I love legumes. Understatement! I am obsessed with legumes. Here it is, I said it.
Why? Well, let’s see some facts about them:
- healthy bomb containing fiber, protein, folate and several other B vitamins
- source of the minerals iron, zinc, and magnesium
- increase satiety, satisfy hunger
- low in fat
- low glycemic index providing slow, steady source of energy
- good food for gut microbiota
- protection against cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer
- inexpensive nutritious food
- heavenly good taste
This is not just the opinion of a humble blogger. What would you say if I told you that the United Nations had declared 2016 to be the International Year of Pulses? Yep, they are that nutritionally important.
Do you need more? Because I got my favorite fact for you: endless ways to cook them, meaning it’s cheap, super food so versatile that you may enjoy almost every day and never get bored of it. In soups, salads, spreads, stews, pasta and rice dishes, stir-fries, casseroles, oven-baked, you name it!
Therefore, I feel it is like my mission to spread the love for them. I have already posted 3 recipes starting with the basic and most traditional ones in the Mediterranean Greek cuisine and our culinary trip will take us to the New Greek Cuisine (heck yes!! There is one and it is exquisite. We don’t eat only souvlaki and moussaka). It is so interesting to see the transformation of traditional ingredients, like legumes, into tasteful, sophisticated dishes that we will inspire us to replicate in our home kitchen.
This post is all about chickpeas. Originally cultivated in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, they have been part of the Mediterranean diet for thousands of years. We definitely know to eat and cook chickpeas around here! In Greek homes, we serve cooked legumes 2-3 times a week and it’s not only the recipes that pass from generation to generation but it is that incredibly healthy way of eating, the eating patterns that we have inherited which are adopted and tested for so long that it is beyond any doubt that this way is a healthy one.
Back on track. Mediterranean chickpea soup. Right! Keep these three words: easy, healthy and tasteful. Some more: complex, nutty, intense flavor and buttery almost creamy texture. Oregano and lemon are the ingredients that make that recipe so delightful and special. They are the perfect match and we profoundly love and use in abundance.
I slightly change this recipe in accordance with the weather and the season. In winter it takes the form of a thick soup and during summer it looks more like a vegetable stew. I like to keep the flavor (you don’t mess with children’s favorite flavors. Never!) and slightly change texture and liquid amount.
Today you may find chickpeas (or garbanzo beans which is the same legume under a different name) in grocery stores and supermarkets usually dried or canned. Dried chickpeas in bulk are cheaper but they have to be relatively fresh, otherwise the older the chickpeas, the longer it takes to cook them. There are two main varieties. The smaller, variously colored called Desi and Kabuli, the larger light colored with a thin skin. I prefer dried chickpeas that are already peeled because I save at least half an hour of cooking time and I don’t like to waste my time removing the skins.
Chickpeas require soaking prior to cooking because it makes legumes more digestible, it decreases the cooking time and it reduces the anti-nutrients components making the minerals more available to our body. Leave the quantity you want to soak overnight with plenty of water because they will double in size for at least 8-10 hours (ideally 12-14 hours) and change the water once especially on hot summer days.
If you have leftover chickpea soup, you have two options. You may freeze it using plastic containers or in quart-size, durable freezer bags up to six months. Place in the refrigerator overnight in order to give the time to thaw nicely and there, you have a healthy effortless meal for rough and rushed days and nights. My favorite option though is to add water and some rice into the chickpea soup and serve it as dinner up to three days.
Serve it with homemade toasted homemade country bread, Kalamata olives, and pickled vegetables.
Add salt and olive oil AT THE END. Huge mistake and a usual one for a newbie in cooking legumes. Salt slows the softening procedure and your chickpeas take forever to simmer. So salt should be added after the beans have softened. Olive oil gets added at the end as well because we don’t want the heat to degrade its healthy properties.
Important! Simmer over medium-low heat because that’s how the chickpeas will be evenly cooked and flavors will be mixed. A rolling boil will make the outsides mushy and the insides undercooked.
One tablespoon of flour is more than enough to add that creamy, thick texture we usually enjoy in dishes like this. You may avoid it and make it gluten free but I strongly recommend it when you want that hearty, extra comforting feeling of a soup. I usually skip that ingredient in my summer version of that recipe which looks like a stew.
- 300g (10,5 oz) or 1 ½ cup dried chickpeas (preferably peeled)
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 2 lemons (the juice)
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon flour
- ⅓ cup of olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt, pepper
- Sort and rinse chickpeas thoroughly. Leave them overnight in a bowl with plenty of tap water, ideally 12-14 hours. Strain the chickpeas and rinse well using your hand to remove the skins.
- Place them in a pot and bring to boil for 2-3 minutes. Strain and rinse well under tap water. Remove the skins and clean the pot. Repeat the boil-strain-rinse procedure once more.
- In the same pot over medium-high heat add the chickpeas and water enough to cover them, more or less 1,5’’ (4cm) over the surface of chickpeas. Add the onion, the oregano, the bay leaves and simmer over medium-low heat until tender. Cooking time depends on the product but it takes usually 1 hour. Add more water if needed.
- A few minutes before chickpeas are cooked add salt (1 teaspoon is enough) and olive oil. In a small bowl mix the lemon juice and the flour and stir until smooth. Add some chickpea broth and stir again. Pour the mixture slowly into the pot and stir gently for 2-3 minutes until the soup thickens. Season to taste. Remove from heat and serve hot.
Enjoy your Mediterranean chickpea soup with a glass of white wine!