Friday, 28 September 2012

Cheap 'n' Greek 'n' frugal: Red pepper chickpea stew (Ρεβύθια με κόκκινη πιπεριά)

The summer garden is almost over, but the peppers are continuing to do very well. We've had all colours and sizes, except hot (chili) peppers, which is a shame, as they would have been fun preserving for the winter months ahead. Heat in food is not a desirable element in Greek cooking: individuals may add heat if desired, but not the cook. Even though our peppers are not hot, each different variety has its own special taste. The red and yellow ones came out sweet, the green ones piquant, and the little green banana peppers were spicy. The light green horn-shaped peppers had a lighter taste than the green ones, whle the red horn-shaped peppers were sweeter than the bell-shaped peppers.

During the summer, we ate very few bean dishes, as we had a garden full of fresh food. Now that the summer garden has nearly packed up for the season and the weather is (only slightly) cooler, it's back to bean stews. With the dearth of tomatoes and a plethora of peppers, I decided to make a peppery chickpea stew, using red peppers as the base. It was a hit with the family, who were surprised that the colour of the stew came solely form the peppers - although they thought it was tomato, there wasn't a single tomato in it!

This recipe is probably more suited to people who grow their own vegetables, because the quantity of peppers used in it is more up to the individual. I used as many as I thought were needed to make the stew look like a tomato-based one.

You need:
a 500g packet of chickpeas
1-2 large onions roughly chopped in large chunks
2-3 cloves of garlic finely minced
a good few glugs of olive oil (this dish tastes better oily; use at least half-to-one cup)
some red peppers - the more, the tastier - roughly chopped in large chunks (I used about 10 medium-sized horn-shaped)
a handful of rice
salt and pepper
a teaspoon of smoked paprika
some lemon juice

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 (this will take some time), 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 red peppers and coat them well in oil. Add 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. Turn off the heat and allow the stew to cool down slightly. Then skim off the peppers and onions (they will be floating at the top of the stew) and puree them in a blender, together with some chickpeas. Add this puree together with the smoked paprika to the stew; stir well.

At this point, the stew can be left until it is time to serve it (I usually make it at night and serve it the next day). It can be served as is, or with some rice added to it. The rice can be cooked separately, and then added to the stew, or (as I prefer to do it) the stew can be heated and the raw rice added to it, so that it cooks in the stew. It will need about 15 minutes to cook - be sure to stir the pot so that the rice doesn't stick to the bottom.

Serve this dish with lemon juice sprinkled over it. It pairs well with cheese and bread.

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