Welcome to this new series of articles, where each week, a new ingredient takes the spotlight! We’ll be sharing with you a bit of its history, insights on nutrition, and, of course, a few suggestions of healthy meals!
The honor of inaugurating The Food Files goes to… chickpeas!
Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum) were one of the first legumes to be cultivated, the so-called “founder crops“, dating more than 10,000 years, when the human being was discovering agriculture on the Fertile Crescent.
They slowly spread to Europe, and by the eighth century, Charlemagne, on his Capitularies, a series of guides for landowners, recommended their planting throughout his empire. Back then, chickpeas were thought to aid in the production of milk and sperm, triggering menstruation and urine production, and helping the removal of kidney stones.
Chickpeas are a very nutritious food. Being legumes, they have a fairly high protein and fiber content, topped up by decent amounts of key minerals and vitamins.
I’ve compiled nutritional data for both canned and boiled chickpeas. Because the pre-cooking process naturally removes some of the nutrients, the canned version is less nutritious, but you can use the brine – aquafaba – to retrieve some of them.
Chickpeas throughout the world
Now it’s time to have a look at how different cultures cook using chickpeas. All dishes we feature are meat-free.
Hummus (Middle East)
A dip made using mashed chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste), olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. Usually served with flatbread, as an appetizer. A staple food in countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Palestine and Israel.
Falafel (Middle East)
Deep-fried balls of ground chickpeas, traditionally served wrapped in flatbread or pocketed inside pita bread. Created to replace meat during Lent celebrations, by the Coptic Christian communities in Egypt, they have become a worldwide vegan favourite.
Mysore Pak (India)
A sweet prepared by mixing ghee (clarified butter) with chickpea flour and sugar syrup. Its texture may be hard or fudge-like, depending on the amount of ghee used.
Originally invented by the Maharaja of Mysore’s personal cook, now it is served throughout weddings and festivals of Southern India.
Minestra di Ceci (Italy)
A hot winter soup from the Italian region of Tuscany, this dish consists of a broth with an assortment of vegetables, such as carrots, tomato, onions, and of course, a good helping of chickpeas.
Many versions also feature different kinds of pasta, such as tagliatelle; and the occasional rice.
The result is nutritious comfort food, perfect for the cold days.
Besides these traditional dishes, there’s a lot of healthy stuff you can cook with chickpeas. We leave you with some examples from fellow bloggers: