Braised chickpeas were a big win for me recently. G and I agree on most things to eat – we both love restaurants both great and small and we’re both adventurous and happy to eat most things. There are notable exceptions – we’re a no lamb household (by far the largest sacrifice I’ve ever had to make for her, which probably says more about how easy-going our marriage really is than the scale of the sacrifice). Also, she’s not a fan of humus. I’ve never understood why because it’s commonly accepted humus is delicious. For a while though, she thought the thing she didn’t like about humus was the humble chickpea. I was not having this as I love chickpeas. My first line of attack was the falafel. It was fairly easy to get her completely addicted to falafel (thank you falafeltime at Camden lock – easily the best falafel in London). From there it was a short step to the revelation that falafel is made from chickpeas (still searching for a great recipe, let me know if you’ve got one!). The next step, braised chickpeas. Turns out that these braised chickpeas have insta-converted her to a chickpea lover and our harmonious and blissful marriage can continue unabated.
These braised chickpeas have been such a win, actually, that I’ve started experimenting with just how far I can stretch them. They freeze so well, and if you freeze them flat in a ziplock bag they defrost in about 10 minutes if they’re left in hot water. In that timeframe, even breakfast is achievable and let me tell you a tomato and braised chickpea shakshuka is unbe-freaking-lievable. You make a quick tomato sauce from tinned tomatoes, cumin and a little chilli. Reduce it a little, add in the chickpeas and when it’s on a nice low heat go and crack your eggs in. Cook until they’re just a bit runny. Serve immediately with some crusty bread and you will see the power of the braised chickpeas – I promise. (I just wish I’d taken a picture but it was gone so fast!). Recently, we’ve also had them as part of a tapas meal with friends and for dinner with duck breasts and a little salad from our little London flat garden. Ok, ok, part of the salad was from our garden – seed to plate!
So, I guess the next question is how easy is it to make these braised chickpeas? Well it’s a little bit of a pain in that it needs forethought to soak the chickpeas over night. However, once that’s done, it’s pretty easy and can be done in great bulk and frozen or refrigerated until you need to reheat it. In fact, it actually tastes better reheated than it did to start! These braised chickpeas are an absolute godsend when you’re sending out about 7 or 8 different tapas dishes at the same time by yourself – all you have to do is heat it up and put it on the table. It’s also great in that it’s so re-useable and so very, very inexpensive to make.
Once you’ve soaked the chickpeas, you sweat some vegetables (I like leeks and carrots but it’s up to you) and add some spices before braising them slowly in chicken stock for a couple of hours or until tender. The spices I’ve settled on are some bay leaves (also from the garden!) and za’atar. Za’atar is a delicious Middle Eastern blend of spices (and is actually a spice itself which is where the name comes from). It’s available in supermarkets in the UK but you can also get it online pretty easily. If you don’t want to use za’atar, things like smoked paprika, ground coriander and garlic work absolute wonders as well. If you fancy it, maybe throw in a little preserved lemon. After the stock has completely reduced and it’s gone all sticky, you stir in some some intensely sweet caramelised onions and you’re off to the races.
The onions cook whilst the braised chickpeas are cooking but they can also be done in advance. Here’s the recipe for the onions. I like to cook the onions in really large batches, because not only do they freeze super well but they go so well in loads of things: Spanish tortilla, onion filo tart, asparagus and lemon sole stacks, persian tahdig and an amazing barbecue sauce recipe I promise to post soon. In fact it’s not uncommon for me to cook 10 or more onions in one go – only takes about 10-15 minutes of chopping time.
If you’re doing this recipe ahead, or making it for a dinner party, the chickpeas and onions will keep in the fridge for about 3-5 days (will last up to seven but I find they’re tastier in the 3-5 range). Both will freeze amazingly for months and months. To reheat simply place in a saucepan over a low-medium heat and stir gently until warmed through. Hope you enjoy them as much as I have!
Braised Chickpeas with onion
Ingredients: (serves 6 as a side dish – can easily be served as a main in and of itself but then about 3-4 servings)
- 300g dried chickpeas
- 2 onions worth of slow cooked onions (click here for the recipe)
- 1 large carrot (peeled and finely diced)
- 2 leeks (top parts removed and finely shredded)
- 500ml brown chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon za’atar
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 unwaxed lemon
- Rehydrate the chickpeas in cold water overnight. Then drain.
- Add the carrot and leeks to a pan with some olive oil and a little salt and sweat over a medium heat without colouring for around 5 minutes or until softened
- Add the drained chickpeas and the za’atar and stir to coat. Season a little more with salt and add the chicken stock. Top up with water until covered and leave to simmer uncovered for around 90 minutes or until the chickpeas have softened. I found it has taken up to two hours to get them soft. You should stir the chickpeas every 15-20 minutes or so to make sure they don’t catch. You may find that you have to top up the water if it’s drying out too fast, however, you ultimately want to evaporate most of the liquid.
- Add the slow cooked onions to the braised chickpeas and stir. Adjust the thickness with either a little water (if too dry) or by cooking a little more (if too wet). Season with salt and pepper. If chilling then place in the fridge. Add a squeeze of lemon and some lemon zest to the braised chickpeas just before serving after reheating.