried, they need to be soaked in water overnight and then cooked for about 40 minutes.
Here are five ridiciously tasty things you can do with chickpeas:
1. Make hummus
Number one has to be hummus. Hummus is a great snack and is very filling. It is great on crackers or toasted rye bread, super as a dip for sweet potato wedges or carrot sticks, really good to accompany roasted vegetables - I could go on and on. I would recommend making a big tub of hummus every four or five days and keeping it in the fridge. It takes only a few minutes to make and is so handy to have in the fridge. Here is my recipe for homemade hummus.
2. Roast chickpeas in spices and eat them as a snack
Roast chickpeas are so yum. I first started roasting them when I was experimenting with different hummus recipes - surprise surprise!! Of course, I was nibbling as I was experimenting and realised that the roasted chickpeas are yummy all by themselves. I roast them in a little oil and spices. Smoked paprika and chilli are my favourite spices. These are so easy. Take about three cups of chickpeas and toss them in about two tablespoons of extra virgin olive or coconut oil and your choosen spices. Put them on a roasting tray and pop them in the oven for about 40 minutes. These are a perfect snack for movie night too and I usually eat the entire bowl in one sitting.
3. Make falafels
Falafels are so good. For those who have never had falafels they are basically like mini chickpea burgers. You can spice them up to whatever heat you like and serve them with salad and some hummes on the side. I usually make a fresh salad to go with them, something like a mango and mint salad or a tomato, cucumber and red onion salad. Check out my recipe for spicy falafels here. The one thing to say about falafels is that I think they are much better when I use dried chickpeas that have been soaked but not cooked as opposed to tinned chickpeas.
4. Make a chickpea curry
A really good main course dish is a spinach and chickpea Indian curry. It's super quick to make and very inexpensive. Using chickpeas instead of expensive cuts of meat is not only better for you (in my book) but it is much easier on the pocket. Chickpeas are filling and satisfying and a great source of energy. This dish is perfect for anyone trying meat free Mondays. I think some people might be put off from making a curry from scratch thinking it is very complicated and requires lots of ingredients. Also jars of processed curry sauces are readily available. However, curries are so easy to make from scratch with a small amount of ingredients and key spices. Check out this recipe for a spinach and chickpea curry.
5. Add chickpeas to salads
When I started eating plant based first, I struggled a lot with my salads, as no matter how many vegetables I put in them, I always felt they were missing something. I think we are so used to putting dairy, meat and refined carbohydrates into our salads, the whole point of a salad (i.e. lots of vegetables) is sometimes lost. So without cheeses, meats and carbs such as white pasta and couscous, we can struggle to bulk out our salads and make them filling. This is where legumes, grains and beans such as lentils, chickpeas and quinoa come in very handy. They are great to add to salads. I usually mix chickpeas with chopped onion, raw garlic, fresh herbs and dress with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and paprika and eat these along with a green salad. But you can add pretty much whatever vegetables you like. Chopped cucumber, tomatoes, red onion and baby spinach also work really well with chickpeas. Both delish and filling.