Pulses, the magic ingredient

Tanja by night

Pulses play a central and indispensable role in my cooking. I like them because there are so many different kinds, the options for preparing them are infinite, and they are excellent sources of nutrients and protein. Lentils, yellow split peas and chickpeas are packed with power that can be gradually released through cooking.

Step number one is to soak the dried pulses in water overnight, after which they can be used in a recipe or cooked until soft. So when I put 200 g of chickpeas to soak in a bowl of water in the evening, it feels like I’m bringing these hard, dry legumes to life.

The next day there are two options. If you want to make hummus or serve the chickpeas in a salad with lots of fresh herbs, then you need to boil them for a short while. Hummus, that deliciously spiced dip which is a staple food in places like Tel Aviv, is quick and easy to make. You simply blend the softened chickpeas – make sure they aren’t too soft! – with olive oil, sesame paste (tahini), some garlic, lemon juice and a little water, and season with salt, pepper and cumin.

The second option is to make the chickpeas into falafel. Once soaked, the chickpeas remain firm and hold together well, so you won’t need any egg yolk or other binding agents. Simply blend the soaked chickpeas to form a paste, mix in some chopped olives, salt, garlic, coriander seeds, fresh coriander and fresh flat parsley, then allow to stand for an hour. Next, dissolve 1 tsp of baking powder in 3 tbsp of hot water and add to the mixture.

Finally, turn your chickpea paste into tasty falafel: use two teaspoons or an ice-cream scoop to form it into balls, then fry them in groundnut oil at 160 °C until golden brown. The pulses have now taken on a different guise: little balls of energy that are crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

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