I recently had a hankering for polenta chips, and was disappointed to find I was out of polenta. I did, however, have a lot of dried legumes, so I consulted Google to see what recipes I could find to scratch my itch. I quickly stumbled upon countless recipes for fries made from all kinds of ground, dried beans. The ones that caught my eye were the recipes for chickpea fries, because they were repeatedly described as having the delicious, creamy inside texture of a polenta chip, whilst the outside was crunchy perfection.
Inspired by my recipe hunt, I made a batch, using dried chickpeas that I milled into flour. I think I have tinnitus as a result, so I created a simplified, quieter version, using besan flour.
The end result was chip perfection. Crunchy, hot, salty snack heaven!
Serves 4 as a snack
(Note: The mixture needs some time to set in the fridge before you cut it into batons. An hour is fine, or even up to 3 days.)
4 cups water
2 cups chickpea (besan) flour
2 tsp vegetable or chicken stock powder
1 tsp each salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil plus extra to cook
1-2 tsps za'atar
Dip of choice (optional)
PART 1 - PREPARE THE MIXTURE
Grease a baking pan and put it aside.
Bring the water to the boil in a pot or large saucepan, then reduce the heat to a simmer and gradually add the flour and whisk it into the water. Then whisk in stock, salt and pepper.
Continue whisking for approx 8 minutes, until the mixture is thick and velvety. Stir in the olive oil. (Don't worry if there are a couple of lumps, it won't affect the final result at all.)
Pour the chickpea mixture into the greased baking sheet and spread out into an even layer. Once it has cooled slightly, cover it well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
PART 2: MAKE THE FRIES
Pre-heat your oven to 210°C (190°C fan forced). Line a large baking tray with baking paper or silicon baking sheet.
Slice the now firm mixture into batons, about the size of a thick potato chip.
Line them up on the baking sheet, and brush generously with olive oil.
Bake for 10 minutes*, then turn to the other side, brush again, and replace in the oven to bake for another 10 minutes. They should be golden and crunchy.
Remove from the oven, salt generously and sprinkle za'atar over them. Serve with greek yoghurt, tahini, hummus or the dip of your choice.
*For an even crunchier chickpea fry experience, try shallow frying instead of baking. They take about 5-7 minutes over a medium heat - remember to turn them halfway through.
PIMP MY RECIPE
Add some spices or herbs to the mixture, at the same step that you add the stock and seasoning to the mixture while it's simmering. For instance, a tablespoon of fresh herbs like finely chopped rosemary, oregano or parsley. Or a teaspoon of dried herbs. A teaspoon of dried spice blends like baharat or za'atar works beautifully.
For all my swagger and confidence in the kitchen, I'm not nearly so sure of myself when it comes to gluten free baking. So I decided to tackle it head on and create a sweet treat that would prove that anyone can show gluten free baking who's boss. I realised I would need 2 things to help me:
Firstly, I needed my starting point to be a phenomenal but simple recipe that's a classic crowd pleaser. Something I could tinker with and adapt to make gluten free.
It was hard to go past a classic brownie. And I'm lucky enough to have worked with an incredible pastry chef, Nina Wilson, at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, way, way back in the 1990s. Nina was the hotel's head pastry chef, and I, as a wide eyed apprentice, got to train under the best. Nina's fudgy chocolate brownie recipe is famous in all the right circles.
Secondly, I needed advice from a seasoned master of gf baking. Luckily, I work with one here at Village Wholefoods HQ. Alex is a phenomenal baker of gf delights and is a reliable source of knowledge, inspiration and advice for our gf customers and staff alike.
From Alex I learned an invaluable tip - gluten free flours are thirstier, or more absorbent, than wheat flour, meaning the liquid ratio of a non gluten free recipe needs to be altered to accommodate the gf flour. With this in mind I eased off on the amount of flour called for in Nina's original recipe by about ¼, and I believe it was this nugget of wisdom that led to the most splendiferous, fudgey, perfect tray of brownies.
And here is the recipe!
Makes approx 12-16 brownies
1 cup chocolate chips (I used a mixture or dark and milk)
¾ cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
¼ cup cocoa (I used alkalised for a more classic chocolate flavour. Raw is fine)
⅓ cup plain gluten free flour** (I used the ready-to-go gf flour blend we sell in store)
Prepare brownie or loaf tin with baking paper. Set the oven to 170°c (150°c fanforced)
Melt butter and chocolate together. I use the microwave, and do it in 30 second intervals, stirring regularly. Set aside to allow it to cool to close to room temperature.
Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla well, til it becomes pale, fluffy and velvety. This can take 5-10 mins but it's well worth it. Add cooled melted butter and chocolate, but don't overstir. Just combine.
Sift cocoa, flour and salt. Add to the rest of the mixture. Again, you just want to combine; don't stir vigorously.
Pour mixture into prepared tin and bake for aprox 30 mins. It might need a few more minutes - when it stops wobbling in the middle it's ready. Leave in tin and transfer to a wire rack to completely cool. These brownies are a bit more fragile when warm than ones made with wheat flour so it's a good idea to pop them in the fridge for an hour before cutting into squares to serve.
**to make a standard wheat version substitute the gluten free flour for ¼ cup plain cake flour
PIMP MY RECIPE:
Try adding different ingredients to change things up a bit. A handful of any of the following can be added at the final combining stage:
White choc chips
Fresh or freeze dried raspberries
A dollop of peanut butter
A small sprinkling of dried lavender
A shot of strong, cooled espresso
A tsp of wattleseed