Imagine a world with no chickpeas… no falafel, no hummus, no chickpea salad… OMG! Impossible, and luckily we don’t have to imagine that either. Chickpeas are a staple food in many countries for a reason. And it’s becoming more and more common here as well. Where it comes from, how healthy it is and what you have to consider when preparing it, you can find out here in the Chickpea Guide.
The chickpea was already cultivated about 8000 years ago in the Middle East and is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. From there it came in the Middle Ages via India and North Africa to Europe. In Mexico and India and in many other countries of the world, the chickpea is a staple food. Chick peas are inexpensive, super nutritious and versatile. India is the largest chickpea-growing country, but the plant is also cultivated and exported a lot in North Africa, Turkey, Australia and Spain.
The chickpea belongs to the legume family. So beans, lentils and soya are its siblings. It owes its name to the Latin word “cicer” [English: pea]. There are different varieties, but there are two varieties that are particularly popular for cooking. In Europe, the so-called Kabuli type is the most common. The peas are large, yellowish-beige, have a slightly nutty taste and grow particularly well in the Mediterranean. The Desi type comes from India and is smaller and darker than the chickpea from Europe.
One thing is for sure, when chickpeas are served on your plate, you are doing something good for yourself and your body. They are an ideal alternative to animal protein, because they are full of protein. 100 grams of chickpeas contain around 19 grams of protein, which means a good deal of energy for your muscles. So if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, chickpeas are the best choice; the chickpea ensures that you get enough protein even without animal products.
But the chickpea can do even more: in addition to its high protein content, it contains a lot of fibre that will keep you full for a long time and lower your blood sugar level. It also has vitamin C, folic acid vitamin E and B vitamins in its luggage. It is also gluten-free and contains minerals and trace elements such as iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium and calcium. So, fries aside and get the chickpeas! Although… fries are also allowed… But with chickpeas on the menu, you’re well equipped to do something good for your muscles, nerves and bones.
- Folic acid
Shopping and storage
You can buy chickpeas either dried or already cooked in the can and in a jar. You can find them in supermarkets, health food stores, Asian markets or organic food stores. Chick peas are available all year round, as their growing areas always have a warm climate, which they need to grow. The peas can be stored in a dry and cool place and have an unlimited shelf life. If you have stored them for a longer time, just check them for small wormholes before eating them.
Preparation and cooking
Raw chick peas contain the toxin phasin, but this decomposes during cooking. Therefore it is important not to eat the peas raw. So if you cook them, the chickpeas are safe to eat.
You can buy chickpeas dried or already cooked. If you need them quickly, you can easily open the tin and you’re ready to go. Simply pour the chickpeas into a sieve and rinse them once under running water.
If you have more time for the preparation, you can cook the chickpeas yourself. You should soak them first before cooking. This makes the pulses easier to digest and shortens the cooking time considerably, so that the many vital substances are retained during cooking.
- To soak, cover the chickpeas with twice the amount of water in a bowl and leave them to soak overnight for at least 12 hours. Then drain the soaking water and rinse the peas with fresh water.
- Then they are ready to cook. Cover the chick peas with fresh water and bring it to the boil. Simmer the peas over a low heat for about 60 minutes.
- The cooking time depends on what you want to do with the chickpeas. For stews, salads etc. 60 minutes is enough, for creamy hummus you should cook them a little longer, about 90 minutes, so that they are nice and soft. The peas are cooked when you can prick them easily with a knife, like potatoes.
- If you have a pressure cooker at home, the soaked peas only take about 20 minutes to cook.
- If you want to roast the chickpeas in the oven, you should still cook them beforehand or use the cooked peas from the tin. Then heat the oven to 190°C, mix the chickpeas with a little oil (for 400 g peas 1 tbsp. oil) and put them on a baking tray lined with baking paper for 30-40 minutes in the oven. Then season to taste and snack away.
After cooking, the chickpeas can be kept in the refrigerator for about four days. What about the thin skin on the chick peas that can be removed? You can easily eat the wafer-thin skin of the chickpeas with them.
Insider tip: If you add baking soda to the cooking water, the cooking time is reduced by half. Since the chickpeas take a really long time to cook, you can save a lot of time with this little trick. Sodium bicarbonate of soda is a base. If you bring it to the boil with water, a chemical reaction is triggered which ensures that the pectin contained in the chickpeas dissolves more quickly and the peas can absorb water more quickly, so they cook faster.
The chickpea in Levantine and world cuisine
What the potato is in some countries, the chickpea is in the Levant. It is the basis for many delicacies. The two most famous dishes in the world are from the Levantine kitchen: falafel and hummus. But you know what falafel is – don’t you? All right: Falafel are fried vegan balls made from chickpeas, herbs and spices. You can find the recipe here. Hummus or “Hommus” means “chickpea” in Arabic, by the way.
In Italy, chickpea flour is used to prepare “farinata”, in Greece and the Levant, the peas are also roasted like nuts and nibbled as a snack, and in Spain they conjure up tasty, hearty stews with the legume. In India the chickpea is the main ingredient of “Chana Masala”, a very popular curry. It is also used there for desserts like “Laddu”.
You see, the chickpea is really versatile. Whether in salad, as soup, in stew, as cream, in curry or for baking, with this legume you will never be bored in the kitchen.
The most commonly used spices are strong ones like cilantro or cumin for the pea, but there are no limits to your imagination. The chickpea is versatile, just try it out and find out what you like best.
Use the chickpea:
- as the main ingredient of your food and conjure up falafel, hummus or farinata
- as a meat substitute e.g. in the form of burger patties, which you form and fry from the peas
- as a special ingredient in colourful salads, stews and casseroles
- for baking and creating sweet dishes from chickpea flour
- as a snack, by roasting them in the oven with spices and oil until golden brown and crispy
In addition to protein as an alternative to animal products, the chickpea has an ace up its sleeve: Aquafaba. You can use the canned chickpea water as a vegan alternative to beaten egg white. How to do that? For use, the canned chickpea water should be at room temperature, then you can whip it up with a food processor or hand mixer like egg whites. You can use the vegan beaten egg whites to make chocolate mousse, pancakes or meringue.
The chickpea is so versatile that you can conjure up something new with it every day. So get to the cooking spoons, grab the pea and let’s go!