The humble chickpea never fails to amaze. On their own, chickpeas are an excellent source of protein. When combined with a grain such as rice, they become a source of a complete protein and can replace proteins acquired from eating meat (only without the fat). But when you make a biryani with them, they bring you to a whole new level.
Chickpea biryani is healthy, packed with flavour and makes for a great meatless meal.
I’ve always been afraid of recipes that combine cooking rice with other ingredients. I would follow the recipe to a T, but still, I’d end up with either mushy rice or under-cooked rice. So I just gave up trying to get this right. I found that cooking the ingredients separately and then combining everything together in the last few minutes of cooking works perfectly. Each time.
And so that is what I do for this chickpea biryani. I cook the chickpeas in a pressure cooker, the rice in a saucepan until they are just done and then combine everything in a tomato-based sauce. For a few more dishes to clean up afterwards, you are guaranteed the perfect biryani. Serve as a light lunch with yogurt, pickles or chutney of your choice or as a side dish.
- 1 cup dried chickpeas (or 2 1/2 cups of canned chickpeas if you must)
- 1 cup rice
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 8-12 curry leaves (fresh preferred, dry will do)
- 1 small green chili, finely sliced
- 275 g (about 2 medium) diced onions
- 10 g (about 2 cloves) minced garlic
- 175 g (about 1 small) tomato, puréed (or chopped finely if you prefer)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- ¼ tsp garam masala
- ¼ tsp chili powder (optional, if you like it really hot!)
- Fresh coriander and mint for garnishimg
- Cook chickpeas in 4 1/2 cups water in a pressure cooker for 40 minutes after the first whistle on high-medium heat. When done, remove from heat and let cool completely before removing from pressure cooker (follow instructions for pressure cooker to avoid serious burns). Strain chickpeas and set aside, keeping the remaining water for other uses*. (Alternatively, you can also use canned chickpeas. In that case, you will need 2 1/2 cups of chickpeas.)
- Meanwhile wash and rinse rice. Cook with sufficient water until they are just done (do not allow to overcook). Strain and set aside along with the cooked chickpeas.
- In a large based pan (think paella pan), on medium-high heat, heat oil heat and then add cumin seeds. Wait for the seeds to start to crackle and allow them to crackle for 30-40 seconds. Add the curry leaves and chili (if using) and let fry for 15 seconds. Add onions, reduce heat to medium and allow onions to soften, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add tomatoes and all salt and spices, stir to blend and cook (covered) for 5 minutes on medium heat.
- At this point, there should be no excess water in the pan. If there is, continue to cook without the cover for a few more minutes. Add strained rice and chickpeas, mix everything together. Cover and cook on low-medium heat for 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh coriander and mint. Serve as the main course with yogurt, pickles or chutney of your choice or as a side dish.
* The water left over from cooking chickpeas is called aquafaba or better known as chickpea water. It serves as a good substitute for eggs in many recipes, for example these vegan chocolate chip cookies or these vegan amaretti cookies.