Since I am so keen on recycling, I thought that I would give you a third-hand recipe this time. The idea for this recipe came from my desire to cook more Middle Eastern food. I was browsing around, when I remembered a recipe that was attributed to an amazing Lebanese woman where I used to work, but was actually cooked for me by a former manager at a team building dinner we had to go to. She didn’t give me the recipe, but the idea was probably the best thing that I learned from her!
I really enjoyed the dish, but only had a vague memory of the flavours. When I found myself with a lot of spinach (after telling the market stall holder I wanted two handfuls of spinach, before I looked at his hands), and having my memory jogged while I was looking up Middle Eastern food and seeing all the chickpeas in the dishes, I decided that I was going to try to recreate that meal.
This is what I came up with, which is as close as I can get to a vaguely remembered flavour of a meal I ate over a year ago. I have no idea if it is authentic, or even close to the dish that I tried. But what I have managed is a really easy vegan supper dish that is bright with really fresh flavours. Another bonus is that it is also pretty cheap to make too.
I try always to use dried chickpeas, because I think that the taste and texture are superior to the tinned ones. In this dish they are the stars of the show, so I think that it really is worth the effort. If you want to make a large batch up, they freeze really well, so you can cook up loads, and freeze them in batches for another time. Not for this recipe though, because you will need some of the cooking liquor for this dish.
Recipe: Lebanese Inspired Chickpea and Lemon Stew
200 g dried chickpeas or one tin.
1 large onion, chopped
3 fat cloves garlic, crushed to a paste with the flat of a knife
Little oil for frying
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander seed
Good pinch chilli flakes ( a chopped fresh red chilli would also work here, but I only had dried)
Zest & juice of 2 lemons
150 g baby spinach
If you are using dried chickpeas, soak them in cold water for a couple of hours. Place them in a saucepan, and cover with plenty of cold water. Do not salt them, it makes the skin tough, and it is better to salt the final dish, so you get better balance.Bring them to the boil, then cover and simmer until they are just tender. Drain them, but reserve the cooking liquid. This is important, you will need it later.
Toast the cumin and coriander seed in dry pan. I used the one I was going to cook the rest of the ingredients in, because I am averse to washing up. Grind them with a pestle and mortar until quite fine.
Add the oil to the warm pan, and sweat the onion until it is translucent. Add the garlic, chilli, and the ground spices for a few minutes until the heat from the chilli hits you.
If you are using tinned chickpeas, drain them, but reserve the tinned liquid as well. Put the drained chickpeas into the pan, and let them cook for a couple of minutes with the spiced onion mixture.
Add the juice and zest of two lemons. Be careful not to get any pips in the dish. I got a stray one, and it was a really unpleasant mouthful after I bit through it. If you like, you can add a lemon shell or two, as it cooks to give an extra lemon hit. Pour the reserved cooking water into the pan to just cover the chickpeas. With the tinned chickpeas, add half water from the tap and half from the tin.
Leave to simmer for a further 15 minutes, by which time the liquid in the pan will have reduced, so that it is still fairly liquid, but more soupy and glossy. If you use the lemon shells, remove them at this point. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper as needed. Add the spinach, and cook until it has wilted.
I served this with some brown basmati rice, but I think that it would also be great with bulgur wheat, some crusty bread or even as a side dish.