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Food Al Fresco

Chickpea Salad With Lebanese Flavours

Lebanese chickpea salad

As Bethany [1], our guide for Taste Lebanon [2] explained, you can make almost anything taste Lebanese by adding olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, some or all of which you’re likely to find in almost any dish you eat there. The dressing here combines those three with pomegranate molasses [3], another classic ingredient from the region, with its thick, syrupy tang.

As for chickpeas, you’ll find them in all sorts of places in Lebanese cuisine, from the ubiquitous hummus – which is actually just the Arabic word for chickpea – to warm dishes like Lebanese moussaka, which features chickpeas, aubergines and tomato. This salad includes both plain cooked chickpeas and roasted chickpeas for added crunch, along with spring onions, tomatoes, fresh coriander and parsley, all of which abound in the foods from that part of the world. If you can get your hands on some good labneh [4], the strained yoghurt that is very commonly eaten in Lebanon, then by all means add that to the salad, otherwise some soft fresh goat’s cheese makes a good substitute.

For the dressing:

  • 3 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tblsp lemon juice
  • 1 tblsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1.5 tsp honey
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • coarse salt to taste

For the salad:

  • 8 large spring onions, finely sliced
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 250g cherry tomatoes, quartered (or halved if very small)
  • 250g cooked chickpeas (either soak and cook approx. 100g dried chickpeas or drain and rinse a 400g tin of chickpeas)
  • 100g roasted chickpeas with sumac and allspice (see recipe below)
  • 100g soft, fresh goat’s cheese or labneh [4]
  • 6 tblsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 3 tblsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • coarse salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • leaves of baby gem, romaine or other crunchy lettuce to serve

The Steps:

  • Prepare the dressing by whisking together the olive oil, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, honey, crushed garlic and salt to taste.
  • Add the spring onions to a salad bowl and sprinkle with a good squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Add the tomatoes, chickpeas (both plain and roasted), goat’s cheese, coriander, parsley and dressing to the salad bowl. Toss to mix. Add coarse salt and black pepper to taste.
  • To serve, scoop spoonfuls of salad onto crunchy lettuce leaves and dig in.

The Variations:

  • You could replace the goat’s cheese here with feta cheese and (if so) reduce the amount of salt you add.

The Results:

  • Serves around 6-8, along with other salad dishes & breads

Roasted Chickpeas

Roasted chickpeas

Chickpea fiend that I am, I find it surprising, and not a little shocking, that it took me this long to get around to making roasted chickpeas. Still, better late than never and I can guarantee that it won’t take me anything like as long to get around to making these a second (and third and forth …) time.

The flavourings I’ve used – sumac [5], with its lemony tartness and warm, aromatic allspice [6] – are classically Lebanese but you can adjust to suit your own tastes, while the method is adapted from a recipe I found over here [7].

You’ll need:

  • 250g cooked chickpeas (either soak and cook approx. 100g dried chickpeas or drain and rinse a 400g tin of chickpeas)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1.5 tsp sumac
  • 1 tsp gnd allspice
  • 0.25 tsp coarse salt

You’ll also need:

  • A shallow baking tray to accommodate the chickpeas in a single layer – one that’s around 20cm x 30cm should do the trick

The Steps:

  • Preheat the oven to 200C
  • Spread the cooked chickpeas in a single layer on your baking tray and roast for about 20 minutes, giving the tray a good shake about midway through.
  • Remove the tray from the oven and toss the chickpeas with the oil, sumac, allspice and salt. Spread them out onto the tray again and return to the oven for another 5 to 15 minutes, until browned and crunchy. Enjoy warm or at room temperature as a snack or use in the salad above.

The Variations:

  • You can vary the spices as suits your mood. The recipe linked above, for example, uses cumin and cayenne pepper, which sounds like a good combination to me.

The Results:

  • Makes around 100g roasted chickpeas