Monday, June 05, 2006

Chickpea & Fennel Salad

Chickpeas are a wonderful ingredient. Like cannellini beans, chickpeas are an endlessly useful cupboard standby. Tinned, they pretty much last forever - not necessarily something I recommend putting to the test. Once opened and thoroughly rinsed they retain their texture and flavour very well indeed. They hold their own well when used in salads as well as blended to a rich creamy consistency in soups and classic dips like hummous. They have a delicate nutty flavour that mixes well with garlic and oils as well as aromatics like chilli and ginger and spices like cummin and coriander - they are a lovely versatile pulse. Like many pulses they are good for you as well as good to eat being very high in protein, fibre and slow release carbohydrates, and a valuable source of minerals like phosphorous and folate. But mostly I eat them because they taste great.

This salad is simple to make and is best left for an hour or two after dressing to let the flavours mingle a bit. The texture of the celery and the fennel are quite similar but they are clearly distinguished by their flavours - aniseed for the fennel and the celery adds an earthiness. The sugar snaps add another shade from the palette of green as well as a crisp sweetness.

Chickpea & Fennel Salad

1 can chickpeas
1 fat head of fennel
2 stalks celery
100g/4oz sugar snap peas
3 tbspns olive oil
1 tbspn lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Drain and rinse chickpeas thoroughly. Slice the fennel thinly and also the celery. Mix all the vegetables together and toss with the oil, lemon juice and seasonings. Leave to macerate for an hour or so. This salad is also good the next day if kept overnight in the fridge. Serve with an omelet or grilled sausages.

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