Chickpea fritters

I’ve been trying to eat a few more vegetarian meals, mostly out of wanting to cut down on our animal protein intake, but not giving it up entirely.  A friend mentioned falafel and it was like a light bulb went off in my head.  But I’d just cooked all the chickpeas I’d soaked, supposedly falafel is made with raw chickpeas, so I had to rethink what I was going to make.  With the dukkah recipe it gave me an idea for another spice combination and I saw some recipes for vegetarian burgers and fritters using beans.  So my chickpea fritter was borne of these.

2 ½ cups cooked chickpeas

1 tsp olive oil

1 Tbsp sesame seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

2-3 garlic cloves

1 egg

salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp olive oil for frying

Toast the seeds over medium high heat for a couple of minutes.  Throw all ingredients except egg into food processor and blend together until pasty.  Add egg and mix for another minute.  Form into patty shapes and pan fry in olive oil over medium high heat for a few minutes, flip and cook other side.  Turn heat down if it gets too brown.  Make sure they’ve cooked through then drain on paper towel. 

Serve alone or with plain yogurt, mint and lemon juice. 

I have a good friend who is vegetarian and I was so happy to share one of my new recipes with her— because I finally could!  But it wasn’t she who was as enamored of it as her meat-loving son.  He couldn’t get enough AND he’d just had dinner.  Woo-hoo!

My two eldest loved them too, but I couldn’t convince my youngest to try even a bite.  Next time, maybe.

Quick, Quick, Quick

I am often challenged to prepare a meal quickly and healthily for my kids.  That’s because I am not the best meal planner, unlike some who write down their upcoming meals on their calendars and buy the ingredients at the beginning of the week. I do try to buy things that I will use together in many ways and figure it which way on the day.  This way of shopping is sort of like picking out clothes that are mix and match instead buying a complete outfit.  And even if I do plan out some meals in advance, every so often a day goes awry and can lead to what-to-cook-for-dinner-panic.  Especially when our day has gotten busier than expected and dinner should have been on the table not still in the fridge/pantry. So, here are a couple of suggestions for those kind of days: what to cook when you only have a few minutes to cook.  (I’ve got it listed by protein as most in U.S. consider that the focus— I can touch on that another time.These are separate ideas and recipes not all for one night.

Fish: I use several types as go-to meals.  Most fish is quick, easy, delicious and nutritious.  I mostly steer clear of the bigger fish (tuna, swordfish) especially for the kids because of mercury.  I also won’t buy many farm-raised because of antibiotics, PCBs and other harmful chemicals.  Here is a good resource for what to buy.


It is winter here so I don’t grill as often.  I will instead pan fry (in a little canola or safflower oil) some firm, thin fish like tilapia; pan roast (start on the stove, finish in the oven) thicker fish like salmon and snapper; and roast or braise other really thin or flaky fish like sole, cod (a little lemon, butter and white wine make a great combination for those). Serve the fish with rice, potatoes, and several vegetables and/or salad. 


One suggestion is firm white fish (tilapia, catfish), lightly coated with Eastern spices and a little dried lemongrass, pan fried in canola oil for a few minutes on each side.  I use Penzy’s Singapore Spice blend which combines curry flavors with citrus. 

Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans): my staple for either all-vegetarian or partial-vegetarian dishes.  I often use chickpeas to stretch the meat in a recipe.  I put them in chili, Moroccan dishes and curries.  I usually buy canned ones since they’re ready to use in a moment.  Cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, paprika, garlic and ginger are all wonderful with chickpeas (in any combination).  Throw in some tomatoes, kale and potatoes and you’ve got a complete meal.


To be continued….

Curried Chickpeas, Kale, Potatoes & Lentils

Not only am I on a curry kick but I am loving chickpeas (garbanzo beans) lately.  Luckily my kids like them too.  Hummus is one of their favorite snack foods and they won’t object to falafel or chickpeas in any dish I make.  I don’t think I started eating them until I got to university and tried falafel for the first time from the cart in the Octagon. (Dunedin’s town ‘square’ is actually octagonal.)

The other night I made a different version of my Spiced Chickpeas and Potatoes from the other week.  This time I added a bunch of kale from our shared harvest (CSA), lentils and fennel seeds, which added a nice flavor dimension.  It was perfect for warming little ones up on these chillier autumn nights.  My eldest son declared it “delicious” and that he “loved it” and not surprisingly my middle son said he didn’t like it because it was too spicy but he ate more than half of it before he gave up on it.  My youngest son missed out on it because he fell asleep before dinner after a busy day of play dates and running around. 

It’s fairly easy to make especially since I used canned chickpeas and precooked belgua lentils from Trader Joe’s. 

Curried Chickpeas, Potatoes, Kale and Lentils

  • Olive oil
  • 1-2 shallots, diced (or med onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (adjust if needed)
  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 5 sm/med potatoes cut into bite sized pieces (with skins on)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (vegetable stock if vegetarian)
  • bunch kale, remove large stems and cut into strips
  • lentils (I used the beluga lentils- 1 cup)
  • 3 large tomatoes, peeled and crushed
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thai basil, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • sea salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice (had no lemon)

Sauté shallot and garlic. Add spices and stir for a minute or two.  Stir in chickpeas, potatoes, tomatoes, kale and stock, salt and pepper to taste. (I think I should have added it later, but it was fine).   

Cook for 20 minutes then add the lentils, basil and parsley. 

Cook for another 10-20 minutes.  This can be made in crock pot but I suggest sautéing onion/shallot and garlic and then heating the spices over the stove first then adding it all to slow cooker.  Cook on low for 5 hours or high for 3.

I loved the additional flavor that the fennel seeds added and the kale really went well with the other ingredients.  Of course you can tailor this to suit your tastes and what’s in your pantry/refrigerator.  I find that eating less meat is not only healthful and good for the environment but less expensive.  Not that I ever break the food down into it’s nutritional parts; still it was interesting to find out that not only is there plenty of protein (even vegetarian version) and fiber in this dish, it also is fairly high in folate and other vitamins and minerals.  Meaning it is really good for you and your kids, as well as tasting fabulous.

My eldest son and I had the leftovers for lunch the following 2 days. 

Curry Love

I guess I’ve been on a curry sort of kick.  I love curries.  In my early twenties I worked for a few months in an Indian restaurant in Wellington, NZ.  Every Friday night, a night off, my friend and I would go out to dinner.  I always wanted to eat curries.  I guess it was being around them the rest of the week, smelling them, seeing them but often not tasting them that intensified my desire.  Living in Wellington, the capital of NZ, allowed me to try curries from all over, not just India.  I’d have Thai, Cambodian, Japanese, Malaysian, Vietnamese curries. Growing up on the East Coast of the US I didn’t even know there were other curries besides Indian or Thai until I lived in Wellington.   I love the spices that are in Asian curries and thanks to the Silk Road also in many North African and Middle Eastern dishes. 

I am passing on this love of curries to my kids.  They might not be eating Vindaloo yet, but if I keep the heat down, they really like it. 

I didn’t use a recipe for this lamb curry I made the other night, I figured out the ratios since I’d been using so many similar spices in other dishes.   My mother came over for dinner and she also loves curries and lamb (she’s a Kiwi by birth), so it was a win-win all round! 

Lamb and Chickpea Curry

  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp garam masala (Punjabi)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (adjust for heat)
  • 1 pound lamb shoulder or other stew cut, boned, trimmed of excess fat, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 3 large tomatoes or skinned
  • 10 small or 4 large potatoes, cubed (I used many tiny just harvested potatoes)
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil

Sauté onions then garlic in olive oil over med-high heat.  Add spices and stir for a couple of minutes.  Make a well in middle and add lamb. (I also threw in the bones that I couldn’t get all the meat off, as it eventually fell off in cooking.) Turn so all sides are browned and cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes and stock, stir couple of times, cover cook for 20 minutes.  Add potatoes, chickpeas, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes until potatoes are soft.  Serve over basmati or jasmine rice.  You could put lentils instead of chickpeas and add a green veggie— spinach would be nice. 


We all loved it.  Even my middle son.  And believe it or not, he didn’t even complain when I put it on the table!  My youngest wanted more meat, so I kept giving him some of mine.

It’s a great dish for ease of clean up since there’s only one pan and maybe another for rice.

Spiced Chickpeas and Potatoes

I had been to Costco a few days earlier and they were sampling sous-vide (vacuum packed) chickpeas with Middle Eastern/Indian spices.  I looked at the ingredients and had decided I could cook something like it at a fraction of the price.  That was what I had planned for the night I invited a good friend and her daughters over for an impromptu play date. 

We could sit on the back deck enjoying some wine while the kids played on the swings and in the yard.  They’ve known each other since my eldest was 8 months old; her eldest daughter is only 3 days older than him.  They’re like family only without the bickering.  They hadn’t intended on staying for dinner, but we were all having a wonderful time together that the time just flew and why put an end to a good thing? I had set out some nuts and snacks for everyone early on and I also had my friend try the amazing pork dish my husband made the night before (will try to blog about soon), which her youngest daughter ended up devouring.  The evening had progressed and I realized my plans to cook dinner had been delayed enough to have to throw in a couple of Mystic pizzas because the kids were starving by this point.  My original plan needed at least 35 minutes from start to finish and it was already past 6:30 but that didn’t stop me from proceeding to cook the chickpeas. 

I found two recipes that I melded, adapted and tweaked for my dish.  One was from Big Girls, Small Kitchen Moroccan Chickpeas and the other form Molly Watson on Potatoes with Chickpeas. 

Chickpeas with Potatoes

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 med potatoes, diced into cm pieces
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger (1 tsp fresh is great too!)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup tomatoes, peeled,  seeded and crushed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Approximately 1 cup water added as needed
  • juice 1/2 lemon 

Since we were so tight on time, I tried a different method for the potatoes.  First I sautéed  in olive oil the onions and garlic then I added the potatoes. Every time they started to stick to the bottom of the pan I would add some water (just enough so they were no longer sticking) stirring the whole time; almost similar to cooking risotto.  After 10 minutes or so the potatoes were soft enough, I made a well at the bottom of the pan and added the spices, stirring often.  Then I added the chickpeas, tomatoes, stock, salt and pepper. I cooked for a few minutes then added the lemon juice and served over rice. 

My girlfriend and I both loved it; nicely spiced and filling.  My eldest was the only kid wanting to try it that night and he loved it.  I served it again last night as a side dish to all three— my eldest kept having huge spoonfuls before I had gotten it on their plates!   My middle son who said he “liked it but it was too spicy.”  My youngest didn’t try it— yet.  I am definitely adding this to my vegetarian (without the chicken stock) repertoire. 

What to do with all these tomatoes!

When my left over uncooked tuna wasn’t smelling fresh I had to come up with another last minute dinner plan.  I was going to cook an Indian Tomato Sauce recipe I saw in Mark Bittman’s, How to Cook Everything, but realized I didn’t have 2 key ingredients.  Yikes, the dinner hour was fast approaching and I still was unsure of what to cook.  I had so many ideas but too little time and not always all the ingredients.  But what I did have was an overabundance of tomatoes (in different colors and sizes) so I knew I wanted to do something with them.  Since I had so many, I thought I could prep some for cooking before they get bad, so I removed the skins and seeds then crushed them. 

An easy way of removing tomato skins is to blanch them for a minute in boiling water.  First slit the skin then pop into the water.  Remove and place in ice bath.  Once cool enough to handle, take a paring knife and peel the skin off… it’ll come right off.  You’re not cooking the tomatoes, just softening the skin so it peels off like paper.  After cutting out the center core around where the stem base meets the tomato, I put them in a sieve and removed the meat; letting the juices drip into a bowl beneath.  I push remaining juice/pulp through the sieve with a spatula and put all the meat into the bowl with juices.  Now you can finish with a potato masher or an immersion blender to crush or purée the tomatoes, I used a masher. 

Finally after much contemplation I decided on a pasta with tomatoes, chickpeas and  beet greens.  I had steamed the beet greens a couple of days ahead because they were starting to wilt and I didn’t want to miss their peak freshness. I did this with kale and bok choy too.  Just steam or boil and cool immediately when just done.  Put in fridge and when you’re ready for dinner, this can come out of the fridge, plopped into a pan and reheated with desired seasoning.  You can freeze vegetables this way too. 

Pasta with Tomatoes, Chickpeas and Beet Greens

  • 1 can chickpeas (or equivalent)
  • 1 bunch of beet greens
  • 3-4 tomatoes- peeled, seeded and chopped or crushed
  • 1 shallot- chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves- minced
  • Handful of fresh basil- chopped
  • Handful of fresh parsley- chopped
  • Olive oil

 Prepare pasta according to directions.  Prep beet greens— clean, remove stems, cut into 1 inch wide strips and either steam or keep raw. Sauté garlic and shallot in olive oil.  Mix in crushed tomatoes, chickpeas and beet greens.  If the beet greens are raw, cover and steam for a couple of minutes.  Add herbs.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Mix together with pasta.  Salt and Pepper to taste.  Add parmesan cheese if you wish. 


I used farfalle (bowtie pasta) that my youngest picked out at the supermarket.  On the side I gave them corn on the cob.  This can be taken off the cob and put into pasta as well.

I wasn’t sure how they’d like it.  My 3 year old didn’t want to eat the chickpeas even though he loves hummus and I explained that’s what it’s made from.  The middle son whined and said he wasn’t going to eat it but proceeded to eat it anyway.  My 8 year old loved it. 

If you notice that’s sort of the pattern with our family.  It shows that persevering will give the intended results (not all of the time, but usually).  Keep giving it to them even when they complain or say they won’t eat it.  Have them try it and eventually the may eat it and love it too!