Have you tried Egyptian food? This is the ideal recipe to start. Many people ask for quick and easy recipes that are tasty, nutritious and something that can be rustled up without fuss. Here we are!
This an ideal summer dish, light and good to go for a picnic twist, it can be eaten hot or cold. It seems with all the sunshine we’ve been getting in the UK, the tomatoes are here! Great news indeed. Using nice ripe tomatoes in this dish with make all the difference.
These chickpeas are perfect with the Hazlenut Dukkha recipe that I just posted, a nice fresh salad, chargrilled/ roasted vegetables and some flatbread. Summer lunchtime sorted!
I also roasted some cauliflower in the oven, really simply with some oil and spices, you can use the Dukkha, or something like Bharat. Or even Garam Masala will be fine. Just add a little spice. Roasted cauliflower is a staple in the BHK in the summertime, great on the BBQ too.
I added a couple more Egyptian Mezze’s, with a classic Warm Aubergine Salad and a Fenugreek ‘Hulba’ Dip, which does have a very strong flavour, the fenugreek is full power. The consensus from those present was leave the recipe for now. I like it, it’s a bit like mustard, a little goes a long way. Next time, I may reduce the fenugreek a little, it can be powerful stuff!
Other Egyptian Mezze ideas would be fava bean falafels, hummus, baba ganoush (ghanouj), fuul medames, tabouleh. I love these rich, hearty, flavourful dishes. All traditional. All vegan!
I love Egypt and the delicious buzz of eating out in Cairo, sipping some tea, taking a wander around Old Town, the little windy, ancient lanes and souks, more tea, then a nibble (repeat). I may have been lost most of the time, but I never went hungry!
My last visit to Egypt was a good few years ago, but it left a big impression. So much history (a massive understatement really) and people could not have been friendlier. I just wandered around each day and invariably got myself invited to cafes or restaurants or weddings for sweet tea and meals and many happy memories. I experienced incredible hospitality where ever I went.
One of my favourite foodie times was when I was walking up the coast from Dhaba, I met a bedouin family who invited me to stay with them and have some dinner, over near the border with Jordan. They were camped on an isolated beach facing the Red Sea and twinkling lights of Saudi Arabia. They made veggie food especially for me, cooked out under the stars and eaten on a huge colourful rug. These spiced chickpeas are similar to one of the dishes we had. This is my version. I love recreating global dishes back in Wales. When I travel, I write all my favourite food moments and ideas down in notebooks. The one I brought back from Egypt is packed full with many happy memories of tasty times.
For those who haven’t tried traditional Egyptian food, I’d say it has many similarities with much of the food in the Eastern Mediterranean, lots of delicious rice, bean and vegetable dishes, maybe the best hummus I’ve ever tried (at least well up there with Lebanese Hummus). In Egypt, you never seem far from an awesome flat bread or bowl of ful medames or Kushari, a dish I had never tried before and found it loads of fun. Rice, lentils, pasta, tomato sauce, garlic vinegar, fried onions, a good hit of cumin, it’s seems all over the place, but really works. Especially after a long day getting lost in old town Cairo, I needed plenty of feeding up!
Cumin is one of my favourite spices, ubiquitous in so many cuisines around the world, from Mexico to the Mediterranean and India. Cumin is warming and highly aromatic, that’s why toasting and grinding your own spices at home is such a joy. Cumin has a sweet smell but can be bitter to taste, so it does need cooking through. I normally add ground cumin to dishes at earlier stages of cooking. It acts as a great base for other spices I find, but in this dish, it takes centre stage. We normally get white cumin seeds in the UK, but in India especially, the smaller black cumin seeds are popular, along with Amber cumin seeds.
The best way to go, cumin-wise, is to toast and grind your own. If you have a pestle and mortar handy, or a blender/ food processor, we’re good. Toast 2 tbs cumin seeds in a preferably heavy-bottomed pan, for a minute, until the colour slightly changes to a darker shade of brown and you can smell the lovely toasty cumin aromas. I know in some Indian dishes, cooks prefer to really toast the cumin until they’re almost black. But generally, the oils (plentiful in cumin) which contain the lovely aromatic qualities are quite sensitive to heat, I prefer, in this dish especially, just a light toasting in the pan.
You can use tinned chickpeas, but soaking and cooking dried chickpeas is more economical and you get the benefit of a nice stock to use afterwards in soups, curries or stews. This stock can also be used as aquafaba, genius bean broth, which can be used to make all kinds of things; vegan mayonnaise, macaroons. meringues or to replace eggs when baking cakes.
The Egyptian olive oil I’ve tried has been excellent. Drizzling it over and stirring it in at the end can add richness and great flavour to these chickpeas.
You may like to blanch your tomatoes and removed the skins, but my tomatoes were so sweet and thin skinned, I didn’t here.
Egyptian Mezze – Chickpeas with Tomato and Cumin
The Bits – For 4-6
500g cooked chickpeas (or 2 tins, drained and rinsed)
1 large onion (finely diced)
2 large cloves garlic (finely sliced)
1 tbs cumin seeds
2 teas ground cumin
100ml hot water
4 medium ripe tomatoes (chopped into small pieces)
1 tbs cooking oil – I use cold pressed rapeseed oil
1 handful fresh coriander (finely chopped)
4 lemon wedges
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (1-2 tbs)
In a large frying pan, warm on a medium high heat. Then add 1 tbs cooking oil and the cumin seeds. Let the sizzle for 30 seconds before adding the chopped onion and garlic, with 1 teas sea salt. Fry for 6 minutes, until the onions are slightly caramelised, then add the ground cumin, hot water and tomatoes. Pop a lid on and lower the heat a little, cook until tomatoes are soft, around 5 minutes.
Now add the chickpeas, pop the lid back on and warm through, cooking for a couple of minutes.
Stir in coriander and olive oil, check seasoning.
Serve with warm flatbreads, lemon wedges and hazelnut dukkha.
Foodie Fact – Cumin
Cumin seeds come from a plant in the same family as fennel and parsley, it’s been around for a while, mentioned in the bible on a number of occasions and the ancient Greeks loved it. They kept it on the table as an everyday spice, like we use black pepper nowadays. It was also a staple in Roman kitchens, but became less used in Europe in the Middle ages.
Cumin is rich in copper and iron, zinc, calcium and potassium. One teaspoon of cumin contains around 1/4-1/3 of our daily iron needs. Pretty good!
Cumin has also long been regarded as anti-inflammatory, has anti-oxidant properties, is anti-bacterial, helps with digestion (in India it’s used frequently in daals for example, to minimise windiness). Cumin may also help with diabetes and boosts the immune system. Cumin is not alone in this respect, most spices have beneficial health properties and its an awesome idea to add spices to dishes and your diet in general.
Cumin seeds can be kept in a sealed container in a cool and dark place, they will keep for around a year. Ground cumin, well, freshly ground is best, but it will last for a few months, but loses it’s flavour gradually.