Balila is a Lebanese dish using the ever useful store cupboard essential, chickpeas. It’s often our go-to meal on a Monday when the fridge is looking a bit empty. It doesn’t require a long list of ingredients, just a few things will make the chickpeas really sing! As Nada Saleh pointed out back in 2006 in her “New Flavours of the Lebanese Table”, chickpeas are “rich in protein, good fats, carbohydrates, fibre, and valuable vitamins and minerals”. Given the UK’s love affair with “hummus”, it’s surely only a matter of time before a simple dish like balila catches on.
While soaking chickpeas over night isn’t tricky, remembering to do so can be! A tin will do if you’ve forgotten, but if you want to push the boat out, Navarrico jars will set your balila apart. The chickpeas are bigger, creamier and worth the extra for a dish where so few ingredients are used. Adding lemon, garlic, cumin and good extra virgin olive oil transforms the humble chickpea into something special. Just before eating, drizzle a generous amount of Zejd’s extra virgin olive oil on to each dish, you’ll really taste the gentle pepperiness of the oil. If you like lemon, a slice or two cut up into small quarters, can be added just before serving. Any leftovers can be whizzed up into a soup with some stock.
As chickpeas don’t have gluten, this is an ideal meal for someone following a gluten free diet.
makes enough for 4 generous servings
300g dried chickpeas (or 2 x 400g tin or a jar of Navarrico)
1-2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
120ml Zejd extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tbsp parsley chopped
2 slices of lemon cut up to serve (optional)
- Start the night before, soak the chickpeas in a generous amount of fresh water.
- The next morning, drain and add the chickpeas to a pan, cover with a generous amount of water. Bring to the boil and skim. Reduce the heat and simmer until the chickpeas are soft and easily squashed between your finger and thumb. This will depend on the age of your chickpeas, it could take an hour. If you have a pressure cooker, the cooking process will be much quicker. Some people add 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to speed up the cooking, but it can make the skin of the chickpea harder.
- Crush 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, depending on taste, in a pestle with the salt. Add the lemon juice, and a tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil and blend. Gradually add the rest of the oil as the mixture binds.
- Drain the tender chickpeas, keeping back a cup of the cooking liquid, and place in a bowl. Add in the garlic and olive oil mixture, with a little of the cooking liquid, and stir well to coat the chickpeas. Taste and add more lemon and salt if needed.
- Gently fry the cumin seeds in a small pan, then crush in a pestle and mortar. Sprinkle on top of the dish, and finish with the chopped parsley and a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Keep a small dish of ground cumin for those who want to add extra to their plate.
Best eaten warm, drizzle more EVOO over your serving as you scoop up the mixture with a piece of flat bread.