Talking about vegetarian alternatives to meat or other high-protein sources (such as cheese, tofu, or seitan) chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) are on top of our shopping list. Why? Because we consume them twice or three times a week and we are now completely addicted.
Be it for their delicate and slightly sweet and earthy flavour, or for their buttery texture, everybody here at home has a flair for this bean. Just pick one of our 'can't-do-without' recipes and you'll find chickpeas (ceci, in italian) amongst the ingredients: 'pasta e ceci' or 'farinata' or 'panissa' (just to stick to the Italian cooking tradition), hummus dip or falafel (still mediterranean) and chana masala (going a bit farther East into Indian cooking).
Nutritional facts seem to encourage our insane consumption of chickpeas, as they are a helpful source of zinc and folate and they provide a high level of phosphorus and magnesium too.
They are also a good source of fibre, which helps to lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar levels. This makes them a great food especially for diabetics and insulin-resistant individuals. As I am likely to become one of those individuals (my father and other members of his family happened to be diabetics) I welcome the opportunity to prevent insulin related problems eating one of my favourite foods.
I wrote down a few notes on how to cook dried chickpeas and store them, both economizing and avoiding piling up useless tin cans or packaging stuff. It's just as easy as buying precooked beans, you just have to remember soaking them in advance, at least 12-24 hours. Cooking time is not short either, I acknowledge, but you can still pressure-cook them if you are in a hurry. You'll be surprised to discover how better they taste, compared to canned ones!
dried chickpeas (gorbanzo beans): 200 gr
fennel seeds: 1 teaspoon
or kombu seaweed: 1 stripe
sage: 4 leaves
or bayleaf: 2 leaves
sea salt: to taste
1-Soak the dried chickpeas in cool water for at least 12 - 24 hours, depending on the hardness and the age of the beans. After soaking time, rinse well and transfer the chickpeas to a colander to drain. Remove and discard any discoloured chickpeas.
2-Place the beans in a large saucepan and cover with plenty of fresh water (at least three times their volume). Add fennel seeds or a stripe of kombu to the saucepan to enhance their digestibility and prevent flatulence. Choose fennel seeds if you want to enhance the sweet flavour of chickpeas, or kombu for a more neutral taste. I also add garlic and sage (or bay leaf) to add flavour and get a tasty bouillon I'll reserve and use for other recipes.
3-Bring the water to boil then reduce the heat and simmer covered for between 90 minutes and 120 minutes (depending on the age of the chickpeas and soaking time) topping-up the water as needed.
4-When the chickpeas are about 80% done, season to taste with sea salt then continue cooking, uncovered, until the chickpeas are soft and almost all the liquid has evaporated away.
Pressure cooker chickpeas: Follow step 1 and 2. Bring the pressure cooker up to high pressure, then pressure cook the chickpeas for 40 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let the pressure come down naturally. Check a couple of chickpeas for doneness then season with sea salt to taste.
5-Drain the cooked chickpeas in a colander (reserve the cooking liquid in a glass jar as they make a great bouillon four soups!) and can the beans in a salt solution (brine) in sterilized glass jars. Store them in the fridge. Shelf life: one week approximately.