Chickpeas are the unsung heroes of our kitchen cupboards

Photo: Anna Jones

Easy, versatile, healthy and cheap, they're one of Anna Jones' favourite ingredients

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By Anna Jones on

Chickpeas are one of my most used ingredients. Satisfying but light, delicately nutty and comforting, and amazing at soaking up all the rich flavours you pair them with. They are the back bone of a good hummus, but they can do so much more – here I crisp up their edges in killer veggie burgers, and stir them into a stew for little pops of warming texture.

I usually buy them in two forms – jarred or dried. Jarred they are a little more expensive, but they are generally much better quality and cooked with more care than their tinned counterparts, which are often undercooked, it this undercooking which can be responsible for their famous side effects.

Jarred chickpeas are a little more expensive, but they are generally much better quality and cooked with more care than their tinned counterparts


I’ll often cook a big batch from dried at the weekend. If I have time then it’s a really soothing to do and I love the buttery, smooth texture it gives the little beans. I’ll soak them overnight and then cook them on a high heat for ten minutes, then turn the heat down and simmer them on a low heat for anything from one to two hours (the time depends on how old your dried chickpeas are.) Don’t add salt to your chickpeas while they are cooking as that will harden their skins. You want them to be soft and buttery within and to squish to a dense creamy paste when squeezed between your finger and thumb.  I’ll then drain them of their liquid and freeze in can sixed portions (250g) so I know a quick stew is only minutes away when time is tight.


Quick Saffron Stew with poached eggs

This is one of the quickest and most flavourful suppers I know. A rich deeply spiced broth, surrounds buttery chickpeas, some sautéed courgettes, caramelly dates and just cooked green beans, all topped off with perfectly sunny eggs poached in the broth. 

Here I use a spice blend called ras el honout, which is a sort of North African garam masala. It’s traditionally a blend of 12 spices cardamom, cumin, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, ginger, coriander seed, peppercorn, sweet and hot paprika, fenugreek, and turmeric. It imparts a heady, very slightly sweet note into anything it touches. Spice blends like this are a brilliant way to add flavour to quick dishes. You can of course make your own with a pestle and mortar and a bit of determination. I add a generous pinch of saffron too for that sunshine warmth it gives but that’s optional. Some ras el hanout blends include salt so check and bear this in mind as you season. 

Serves 4

  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 leeks finely chopped
  • A generous pinch of saffron
  • 2 teaspoons of ras el hanout spice
  • 500ml of vegetable stock
  • a drained 400g tin or jar of chickpeas, or 250g home-cooked chickpeas
  • 2 courgettes, thickly sliced
  • 10 dates, roughly chopped 
  • 200g of runner or green beans, chopped into bite sized lengths
  • 4 free range or organic eggs 
  • 100ml of yoghurt 
  • A sprinkling if dried chilli
  • The juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • A couple of tablespoons of sesame seeds
  • A few sprigs of fresh mint or basil
  1. Heat a good glug of rapeseed or olive oil in a pan, add the leeks and garlic and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes until the leeks have started to soften. Then sprinkle over the saffron and ras el hanout. 
  2. Next add the chickpeas, and the stock and bring to a steady simmer and cook for 5 minutes until the broth has thickened a little. 
  3. Meanwhile, heat a pan with a little olive oil and add the sliced courgettes and half of the dates and sauté until the courgettes are browned on both sides and the dates have begun to harden a little and cramelise. 
  4. Next turn the heat down a little add the green beans and then crack in the eggs one by one, top with a lid and cook until the eggs are cooked to your liking, I like the yolks just set and the whites firm, which takes about 4-5 minutes. 
  5. Meanwhile mix the yoghurt with the chilli and lemon zest and juice with a good pinch of sea salt and pepper. 

Once the eggs are cooked, spoon an egg into each bowl ladle over the vegetables and broth, and top with the chopped dates, sesame seeds a squeeze more lemon juice herbs and the yoghurt for spooning over. 


Crispy chickpea and harissa burger

These burgers are easy to fall for; super simple to put together, highly spiced and with a back-note of sweetness. I make a double batch and freeze half for quick dinners throughout the week.

If you can’t get pomegranate molasses or it’s a step too far for you, a tablespoon of honey mixed with a tablespoon of punchy balsamic vinegar will stand in for it. Don’t be tempted to skip the pickle, it really makes these burgers sing. 

Serves 6

For the burgers

  • 200g cooked quinoa (100g uncooked)
  • 200g frozen peas
  • 1 × 400g tin of chickpeas or 250g home-cooked chickpeas 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander 
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon smoked paprika 
  • 4 medjool dates
  • a large bunch of fresh parsley 
  • 1 tablespoon harissa
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 
  • olive or coconut oil
  • 50g sesame seeds

For the relish

  • 1 red onion
  • 200g cherry tomatoes
  • a good drizzle of pomegranate molasses
  • a bunch of fresh coriander

To serve

  • 6 good burger buns 
  • hummus
  • salad leaves
  1. If you need to cook your quinoa, start by toasting it in a pan until you can hear it pop, as this gives it more flavour. Then put it into a mug or measuring jug, making a note of the level it comes up to, and pour it into a large pan. Fill the mug to the same level with boiling water and add to the pan, then repeat so you have double the volume of water to quinoa. Cook until all the water has been absorbed and the little curly grain has been released.
  2. Put the frozen peas into a heatproof bowl, cover them with boiling water and leave them to sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Put the drained chickpeas into a frying pan with the ground cumin, coriander and smoked paprika and toast until all the moisture has gone and they are starting to pop.
  4. Drain the peas very well and put them back into the dry bowl. Tip in half the chickpeas and half the cooked quinoa, then add the dates, parsley, harissa and mustard and use a hand-held blender to blitz until everything is combined. Stir in the rest of the chickpeas and quinoa and mix well.
  5. Divide the mixture into six and shape each one into a burger. Pop them into the fridge to firm up.
  6. To make the relish, finely slice the onion and fry for 8–10 minutes, until soft and sweet. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes, until they have broken down, then add the pomegranate molasses. Take off the heat and transfer to a bowl, then roughly chop the coriander and mix in.
  7. While the relish is cooking you can get on with cooking your burgers. Heat a frying pan on a medium heat (you can cook them in batches or have two pans on the go if you prefer). Add a little olive or coconut oil and fry the burgers on each side for 5 minutes, until crisp and warmed through. Once they are done, sprinkle both sides with sesame seeds and cook for another minute on each side to toast. You can also roast the burgers on an oiled tray at 220°C/200°C fan/gas 7 for 20–25 minutes.
  8. Warm the buns in a dry pan and layer the burgers with the hummus, some tomato relish and the salad.


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Photo: Anna Jones
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