Indian spiced chickpeas with mint & coriander yoghurt dressing

Do you know, when you are using this upbeat voice & add ‘we liked it so much last time’ to sell dinner, everyone is forewarned: “Hey, we are having this lovely aubergine, red pepper & pea curry for supper that we liked so much last time! And it comes with this new chickpea salad!” Well, we had to use up some vegetables and there was a great void in the creative department – all on holiday away from the lead-grey sky (and we really did like that curry last time, honest). Maybe we did not shower it with Michelin stars and “Greatest supper ever”-nominations but it was nice and after some tweaking it was still nice and boring.

What saved the day was the wild card, this little salad that was supposed to be a starter and thrown in at the last moment because I just stumbled over the recipe in Food & Wine and some of the ingredients where on the to-be-used list as well. This tangy, herby dressed salad perfectly balances intense and crunchy spices, lemony sourness and onion-y sharpness against the creamy chickpeas and its success should have not come unexpected since it was on a best-of staff-picks list. I have made a few adjustments: I used crème fraîche  and yoghurt (1.5%) instead of whole-milk yoghurt since that was in the fridge and simplified the spice-frying (tossed all into the oil at the same time instead of delaying some due to slap-dash reading). Those might very well be the reason for the creamyness and lovely crunch and I was quite happy about those particular traits.

Just for the record, yesterday’s vegetarian supper was Bombay potatoes with a fried egg on top (yummy, coming soon) and the wild card side dish fell through. What a shame, it looked so nice.

Indian spiced chickpeas with lemon, mint & coriander yoghurt dressing
serves 6 as a side dish, adapted from Jerry Traunfeld’s (Poppy, Seattle) recipe in Food & Wine

1 tin (800g/28oz; 450g/15oz drained) chickpeas, rinsed
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon mustard seeds (I used brown mustard seeds)
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds
¾ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ cup yoghurt
¼ cup crème fraîche (or use another ¼ cup whole-milk yoghurt)
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
2 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
¼ cup (or more) chopped mint
¼ cup (or more) chopped coriander
¼ – ½ teaspoon Piment d’Espelette
salt & pepper

Pour the rinsed chickpeas into a bowl, they should be drained in a strainer to get rid of too much excess water but no need to worry about a few drops of water. Heat the peanut oil in a small skillet until it is warm and shimmers. You are supposed to add the mustard seeds first and cook them with a partially closed lid for about a minute until they stop popping, after which the cumin and fennel seeds are supposed to be added and fried for 30 seconds. Or, do as I did and add the whole lot to the shimmering oil with one swooshing motion and fry for about 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Pour the hot spice oil over the chickpeas and mix with the yoghurt, crème fraîche, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, spring onion, mint, coriander and season with Piment d’Espelette, salt & pepper. Stir and check the seasoning and add more lemon juice if needed and serve at room temperature.


Chicken chile verde

Chicken chile verde by the james kitchen
Chicken chile verde, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

Not the prettiest of pictures I admit and I am happy to have a very good reason to cook this again very soon – just for the picture, you know, but this is such a tasty dish that it would be a shame to wait since it will be a good thing to use up turkey leftovers, too. I might be wrong but there might be a time in the near future where plenty of those will be available and this you do not want to miss out on.

When we lived in California we used to buy a chicken chile verde from Trader Joe’s and loved it so much that back here – where no TJ’s exists – we needed to make our own and after a few trials & fiddles we had our own chicken chile verde: it is even better, fresher and dead easy to make. It is best to cook the whole amount even if you are just two people, freeze the rest and you’ll have more ready to go when you need a quick fix.

I buy the whole chicken (to make sure it is not so much tempered with, at least free-range, long-lived, traceable and so on, no Frankenbird), roast it one day and use the leftovers for salads, chicken Fricassée (with loooots of capers for me)… and surely this chicken chile verde. If you start from the beginning then either roast a chicken along side something else (if you have the oven on already, might just squeeze a chicken in) or cook one  in this sort of mexicanized court bouillon (recipe below).

Not be too missionary & evangelical about it but I really recommend a whole chicken with bones & dark meat from free-range, long-lived birds (that is the healthy part with all the omega 3 & 6) for a proper chicken taste and succulent meat as opposed to the rather reduced one-dimensional taste of only breast meat. If you are squeamish about a whole bird use chicken pieces by all means, although there is a lot of flavour coming from the carcass and little tasty bits & pieces of meat that you are missing out on. Like the Oyster or Pfaffenschnittchen (the best piece for the priest…), in French it is adequately called Sot-l’y-laisse – “A foul who leaves this behind”.

Chicken chile verde
for about 6 portions

1 cold roast chicken or 1 cooked chicken (see below) or leftovers from the previous roast chicken dinner, picked and torn into not too little pieces
1 large tin / can (790g or 28 oz) of tomatillos (about 12)
3 cooked or broiled garlic cloves (I use the ones from my roast chicken or the cooked chicken)
1 small tin (220g or 110g drained weight) of sliced Poblano peppers, reserve a few and chop
2 jalapeño chiles, seeds removed, chopped
1 bunch of coriander / cilantro, roughly chopped
salt & pepper
olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
1 large or 2 medium garlic cloves, chopped
½ l (2 cups) good chicken stock (or use some of the chicken cooking liquid, check for saltiness though)
1-2 whole cloves (Nelken)
1-2 teaspoons dried oregano
salt & pepper
green Tabasco (if you need more spice)

Either roast a chicken (rubbed in olive oil, stuffed with two bay leaves & at least three garlic cloves – though why so stingy, they are the best to eat with the chicken – and seasoned with salt, pepper & dried thyme) in the oven at 200°C or 400° F for about 1 hour and leave to cool OR make the chicken one day for dinner and use the leftovers for this OR get a cold rotisserie chicken. Pick the meat of the bones and tear into bite-sized shreds (as for Fricassée).

Place the drained tomatillos, soft garlic cloves, most of the sliced Poblano peppers, jalapeños & coriander in a blender or food processor and chop with quick pulses to a chunky purée. Sweat the chopped onions in a little olive oil until translucent, add the chopped garlic cloves and stir for a scant minute to cook these, too. Add the chicken pieces, the tomatillo sauce, chicken stock, cloves and dried oregano. Let the whole thing cook on a low flame for a while (minimum 10 minutes or much longer until you need it) – this is mainly to get the flavours to mingle and to reduce the liquid in the sauce to a nice saucy consistency. Season with salt & freshly ground pepper and if you like green Tabasco.

Serve with rice and I think green vegetables of your choice, we have snow peas or broccoli or something along those lines with it.

Cooked chicken for chicken chile verde:

1 whole chicken
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 onion, quartered (no need to peel)
1-2 celery stalks, halved
a few coriander stalks (use the leaves for something else)
one or two or a few parsley stalks
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
10 (1 teaspoon) whole black peppercorns
1 small dried chili (peperoncino, piquin etc.)
1 tablespoon salt

If you have a large stock pot leave the chicken whole otherwise cut it into quarters and put it along with the other ingredients into the pot. Cover with water and bring over high heat to the boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook it for about one hour. Remove the chicken from the bouillon and leave to cool. Take of all the meat when it is cool enough to handle and shred into bite-sized bits.