Chickpeas are the star ingredient in balila, another Levantine dish that you’ll find in some mezzes. In Lebanon, you can typically find it in breakfast menus alongside foul medammas (fava beans prepared in a similar way to balila), eggs and some vegetables. Not a light breakfast, but I am telling you every once in a long while, it’s tasty!
You can always use canned chickpeas for this recipe, but I never have. I find myself always having some kind of preportioned boiled ready-to-use beans in my freezer.
Soaking and cooking your own beans can save you money and extra salt, and reduce your exposure to BPA that can leak from the linings of the cans. I buy my beans ( chickpeas, red kidney, black beans…) in bulk. All I need is some planning and I know I have my freezer stacked with healthy beans that I can add to salads, cook into stews , or make into appetizers when I have someone coming over.
Rinse and soak the beans in water overnight. You can add sodium bicarbonate to speed the cooking. Throw away the soaking water and put them in a pot, cover with water and DO NOT add salt. The salt at this stage hardens the beans increasing their cooking time. Remove the foam that starts to show on the surface, reduce to simmer and leave anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes until they are tender. Leave to cool (you can add salt at this stage). Drain. Portion your cooked beans and divide them into containers or freezer bags. They last in the freezer up to 6 months.
My tip for having the most smooth melt-in-your-mouth chickpeas is rubbing off the outer layer before freezing or serving. What you have to do is once they have cooled, grab a handful and rub it between your hands (as if you’re starting fire ). You will see the outer skin peeling off. No need to sweat over it and remove all of them, just the majority! Believe me, this will make a huge difference in texture. It’s also one of the main reasons behind an amazing creamy hummus and a mediocre one.
Ingredients ( served 6 as part of the mezze, less of course if served alone)
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas ( from 1 cup dry)
- 4 garlic cloves, mashed with 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 - 4 tablespoons olive oil
- cumin, optional
Mash the garlic with salt and add it to the chickpeas. Drizzle with the olive oil. Plate and sprinkle some cumin on top. Serve with pita bread and some spring onions if you like.