I finally bought a pressure cooker after reading the legume section of Deborah Madison’s magnificent 'Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone’ and, after a couple of uses, declared it to be the best investment I had made for some time (both the book and the pressure cooker). Beans and chickpeas, softly, perfectly cooked in less than 30 minutes was unheard of despite endless attempts to get things right. The next step was, of course, to buy ‘Great Vegetarian Cooking under Pressure’ by Lorna J. Sass (love that J.). She writes precisely and passionately about food that is as quick to make as it is fuss-free. Mid-week stuff I suppose. I am always suspicious of people who suggest that risotto making is a long and boring process - get yourself a glass of wine and some music if you can’'t find a friend to keep you company - so it seems a little excessive in an oddly ironic way to cook risotto (as she does) in less than 5 minutes, though I don’t doubt it tastes fabulous. Where the book is a winner is with recipes traditionally revolving around long cooking times (read legumes and whole grains). It is here that this book shines.
Last night I made the Thai chickpea dish that Lorna J. says friends rave about. It was an absolutely luscious dish with coconut milk and mild curry spicing. And it was utterly easy, so is the perfect sort of food to cook mid-week. Not being content to leave things alone, I think that next time I would change things a little. A few golden shallots or 1 small onion, peeled, finely chopped and browned firstly would give it more depth. A knob of fresh ginger, finely grated would be an excellent addition as would lemongrass, bashed with the back of a knife and retrieved later. A couple of kaffir lime leaves would finish things off nicely. And I used Thai basil as I live in Australia and South East Asian foods are so readily available here.
A few weeks ago my mum and I attended a cooking class with one of my favourite writers Nadine Abensur. During the class Nadine mentioned that as Middle Eastern cooks (Claudia Roden among them) use tinned chickpeas, she had no problem with them either. And if they are good enough for her, they are good enough for everyone else too. So here is my non-pressure cooker version of the Thai chickpea dish, though the pressure cooker version is really fantastic. Just try to get organic ones - I know I harp on about this, but it’s so important to look after your body and chemically-enhanced brands may be cheaper, but do you really want all that crap flowing through you?
Un-pressured Thai Chickpeas - Serves 2-3
1 tin of organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon of olive oil 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
1 lemongrass stalk, smashed with a knife
2 kaffir lime leaves, optional
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
2 teaspoons of ground coriander
½ bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 fist-sized potato, peeled and cut into 1 cm pieces (they need to be small)
1 tin of tomatoes (drained of their juices)
1 tin of coconut milk
1-2 tablespoons of soy sauce or tamari, to taste
Thai basil to garnish (or Italian)
Plain white rice to serve
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring well for about 5 minutes, or until starting to become golden. Add the garlic and ginger, stir for another minute then chuck in everything from the lemongrass through to the ground coriander. Stir for another minute or so and add the drained chickpeas, fresh coriander and potatoes.
Next add the drained tomatoes and coconut milk, then fill the (now empty coconut milk) tin with water, swish it around to catch all the cream and add to the saucepan. Taste as you go when adding the soy - I like quite a salty flavour you may not. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and partially cover with a lid. Simmer away merrily for 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Retrieve the lemongrass stalk and the lime leaves before serving over white rice. Sprinkle over chopped basil (either kind is fine). Really, really yum and really, really soothing.