Chickpeas – the Star of the Beans
Chickpeas, also known as Garbanzo beans, are the most widely consumed legumes in the world and a great one to start with. If you are serious about improving your diet and healthy eating, then legumes and pulses of all types should be on your shopping list. The recommended servings is 5 portions a week as a minimum, a recommendation that very few people are achieving. But if you knew just how good they were for you, I’m sure you’d start trying to hit that 5!!
Chickpeas have a delicious nutty and buttery taste and are low fat, low calorie and contain no cholesterol. Also, in these recessionary times (yawn…) they are an incredibly low cost and versatile way of feeding yourself or your family. They are nutrient rich, meaning they provide you with a range of nutrients including protein and minerals such as molybdenum and manganese which are needed for metabolic reactions as well as iron and copper which are needed for haemoglobin production and energy. Chickpeas contain more protein than any other type of plant based foods, but it important to remember this basic principle. If eating chickpeas for a meal, always combine them with a grain (such as wholegrain breads, brown rice, brown pasta) in order to achieve your full protein requirements for that meal.
Being a good source of fibre means that chickpeas are good for your heart and digestive system. They are also good for weight loss as they contain both soluble and insoluble fibre which means you tend to feel full after eating (reducing chances of over eating) and it slows the rate at which they leave the stomach (making you feel full longer or satisfied after eating).
Buying: Always buy from a store that looks like it would have a high turnover, such as a good health food store or supermarket. When buying dried, have a look at the chickpeas and make sure they are a similar size and shape and a little ‘glossy’, while avoiding wrinkled or cracked ones. If buying tinned, make sure there are no obvious cracks or bashes on the tin. When buying tinned chickpeas, always read the label and try to buy with no added sugar or salt or other additives. Try to buy organic, if possible.
Storage: Store in a cool, dry, dark place and in an airtight container. If you have cooked them, they will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days and in the freezer for 1-2 months.
Soaking and cooking: Always soak your chickpeas as raw can be poisonous and undercooked chickpeas can be hard on your digestive system (i.e. increase flatulence). If you are going to start eating more legumes, I’d suggest that you start stocking up on dried products. This take a little bit more organisation as you need to soak them first but if you make a big batch at a time, you can store in the freezer in individual portions. Whether you are buying tinned or dried, please wash them thoroughly before use. I’m going to give you two methods of soaking chickpeas (change amounts to suit yourself) and you must not add salt to either method: firstly, boil a litre and a half of water, add a pound of chickpeas, bring back to boil for a few mins and then cover, turn off heat and let sit overnight. Or if you are in a hurry, do the above and simply leave in for 1 hour. When time is up for either method, always pour off water down the drain, rinse and start cooking.
To cook, put enough water in the pot to cover the chickpeas with a bit extra (don’t put in loads of water) and bring to boil, and then turn down and gently simmer for an hour to an hour and a half (they will need longer if you have soaked them for only a short time). Feel free to add any flavours at this stage. Some people add a bouquet garni, some simply add a bay leaf and some people add some Kombu (sea vegetable) Are you tired yet? Don’t worry, they are worth it!