This unassuming bowl of chickpeas will knock your socks off, I promise. It's vegan, it's gluten-free, but doesn't compromise on flavour or texture.
The chickpeas are slowly cooked in a spicy broth along with root vegetables, until most of the liquid has evaporated and you are left with a thick, almost syrupy dark gravy. I added a tiny amount of date paste to give the stew a mild sweetness that balances the spices really well.
You can cook this on low to very-low heat on the stove, if you have time. Otherwise, you can do like me and make it in an InstantPot on slow-cooker mode overnight.
The polenta crostini, coated in smoked paprika and Aleppo chillies, are so crispy and delicious and are also great on their own as a starter, along with a dipping sauce.
Polenta is nothing more than coarse cornmeal cooked in water like a porridge. In this case though, we are making it into crostini by cooking it to a thicker consistency and then letting it cool completely until it hardens and can be cut into cubes and fried or baked.
Trust me, this dish will not disappoint!
Ingredients (for 2)
1 cup chickpeas
2 litres vegetable stock
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, minced
1 carrot, chopped into big chunks
1 large potato, cubed
1 tbsp tomato concentrate (I used Mutti triple concentrate)
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp dried mint
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp seven spice
A strand fresh rosemary
1 tsp date paste
1/2 cup polenta (cornmeal)
1 tsp Aleppo chillies
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp sugar
Oil to pan-fry or bake the polenta
Chopped fresh parsley or coriander to top
Salt to taste
If cooking on a stovetop, soak the chickpeas in water overnight. Rinse and set aside. You can skip this step if you are using an InstantPot or using canned chickpeas.
Turn your slow-cooked on, setting it up on high mode for 2 minutes. Add the oil to the pot and throw in the onion, carrot, potato, bay leaf and star anise. Sauté for 2 minutes until the onions become translucent. Season with salt.
Next, add the tomato concentrate, turmeric, dried mint, coriander cumin, seven spice and fresh rosemary. Add the chickpeas, cover with the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
Now switch the mode to slow-cook and, as soon as the broth starts boiling, add the date paste and close with the lid. Set the slow-cooker time to 8 hours - by then 80% of the water should have evaporated. You can also cook in pressure cooker mode for 20 minutes if you are in a rush.
In the meantime, add the polenta to a pot with 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil then lower to a simmer and continue to stir for about 20 minutes or until the polenta starts coming off of the pot and thicken.
Transfer to a tin or container, levelling up and allow to cool completely. Then cut into squares.
Coat each cube into a mixture of Aleppo chillies, smoked paprika, salt and sugar; then pan-fry or bake until crispy.
Serve alongside the braised chickpeas. and top with chopped parsley and a drizzle of olive oil before serving. Buon appetito!