Chickpeas are amazing, aren’t they? They’re dried, hard bullets that you can use to thwart home invaders in kid-driven sitcoms if you’ve run out of marbles, which then magically expand like foam dinosaurs when you leave them to soak for a few hours, and turn into an interestingly nutty thing which takes the flavours of what you add in really well.
If you add a slightly oily liquid to them, such as crushed sesame seeds, and smash into a smoothish paste they become humous (hummus, houmous, حمّص بطحينة, however you want to spell it), and I imagine that nut butters would work really well here as well. If you cook them with tomatoes they make a lovely stew. And if you don’t take them all the way to humous and instead just have them at a powery stage, and add some stuff and deep fry they become felafel. I love felafel.
I’ve never made them before.
The problem is that chickpeas are a lot of faff if you’ve got a bag in the cupboard and tend to run a just-in-time approach to food. They need an overnight soak, which is a level of planning that I don’t often get round to doing. So I buy tinned, which are mushy and – to me – only pleasant if added to stews for a few hours. Blending them can often make a tasteless mush. Attempts at making humous have resulted in oddly-flavoured glop, so I bought dried a few weeks ago, intending on making some felafel and humous properly.
Soaking chickpeas is brilliant. Soaking any dried pulses, to be fair, is fun – they just expand, and grow, and almost without realising it a handful of small, dried hard nuggets suddenly become these softer, bigger, more real things that occupy more space. Because this was the first time I’d done this I just put a small handful of chickpeas in a big bowl, rinsed then covered with a *lot* of water, and clingfilmed over, and just left them. I deliberately forgot about them – for all they were on the worktop and quite difficult to ignore – until I came home from work about 24hrs after putting them on to soak and looked at them. There was little puffs of bubbles on the surface of the water in the bowl; I was concerned that it was fungus at first glance (at second it was obviously not), suspect it was just the last tiny bits of gas from the middle of the peas escaping through slighly protein-infused water.
Anyway, after rinsing and rinsing and rinsing you’re left with a bowl of chickpeas. What do you do next? I looked at a recipe. And another. And a third. All of them said “put in a food processor”. I don’t have a food processor. It is something that occupies space which I don’t really have, and wouldn’t use often enough to justify. So I left them in the bowl, decided to ignore recipes and added stuff (I won’t give quantities because they’re pretty irrelevant); rough-chopped shallots, garlic, salt, pepper, a whole load of fresh chopped coriander, some flour and dried crushed chilli flakes. And got out the stick blender.
Ah, the stick blender. I have my Nan’s Bamix, shamelessly acquired from my Mum last year after I saw one being demonstrated at a cake show but couldn’t justify the eye-watering price tag (even at a “show special” price, ho ho). My Nan’s Bamix was bought in the 1960s – and it looks like it, battered, probably illegal wiring and a plug from the dark ages – but still works, which is probably the best endorsement I can imagine. This thing is pretty much fifty years old and still does the job it was designed to do: blend whatever it’s put into.
After working out a way of putting the bamix into the bowl and turning it on without stuff flying everywhere – cling film to the rescue, again – I managed to get a pretty decent lumpy paste; you don’t want this to become humous, texture is everything. Even whole chickpeas are fine, just not too many. Then put in the fridge for a few hours, shape into small patties and deep fry (well, half-fill a frying pan with oil and gently heat it up and KEEP AN EYE ON IT) until golden and crunchy and fluffy inside, turning when you feel like it.
I might have overdone the chilli a little.
Here’s the point, though: these were easy to make. Time consuming in terms of planning, but once the soaking was done the rest just followed. Stick blenders are fine, if you trust them – no need for a food processor – and the results are so much nicer than the felafels you buy in the supermarket. Plus, felafel and humous – basically the same dish at different stages of cooking – are a match made in heaven. And now I have tasty lunch for the rest of the week, too.