It should come as no surprise that food descriptions in books thrill me. From unabashedly food-focused Peter Mayle passages to small mentions in Ernest Hemingway, I find sensory description of a meal really helps set the scene. I can smell the setting, I can taste it. I can feel the hot oil splutter off a hot pan, or the cool, melting softness of a piece of fresh fish, right out of the ocean. It’s like reading a book in 4D; an extra sensory element to bring you into the story.
A really good book can have nothing to do with food but, if I’m entranced enough by the narrative, can make me crave certain things. If imagining isn’t enough, I want to taste the setting.
I mentioned this before when I wrote about my Jerk Chicken Tacos with Peach-Mango Salsa after reading Ann Vanderhoof’s An Embarassment of Mangoes. Read a story all about cooking in the Caribbean and, yeah, you’re going to want to whip out the allspice and tropical fruit. A variety of fresh seafood, pour rum on just about everything, add habanero peppers.
Not surprisingly, I experienced the same thing while reading Marcus Samuelsson’s autobiography, Yes, Chef. (yep, I am obviously also one of those people who reads chefs autobiographies- scan to the bottom of the page for a list of my favourites!)
Samuelsson’s story begins in Ethiopia. When Samuelsson was three years old, a tuberculosis epidemic hit the country. His birth mother, struggling with the disease herself, made the trek for treatment to a nearby hospital- miles away- taking Samuelsson and his sister along with her. By the time they arrived at the hospital, his mother has succumbed to the infection but in her efforts, had saved her two children. Shortly thereafter, both children were adopted by Ann Marie and Lennart Samuelsson and moved to Sweden.
Ethiopia + Sweden. Can you imagine two more different countries? The dichotomy has blessed Samuelsson with a unique flair for merging traditional flavours and techniques.
Gravadlax. Dill. Lemon.
Lentils. Berebere. Lemon.
The wat blew me away with it’s unique flavour. I love gravlax, I am an absolute nut for a loxy bagel or a good smorgasbord- those are some of my favourite flavours familiar to me, but wat! My god, what was this unique something-something!
A lot of (I might even dare to say most) Ethiopian cuisine uses their unique spice mixture Berbere. Combining spices flavours I was familiar with in totally fresh ways was enough for me to start putting it on, well… everything. Chicken- berbere! Fish- berbere! Roasted veggies- berbere! Popcorn- berbere! (I could go on for a long time, but you get the point- put it on EVERYYYYYTHINGGG)
Traditionally, berbere has quite a kick to it and, while I personally love rip-your-lips-off spicy food, I appreciate that not everyone does. While this berbere mix does call for chilis, I have toned the heat down for your average North American palette- big flavour with just a hum of heat.
Chickpeas were an obvious choice for me. Due to my penchant for unreasonable hanger (hunger+anger), I keep a lot of snacks at my desk but, thanks to my ever slowing metabolism, I can’t snack on chips or cookies anymore, since that would involve having to buy an entirely new wardrobe to house my ever-expanding butt.
Chickpeas are high in fiber, so they fill you up as a satisfying snack, but have a low glycemic index, meaning you don’t experience a crash if you snack too much. Everyone wins.
I always use dried chickpeas when roasting them, since using canned- no matter how much I pat them dry before baking them- has always resulted in a chewy or mushy end-product. Always use dried, soak overnight (and then don’t cook any further), and pat them dry very well before tossing in a touch of oil and spice. As an added bonus, dried chickpeas are much cheaper than canned. Man, this recipe just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?
- easily transportable snack food
- amazing on salads- texture and flavour rockets!
- vegan, gluten-free, low fat, low glycemic index, high fiber…
- stupid tasty and satisfyingly crunchy- think chic Cornnuts
- CHEAP AND EASY (so cheap, so easy…)
And now, as promised, for those of you interested in foodie summer reading:
- Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson
- Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
- Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
- How To Eat by Nigella Lawson
- The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater
- A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
|Berbere Roasted Chickpeas|| |
- ⅓ cup whole coriander seeds
- 1⅓ cups whole cumin seeds
- ¼ cup whole cloves
- ⅔ cup green cardamom pods
- ⅓ cup black peppercorns
- 3 Tbsp allspice berries
- ⅔ cup whole fennel seeds
- 10 g dried Arbol chiles, stems removed
- ⅓ cup ginger powder
- 3 Tbsp turmeric
- ⅔ cup kosher salt
- 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water
- 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Berbere
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large frying pan over medium heat, using NO OIL, dry toast all the Berbere ingredients except the turmeric and kosher salt. Stir and shake the pan constantly.. Take extra care to make sure the spices do not burn- this whole process shouldn't take longer than a minute or two but it does require constant supervision. As soon as the spices are fragrant, pour them out onto the lined baking sheet. Let the spices cool completely and then grind in batches using a spice grinder (or a thoroughly cleaned coffee grinder). Add turmeric and salt and mix well. Store in an airtight container in your pantry.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Drain soaked chickpeas well and dry them thoroughly using paper towel. This is probably the most important step to take to ensure your roasted chickpeas end up crispy and not soggy, so don't skimp on doing a good job here.
- In a small bowl, mix together the 1 Tbsp olive oil with the 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Berbere. Spread chickpeas out on to a large baking tray, pour the oil mixture over and toss to coat. Bake for 45-60 minutes, shaking the pan every 10-15 minutes, until chickpeas are golden and crispy. Let cool and enjoy!