This recipe is classic one-pot cooking. It was inspired by the incredible pita sandwiches that we found and devoured at a Hebrew restaurant called Gam Gam in the Venetian Ghetto. These lifesavers (good, cheap food in Venice is not easy to find) consisted of freshly-baked pita, filled with felafels, vegetables and hummus. These made the best dinner – we ate them three out of five nights while in Venice!
One of the best fillings was a mix of chickpeas and sweet roasted capsicum, with a scent of curry to it. This was so good that I decided to recreate it as a meal in itself – and since then it’s been a weekly treat during our time in Belgium. It’s cheap, quick and easy, but really moreish and satisfying.
I like to serve it with pilaf, and have also come up with a kind of cheat instant version made with pre-cooked rice. This was the result of me trying to liven up some leftover rice and is really amazingly tasty thanks to the toasted seeds – and the butter! Some natural yogurt or tzadziki are also great on the side.
I’m actually in the middle of a minor love affair with sunflower seeds, I think of them as a kind of poor-man’s pine nut – you get all the toasty flavour and crunch for a fraction of the price. They may not be quite so elegant as pinoli, but a few toasted seeds sprinkled on top of a finished dish are a real pick-up, both for texture and flavour.
I’ve been cooking this without any chilli, and have really enjoyed the mellow, nutty flavour of the chickpeas combined with the sweet capsicum and onions. That said, I’m sure a hit of dried chilli at the start would be nice.
curried chickpeas with capsicum and caramelised onion
1 400g tin chick peas, drained
1 red capsicum, quartered lengthways then sliced
1 large onion (brown or red) halved and sliced
1–2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Heat a frying pan on medium-high. When the pan is hot add the olive oil and then the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally. Once the onions are getting soft add the capsicum and continue cooking until the onions are golden and the capsicum is softening.
Move the onion and capsicum mix to one side of the pan. In the clear half sprinkle the curry powder. Allow that to toast for a moment before adding the chickpeas and mixing everything together. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are becoming golden and a little bit crusted.
instant pilaf – ‘insta-laf’
2ish cups cooked rice – cold
3 tablespoons seeds (sunflower, sesame, pine nuts etc)
2 tablespoons butter
Toast the seeds on a medium-high heat, stirring often, until they are golden. Add the butter and melt. Add the rice and mix everything together. Cook, stirring often, until the rice is hot.
PS Sorry about the poor-quality of the photos – there is literally no natural light in our room on wintery Belgian evenings, so am trying to make do with lamps and lower light levels!