Sometimes the world is with you, and sometimes it is not. Equally sometimes your fridge is with you, and sometimes it is not. Sometimes your fridge can be a nasty twisted beast. Last week when I came home from France to discover that my fridge had been off all weekend, well that was a moment where my fridge was being a poison troll. Today, when I shuffled through it and put together the makings of lunch, it was definitely trying to make amends.
In university a friend used to call me MacGyver, not because I sported an awesome mullet or because I had impressive skills where I could construct something brilliant, unexpected and absolutely required at that instant in time with just a piece of chewing gum and any-other-thing, but because she believed that I could tackle a kitchen with hardly anything in it and make something good to eat. I have always loved a cupboard forage and it is exactly this MacGyver skill level that brought lunch to my door this lunchtime.
I always have a reasonably fresh stash of whole cumin seed stored away. Never more than 6 months old, when it starts to taste of something random off the floor, and always in an air tight jar, cumin is a superb mood lifter for most foods. Last week, I soaked and boiled a batch of chickpeas. I have so much love for beans, especially when fresh or prepared from dry at home. It doesn’t take that long, is so cheap and tastes so much better, it just makes sense to do. I have been working my way through this batch, crafting all sorts of very tasty things, partnering the chickpeas with all sorts, including sturdier vegetables like potatoes, and cauliflower. Now, isn’t cauliflower a wonderful thing?
I bought a large head of the stuff, because a small head is never enough. I have been eating it raw, had it with eggs as cauliflower soldiers for breakfast briefly fried with spice (try it!) and today I had it with my chickpeas for lunch. I always think of colour and textural contrast, and so a red pepper that was about to give up the ghost was retrieved from the crisper and added too. Paprika, that vibrant cheerful spice, sometimes drunk with smoke, brought it all together. Some lovely slippery onions too, and all finished with cavolo nero, the most velvet of kales, cooked briefly so that it still had gorgeous texture and a bright flavour too.
This cheered me up and I felt great after eating it. I had something similar earlier with a fried egg on top too. Make it, just do, and then think a little and wonder a lot at how this was a vegetarian dish. I know! Actually vegan. And so lovely too. Enjoy!
RECIPE: Spiced Chickpeas with Red Pepper, Cavolo Nero & Cauliflower
200g cooked or drained tinned chickpeas
half a white onion, peeled and cut into fine slices
a handful of cauliflower florets, chopped into small bite sized bits
half a red pepper, deseeded and diced
100ml tomato passata (or some tinned tomatoes mushed with the back of a spoon with a little honey and a little vinegar)
a handful of cavolo nero, stripped from the stem (or kale or spinach would do)
1 heaped tsp cumin seeds (or half a tsp ground cumin, but whole is much better)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
some chilli – as you like it, fresh or dried
light oil for frying
Toast the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until starting to become fragrant, pop. Grind in a pestle and mortar till a powder. Leave to the side.
Fry the sliced onion in a tablespoon of the oil over a medium heat, stirring occasionally until starting to soften. Add the red pepper, chilli, cumin and paprika, and stir for a minute or so.
Add the chickpeas and cauliflower, and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the tomato, and stir through. Good passata will taste super as is, but if you can’t get good stuff and it tastes a bit tinny, balance it out with a little sweet and sour (honey and sherry or cider vinegar would be my choices). Cook for 5 minutes further, stirring every now and then.
Stir the cavolo nero / kale through, cover with a lid for two minutes until wilted, season to taste and serve. It is also lovely cold.
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