November 22, 2016

The Protein-Packed Possibilities of Chickpea Flour

Chickpea flour is a gluten-free and paleo friendly alternative to wheat flour.

Flour made from chickpeas has long been a cornerstone of cooking in south Asian countries like India and Pakistan as well as making regular appearances in European cuisine. This ingredient, known for its high levels of protein and carbohydrates compared to other flours and for being gluten-free, can open up new possibilities for any culinary academy graduate. Try preparing a few recipes for classic dishes featuring chickpea flour, and then find your own ways to put this flavorful powder to work.

A delicious twist on pancakes
One of the most popular uses of chickpea flour in European cooking is making a thin, oven-baked pancake, which is known in Italy as farinata. Serious Eats provided directions that prevent an overly dry final product, instead creating a lightly browned exterior around a pleasantly soft center. Start by making a batter, slowly stirring together chickpea flour and water. There should be about three times as much water as flour to achieve a moist and custard-like interior.

“Try using chickpea flour to make farinata.”

Cover the bowl and rest the batter four to eight hours. Then, coat a cast-iron skillet with extra-virgin olive oil and pour in the batter. Stir before adding black pepper and rosemary.

Set the oven to 550 degrees Fahrenheit and place the skillet in the broiler for approximately 11 minutes. Watch for the farinata to set and become thoroughly browned. When the pancake cools to room temperature, cut into slices and serve.

Dig into chickpea fries
Panelle is a Sicilian fritter that is commonly eaten in a sandwich. However, it can also be prepared and served like french fries, as in a recipe from the New York Times. First, boil water in a saucepan and slowly add the liquid to a bowl of chickpea flour while whisking. Return the mixture to the saucepan, adding salt and pepper, and heat to a boil.

Pour in two tablespoons of olive oil and simmer for about a minute. Apply vegetable or olive oil to a sheet pan, and scrape in the chickpea mixture. Cover the pan and allow at least half an hour to cool in the refrigerator.

Place oil in a skillet over medium heat while cutting the mixture into french fry-shaped pieces. Remove moisture from the slices with a paper towel before setting them in the oil. Cook for three to four minutes, looking for each to turn golden brown. Drain on paper towels and season with salt and pepper, serving with a lemon wedge.

Prepare a delicious flatbread with chickpea flour.Prepare a delicious flatbread with chickpea flour.

The chefs championing chickpea flour
Building on these basic ingredients and techniques, chefs at restaurants across the country have found many great uses for chickpea flour. At Santina in New York City, chickpea pancakes – referred to by the Tuscan name cecina – are served with an array of toppings. Among the options are tuna tartare, black truffle egg salad with chives, and smoked salmon with mascarpone.

Terrine in Los Angeles serves socca, a flatbread dish from the south of France much like farinata. The version from chef Kris Morningstar is made with fennel pollen, rosemary, parsley and black pepper. The socca is available as an hors d’oeuvre at dinner, whetting guests’ appetites for hearty dishes like chorizo-stuffed calamari, veal roulade or roasted duck.

Fitzcarraldo in New York specializes in the cuisine of Northwestern Italy and offers its own take on farinata. Bon Appetit noted that this version is puffier than average, the result of a higher ratio of flour to water. This means the pancake has a more cake-like interior, and it’s cooked at high temperatures in a wood-fired oven.

Chickpea flour offers an interesting twist on familiar foods and an opportunity to explore different cuisines. Students attending online culinary courses should stock up on this ingredient and give it a try in their own cooking.