Monday, February 25, 2008

Spinach and Chickpea Gratin

Sun 24 Feb 2008

I am signed up to the Observer Food Monthly mailing list. This means that once a month I get an email reminding me to buy the paper and providing a list of ingredients for the dish of the month. I rarely bother with this because it's more fun to treat the supplement as a lucky dip: Andy chooses a dish, I (generally) cook and everyone's happy.

However, this month the ingredients were listed for a spinach and chickpea gratin. Ooooh. Spinach, chickpeas and crème fraîche ... how good does that sound?

The first problem I spotted was that the recipe gave a weight of dried chickpeas. I had the foresight to put them in to soak overnight - but only because I've handled a lot of chickpeas. I wonder how many people opened OFM ready to make their Sunday supper to discover they were a day out?

The dish is simple, but a little time consuming and pan intensive. First, soak your 250g of chickpeas overnight. When you're ready to cook, drain them, cover with fresh water, bring to the boil and then simmer until done. If you need to add extra water, do so.

As the recipe was for four, I exercised some creativity with it - as I figured if I had chickpeas left over I would make a small batch of hummous for lunches.

I coarsely chopped 3 onions and fried them off in some oil, with 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic. Once the onions had gained some colour, I stirred in just under a tablespoon of plain flour and gave it a good stir, to cook out.

Add the chickpeas, 250mL of vegetable stock and 200g of crème fraîche to the onions, season and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. Stir the mix every now and then.

I then rinsed and wilted a 300g bag of baby spinach, before adding this to the mix.

Make sure you taste the mix, so you can adjust the seasoning.

The final stage is to cook the gratin. Heat the oven to 180C and pour the mix into a baking dish. Top with grated parmesan and fresh breadcrumbs, and bake for around half an hour - or until done (golden, bubbling).

Note the pretty blue baking dish - a Christmas present makes its web debut!

This will serve two for dinner, with leftovers for lunches. It microwaves well, and is interesting to eat because of the combination of textures: slight resistance from the chickpeas, smooth and silky crème fraîche, crunchy topping and slippery onions.

Not only can you feed this dish to your vegetarian friends, you can also eat and feel virtuous!

  • use tinned chickpeas (ensure you give them a good rinse before using them, especially if they are in salted water) - this cuts out the soaking and the long slow boil
  • use frozen spinach - cuts out the wash and wilt stage
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