Raise the pulse: Yotam Ottolenghi's chickpea recipes (2024)

If ever there was a school forvirtuous veg, chickpeas would be the prefects: straight-laced and stuck-in-the-70s predictable, they'dwalk around the place marshalling their more colourful counterparts into order.

Or would they? It's often the quiet ones who end up surprising everyone. Vegetarian and frugal it may be, but the chickpea is one of the most versatile ingredients you could keep in your cupboards.

Take hummus, a dish that's close to everyone's heart in the Middle East (and beyond). Who made the first hummus? Who makes the best hummus now? What should its texture be like? What should you serve it with? Should you add this or that ground spice to the mix? And at what temperature should it be eaten? It's over to you to experiment.

Chickpeas also play a vital role in many a stew, curry, casserole or rice-based dish. They help to bulk things out, or to provide an alternative texture. In soups, chickpeas can be kept whole and hearty – in a ribollita-inspired chickpea, tomato and bread soup, for example, or in a Moroccan harira with lamb and spinach. Or they can be blitzed or crushed once cooked, taking the place of potatoes in thickening and adding depth.

That's not even the half of it. Chickpeas are one of my favourite things to serve with chorizo or lamb meatballs; they also work brilliantly as the quiet partner in a vibrant alphonso mango salad. Once split, skinned and turned into chana dal, they are the most important legume in India. They can be ground into chickpea flour (also known as besan or gram flour), too, friend to anyone on a gluten-free diet and an essential ingredient in many Italian flatbreads, pakora-style fritters or sweet chickpea cookies. For the latter, make a dough with gram flour, clarified butter, sugar, ground cardamom and rose water, stud it with pistachios, then shape and bake. It's a great school lunchbox treat, and not that virtuous, either.


These Iranian dumplings aren't to everybody's taste, admittedly, but, like Marmite, if they are, you'lllove them. They're traditionally served in an aromatic broth that's both comforting and hard-hitting at the same time. These quantities make soup and dumplings to serve four.

1 tbsp olive oil
4 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
½ tsp ground turmeric
2 whole Iranian limes, pierced a few times with a knife
30g parsley, tied in a bunch
20 whole black peppercorns
250g cooked cannellini beans (tinned are fine)
About 1 tbsp lime juice, to serve
10g picked coriander leaves, to serve

For the dumplings
250g minced chicken (or turkey)
25g melted unsalted butter
100g chickpea (gram) flour
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped in a food processor
10g parsley, finely chopped
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp rosewater
¼ tsp crushed whole black peppercorns

On a medium flame, heat the oil in amedium stockpot. Add the chicken thighs and sauté lightly for eight minutes, turning once. Add the onion, carrot, turmeric, Iranian limes, parsley, peppercorns and ateaspoon of salt. Pour over 1.5 litres of water, bring to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 40 minutes. Use aslotted spoon to lift all the chicken and vegetables out of the broth (savethe chicken for use in a salad or sandwich filling). Return the limes tothe liquid and set the pot aside.

Put all the ingredients for the dumplings in a large bowl with ateaspoon of salt. Mix well and, with wet hands, shape into 16 round, 30-35g dumplings.

Bring the broth to a gentle boil and add the cannellini beans. Carefully lower the dumplings into the broth, cover with a lid and simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes. The dumplings will expand in the liquid. Remove the lid and simmer for another 20 minutes, until the soup has concentrated in both consistency and flavour. (Add water as necessary, or reduce the liquid for longer.) Serve in bowls and top with a squeeze of lime andsome coriander.

Slow-cooked chickpeas on toast with poached egg

Raise the pulse: Yotam Ottolenghi's chickpea recipes (1)

I tested this dish on a group of card-carrying sceptics: "Five hours to cook beans on toast?" How could Ipossibly justify the time involved when the more famous variation on this theme can be on the table inside a couple of minutes? Each to their own, I say. These chickpeas are impossibly soft and yielding, and the flavour is rich and deep in a way that only slow cooking can bring about. (Please don't be tempted to omit the salt: it keeps the skins intact and prevents the chickpeas from disintegrating.)

Notwithstanding the cooking time, this is really very low-maintenance comfort food. The chickpeas taste fantastic the next day, too, not to mention the day after that, so you might want to double the quantities and keep a batch in the fridge. I like it topped with a spoonful of Greek yogurt. Serves four.

220g medium-sized dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in lots of cold water with ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tbsp to serve
1 medium onion, peeled and roughlychopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1½ tsp tomato paste
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp smoked paprika
2 small red peppers, roughly chopped into 0.5cm dice
Salt and black pepper
1 beef tomato, peeled and roughly chopped
½ tsp caster sugar

To serve
4 slices sourdough, brushed with olive oil and grilled on both sides
4 eggs, poached
1 tsp za'atar

Strain and rinse the chickpeas. Put alarge saucepan on a high heat, add the chickpeas and cover with plenty of cold water. Bring to a boil, skim the surface, boil for five minutes, strain and set the chickpeas aside.

Put the oil, onion, garlic, tomato paste, cayenne, paprika and red peppers in a food processor, along with a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper, and blitz to a paste.

Wipe down the chickpea saucepan, return it to the stove on medium heat and add the paste. Fry for five minutes (there's enough oil in the paste to allow for this), stirring occasionally, then add the tomato, sugar, chickpeas and 200ml water. Bring to a low simmer, cover and cook on a very low heat for four hours, stirring from time to time and adding water as needed to maintain a sauce-like consistency. Remove the lid and cook for a final hour: the sauce needs to thicken without the chickpeas becoming dry.

Put a slice of grilled sourdough on each plate, spoon over some chickpeas and top with a poached egg. Sprinkle over some za'atar and adribble of oil, and serve hot.

Raise the pulse: Yotam Ottolenghi's chickpea recipes (2024)


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