Friday, 10 February 2012

Cheap 'n' Greek 'n' frugal: Chickpea and spinach soup (Ρεβιθάδα)

Prices are in euro (valid in Hania). All ingredients are Greek or locally sourced; those marked with * are considered frugal here because they are cheap and/or people have their own supplies.  

Beans always make a good cheap comforting meal in winter. Chickpeas (maybe you call them garbanzo) are grown in Greece, but most chickpeas sold here are actually imported. AB Vasilopoulos sells a Greek variety of chickpeas grown in Larissa. The Greek 3A company also sells a Greek-grown chickpea, but it also sells imported chickpeas in different packaging. So if you want your chickpeas to be Greek, just look for the 100% Greek flag symbol on the packet. They are a little more expensive than imported chickpeas, but beans are generally a cheap commodity.

Chickpeas are a nuisance to cook because they really do need to be soaked the night before you use them, so this dish will need some forward planning (although I have been told that they cook well on the same day that you use them in a pressure cooker). As with all beans, I cook enough for two meals, becaus ethey require a long cooking time. I would serve this dish for lunch on a Wednesday and Friday because it's lenten, cooking something else for Thursday, so no one complains that they've been eating the same food two days in a row.

You need:
a 500g packet of chickpeas (~2 euro)
1 large onion* finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic* finely minced
a good few glugs of olive oil* (this dish tastes better oily; use at least half-one cup)
a bunch of spinach (~40 cents), chopped finely
a handful of rice (~20 cents)
the juice of one lemon*

Soak the chickpeas overnight. The next day, drain the chickpeas and bring them to the boil in a large pot with fresh water. Boil the beans for 5 minutes, then drain the water, rinse the peas and place them in the pot again with fresh water. Cook till quite soft, then drain them and set them aside.

Clean the pot you used to boil the chickpeas. Pour in some olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Saute till transparent. Add the spinach and coat it well in oil. Add some more olive oil and the chickpeas, and coat them well in the oil, too. (That's why you need a good few glugs of oil to make this dish.) Mix everything well together and then add enough water to cover the pot up to 1cm above the beans. Let the pot cook covered for at least half an hour, then add the rice. Stir it in and cover the pot again. Allow the rice to cook till done. Stir in the lemon juice. The dish is ready to serve now or the next day.

I make this dish in the evening, ready to serve the next day for lunch. Stewed beans have this advantage of tasting better the next day. Sometimes I add rice, other times I don't. At any rate, this dish will be eaten over two days in an average-sized family. You can serve the beans without the rice on the first day, and cook them with rice the next time you serve them. The dish will keep well (and mature) in the fridge.

Total cost of meal: about 3 euro; it yields 8 servings. For a family of four, served with some bread and cheese, each serving amounts to much less than 1 euro.

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