This simple yet nourishing Levantine breakfast dish is a celebration of the humble legume slowly cooked with fresh rosemary, cumin and a little love and brought to life with a vibrant relish that packs a hot citrusy punch. It was first introduced to me by a friend I used to meet in Florentin – then an up and coming suburb of Tel Aviv that was yet to arrive – on Friday mornings to check out the latest cafe openings and the gorgeous Levinsky market with stalls piled high with pulses, herbs and spices, freshly baked bourekas, roasted nuts and dried fruit. After filling our baskets with everything we needed for the weekend, we would chill out at one of the food stalls, every time trying something new. And that’s the thing about Florentin, it was settled by Jewish immigrants from the Balkans and Persia so, like all Israeli cuisine, Florenin’s streets are a melting pot of different influences and family recipes. This is one of my favourites, preserved forever in my heart.
125g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
Half tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tomato, cut into quarters
2 sprigs rosemary
6 cloves of garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground cumin
50ml olive oil
For the relish:
2 green chillies, seeds removed and roughly chopped
1 preserved lemon
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
2 tbsp tahini, to serve (optional)
Pinch pul biber, to serve
How I make it
Place a large pan over a medium heat. Drain the soaked chickpeas, tip them into the pan and add the bicarbonate of soda (this raises the PH value of the water making the chickpeas more soluble and quicker to cook). Stir around for a few minutes before covering the peas with plenty of water. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for eight minutes.
Drain the chick peas again and wash out your pan. Return the chickpeas to the pan and cover with just boiled water. Add the tomato, rosemary, garlic and cumin seeds. Return to the heat on the lowest setting and simmer with a lid on until the chickpeas fully soften but still whole, around 30 minutes.
Add the salt, ground cumin and olive oil. Partially cover and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
In the meantime, pulse the chillies, preserved lemon and garlic to a paste in a small food processor. Turn out into a bowl and stir through the olive oil. Season to your taste.
Remove the herbs, garlic, tomato skin and chickpeas skins (they will come away very easily by now) and check the seasoning. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chickpeas and tomato fragments into a pretty bowl. Stain the cooking water through a fine sieve and re-heat.
To serve, pour over enough of the cooking liquor to just cover the chickpeas, stir though tahini (if using, I didn’t for this version) and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with the relish on the side and a pile of freshly baked flatbreads.
Store any remaining cooking iquor in the fridge for up to a week and use as stock.