Chickpeas or Gram or Garbanzo Beans. The fruit of an annual herb, long cultivated in India, where they are called "Gram", hence gram flour; chickpeas are also grown in Southern Europe, Latin America and East Africa and other warm countries. In Turkey, they are known as Camel Corn, and fed also to horses and cattle.
The plant yields a short hairy pod containing one or two small netted seeds with two swellings on one side. They are a pleasing golden, pale yellow colour with a round hazelnut shape. Chickpeas (or garbanzos) have an earthy taste with a hint of peppery spiciness.
Chickpeas are commonly sold dried in shops or tinned. They are used extensively in Indian and Mediterranean food styles, as well as French, Spanish and Latin American cookery. A good example of their use is in chana masala (chickpea curry) or hummus, the standby dip of Middle Eastern, Greek and Cypriot cuisine. Chickpeas make great additions to soups, stews and are interesting in salads.
Prep times are quite long for dried chickpeas, so its good to have a can of tinned ones to hand to quickly add to a casserole that needs some extra body. To prepare chickpeas from scratch:
- Soak 350g overnight in water. Drain the chickpeas and place in saucepan. Cover with about 2 litres of water. Bring to the boil, simmer and cook for 1 hour until the chickpeas are tender. Skim off the scum that develops on the top of the water when the pulses begin to cook.
Tip: some tinned chickpeas contain antioxidants like sodium metabisulphite. So try and avoid those brands - the Napolina tin below contained chickpeas, water and sodium metabisulphite.
Chickpeas last for a good length of time, but do toughen with age, so buy in smallish quantities. If you buy in bulk, check for dirt and insects as these are not uncommon and should be anticipated. Store somewhere dark and cool, and free from potential insect contamination. Tins are a godsend to any cook as they are quick to prepare and long lasting, great for a quick hummus or to bulk out a tomato-based casserole.