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Here chickpea, chickpea

Monday, June 18, 2012

Steamed chickpeas are a popular street food in Malaysia. The vendor who sells them along with nuts and crisps, called a kacang putih man, sometimes still package the chickpeas in paper cones, but more often you'll find them in plastic baggies nowadays. Chickpeas are also roasted and that's where the "kacang putih" comes from – literally, "white nuts".
Chickpeas are also cooked into a curry, but apart from those items, I couldn't think of any other way the actual peas are used in Malaysian cooking. Chickpea flour, however, is common in many traditional cakes and used as a batter for fritters.
I boil up a pot of chickpeas all the time and eat them the way other people eat popcorn. Here, I've used them in a soup based on the Moroccan harira. This one starts off like most other soups – with a trinity of vegetables. I've used onion and celery, and because I was thinking of the Moroccan tagine when I made this, I used potato. Towards the end of cooking, when part of the soup is pureed, the thickness comes from the potato. True harira, from what I've read and seen in online cooking videos, is thickened with a cornflour slurry.
Again, thinking back to the lentil soups and tagines that I had in Morocco, I remember them having the taste of meat. So although this soup can be made completely vegetarian, I added a beef stock cube and that reminded me very much of the flavour of Morocco.
Use any type of bread to mop up the soup, but I would recommend making Dan Lepard's chickpea cob loaf, which is not difficult to put together. It is, after all, made with chickpea flour and is the perfect companion to this soup. The spice paste that is brushed on the grilled slices screams Morocco once again.

Chickpea Noodle Soup
Serves 2

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked for 4-6 hours (or 1 400g can of chickpeas, drained)
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 new potatoes, diced
1 celery stick, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
Large pinch ground cinnamon
750ml water, plus extra
1 beef stock cube or  tsp beef bouillon powder
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander stems
Salt to taste
20 strands dried angel hair pasta, broken into 5cm pieces
Torn coriander leaves for garnish

Drain the soaked chickpeas and place in a pot. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and stir in a large pinch of salt. Cover the pot and leave the chickpeas to cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Cook the onion over medium heat until soft. Add the potatoes and celery and cook until they start to caramelise. Add the garlic and stir in the spices; cook for 1 minute. Add the cooked chickpeas, water, beef stock cube or bouillon powder and chopped coriander stems. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove about 1 cup of soup and using a hand blender, puree the soup in the saucepan. Return the unblended portion to the pot and add the pasta, plus a little extra water to loosen the mixture. Stir over medium heat until pasta is cooked. Season with salt if required.
Dish out and garnish with coriander leaves.

Spiced Toasts
4 slices from a Chickpea Cob Loaf or other country bread
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
⅛ tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
⅛ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp sea salt

Toast or grill the bread slices.
Melt the butter and oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, spices and salt and cook for 1 minute. Brush onto one side of the toasts.

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