When I want something quick, simple and tasty, I often make this. Spiced chickpeas with chopped salad is made in 10 minutes, and positively bursting with flavour.
Chickpeas has been one of humankind’s most important sources of nutrition for thousands of years. First cultivated in the Fertile Crescent, it’s been a staple in the region ever since. As apparently the only place in the world, wild varieties still grow in south-eastern Turkey.
In recent years, the humble chickpea has seen a surge in popularity worldwide as people look to legumes for healthier plant-based proteins. With their versatility and delicious flavour, chickpeas are the best place to look for that.
They’re also an incredible ingredient if you want something quick, simple and tasty.
Quick and simple Middle Eastern salad
In those situations, I often go for a version of this salad.
I first came across the idea of pairing fried chickpeas with spices and a classic chopped salad in the Morito Cookbook (affiliate link). I actually lived just around the corner from the Moro and Morito restaurants in London for many years. It was one of those special places that helped put me on the path of the food I love so much today.
Yotam Ottolenghi was among the many others who found inspiration at this restaurant. His version of this same salad, printed in Jerusalem (affiliate link), later eclipsed the fame of the Morito version. Obviously with credit to the original.
Since then, I’ve made versions of this salad countless times. Sometimes the Morito version, sometimes the Ottolenghi version.
Over time, this is the version I’ve settled for. Classic Middle Eastern flavours, spiced with equal amounts of cumin, coriander and Aleppo pepper.
What’s more – it can be made in less than 10 minutes once you get the hang of it!
How to make spiced chickpeas
One of the first things I wondered when seeing the Moro recipe was: Can you fry chickpeas?
The answer, of course, is yes. A big fat YES!
Both Moro and Ottolenghi recommend using tinned or jarred chickpeas here. They feel that it’s easier to get the right texture this way.
I don’t necessarily disagree. It’s easy to overcook your chickpeas. What’s more, the briney flavour of tinned chickpeas mostly disappears with the frying and addition of spices.
Personally, though, I’ve long since stopped buying tinned chickpeas. I prefer to know what’s in my food and cook my own from dried. This also gives me complete control of flavouring, salt levels and texture.
For any fried chickpeas recipe, it’s important that the chickpeas still have a bite. If they’re too soft, you run the risk of them breaking up or even collapsing.
If cooking the chickpeas yourself, make sure you take them off the heat a little earlier than you would when making hummus or msabbaha.
If using tinned ones, make sure it’s a brand which keeps the chickpeas a little on the hard side. Which isn’t too difficult. I find most tinned versions are too hard for hummus, for example.
The keyword to the best chopped salad: Freshness
When it comes to chopped salad, there’s really only one way of getting it right. Good quality ingredients, freshly chopped.
Indeed, this last point is often overlooked in the Western-centric mise-en-place perspective. The reason salads in Turkey taste so amazing, isn’t only due to the quality of the ingredients (though they are usually good, too).
It’s also because they always chop salads to order. From a perspective of taste and freshness, mise-en-place for fresh salad makes zero sense.
Once cut, tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs quickly lose their bite and freshness. The only good time to chop the ingredients for a chopped salad, is therefore just before serving.
Of course, the quality of ingredients matter greatly too. This is a salad for when tomatoes and cucumbers are at their peak. Outside of summer, I opt for chickpeas with roast pumpkin and tahini sauce instead.
With freshly chopped seasonal ingredients, the salad doesn’t need much more help. A simple dressing of lemon juice and a mild extra virgin olive oil is all you need to dot that i.
All you need alongside this recipe for spiced chickpeas with chopped salad, is some fresh bread. I like fresh, crusty sourdough bread. Pita bread or another Middle Eastern flatbread also works really well.
The recipe serves 2 as a light main course, 4 as part of a larger deal of multiple dishes.
Spiced chickpeas with chopped salad
- 500 g cooked chickpeas (from 200 g dried, soaked and cooked, or 2×400 g tins chickpeas, rinsed and drained)
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
- 1 ½ tsp ground coriander seed
- 1 ½ tsp Aleppo pepper (pul biber)
- salt and pepper
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced
- 2 large tomatoes, cut into 1 cm dice (c. 300 g)
- 3 medium sized Persian cucumbers, cut into 1 cm dice (c. 300 g)
- 3 small radishes, cut into 1 cm dice (c. 75 g)
- a generous handful flat-leaf parsley (without thick stems), finely chopped (c. 15 g)
- a small handful mint leaves, finely chopped (c. 5 g)
- juice of 1 lemon
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Mix the spring onion, tomato, cucumber and radish with a little salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Make sure your chickpeas are drained and well dried. The less moisture, the less the oil will spit.
- Heat a thick-bottomed frying pan over medium/high heat. Add the olive oil and chickpeas. Fry until starting to brown, stirring regularly, 4-5 minutes. Add the spices, as well as some salt and pepper, and fry for another 30 seconds to a minute. Take off the heat. Check for seasoning.
- Add the remaining salad ingredients to the salad. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve the chickpeas and salad immediately side by side.