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SIlver beet with chickpeas in spicy tomato sauce

June 5, 2008

Chickpeas or garbanzo beans appear in a number of ethnic cuisines and they are very versatile. They can form the basis of a vegetarian dish, a salad, a dip, a curry, falafels.

A bit larger than the average pea, these round, irregular-shaped, buff-coloured legumes have a firm texture and mild, nutlike flavour. Chickpeas (also called ceci ) are one of the earliest cultivated vegetables and some remains have been found in the Middle East which date back 7500 years.

Chickpeas are a good source of protein and are used extensively in the Mediterranean, India and the Middle East. They've also found their way into Spanish stews and various Mexican dishes. They make good hearty winter fare such as today’s dish. I like to include raw chorizo sausages – as opposed to pre-cooked ones - in the ingredients, though these can be omitted for a vegetarian dish.

If you have time, you can soak dried chickpeas overnight and cook them till tender next day before including 2-3 cups of the cooked legumes in the recipe. However, canned chickpeas are cheap and dependable and are perfectly all right to use and far more convenient. This is a good all-in-one dish, great with a spoon or two of thick Greek-style yoghurt spiked with mint or fresh coriander and maybe a spicy chutney.

Chickpeas with silver beet in spicy tomato sauce

4 raw chorizo sausages (about 500g)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chilli concentrate or 1/2-1 teaspoon dried pepper flakes
2 cans chopped tomatoes
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 bunch silver beet (swiss chard)
lemon juice
fresh coriander to garnish

Heat a little oil in a deep-sided frying pan and cook the sausages until almost cooked through. Remove the sausages and cut diagonally into slices about 1cm thick. Set aside.

Pour off any excess fat and reheat the pan. Saute the onion, garlic and red pepper over a medium heat until tender. Don’t let the garlic burn.

Stir in the coriander, cumin and turmeric and cook for a minute then add the sausage, canned tomatoes and chickpeas. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile trim the ends off then wash silver beet thoroughly and pat dry.  I like to use the stalks as well as the leaves. Slice both thinly then add to the pan and simmer for a further 10 minutes till the silver beet wilts down and melds with the sauce.

Sprinkle with a little freshly squeezed lemon juice and chopped coriander leaves. Serve with side dishes of your own choosing. Serves four.

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