Part of the legume family, chickpeas are such a versatile source of plant-based protein. They are one of the world’s oldest cultivated crops and are used in so many ways in Punjabi (and Indian) cuisine. Here’s just a few ways that we consume these wonderful pulses.
There are two varieties of chickpea, one is slightly smaller and the other is slightly larger. Chickpeas grow in pods, with there normally being two chickpeas per pod (sometimes there is just one per pod). It takes roughly 100 days from seed to harvest (when in full sun), and when chickpeas are harvested they are green (see image). As they dry, they turn to the light brown colour that you normally would recognise.
Once they have dried, they are either stored (or packaged up and sold as dried chickpeas or then ground into flour) or they are soaked for several hours.
Once soaked, they are then boiled. Once the boiled chickpeas are soft and cooked through, they are usually then tinned in brine.
See our video on how to soak and boil chickpeas below.
Gram flour / Chickpea flour (called ‘besan’ in Punjabi)
Besan (pronounced bey-sun) is made by grinding dried chickpeas until you are left with a fine flour.
Besan is used to make a variety of dishes, including onion bhajis, amritsari fish and vegetarian kofte. It is also used in Indian desserts, one in particular, which also happened to be called ‘Besan’ (named after it’s main ingredient of course).
Snacks: roasted chickpeas
Chickpeas make for a great snack, and are a wonderful alternative to a bowl of nuts, especially if you are allergic to nuts or looking for a snack alternative that is naturally lower in fat.
You can buy these in Asian grocers, and whilst they are crunchy, they are not quite as hard as the roasted chickpeas that you can find available in western supermarkets.
You can find roasted chickpeas in many flavours, as well as plain (for those who like to keep it simple!).
Snacks: sugared chickpeas
Dry roasted chickpeas are also coated with sugar (sometimes mixed with a little rose water).
This tastes like the crunchy sugar coating that you find on confectionery, except in this instance, you have a little chickpea inside the coating instead of more sugary chocolate –
a better treat in our eyes!