There’s a lot you can do with chickpeas which is why my pantry is rarely without it: added to curries like your typical chana masala, stirred into stews or tossed through salads, it’s a great way to bulk up a dish and make it substantial especially in lieu of meat.
What I’ve also found is that the humble chickpea acts as a great substitute for dishes that call for those more exotic varieties of beans (exotic by Indian standards anyway) – cannellini beans, fava beans and the like. The ones that are both hard to find and ridiculously expensive if you happen to chance upon them. Chickpeas (and black eyed beans) are my go-to replacements here. Use their neutral blandness to your advantage; they’ll take on the flavour of whatever sauce you add them to.
The inspiration for these toasts came from a Super Bowl dip that was making the rounds: a large vat of garlicky tomato sauce topped with cheese and baked. As much as sitting around the table and eating communal style is right up my alley, I wanted to make these into individual toasts. So I rolled with the idea, introduced some chickpeas into the garlic-tomato sauce (baked beans-style) and added spinach for the veggie component (always need that). I then piled this thick mash onto sourdough slices, topped it with a mound of grated mozzarella and baked them until molten.
I cook the chickpeas from scratch (soaked overnight and pressure-cooked). Not hard in the least but definitely takes prior planning. Chickpeas freeze really well however, and in most cases no thawing is required. Especially in curries, stews and sauces like these where they get cooked again in a liquid base. Use that to your advantage and cook a bigger batch than you immediately foresee using.
If you think that’s a pretty neat shortcut I’ll do you one better: make and freeze the sauce in bulk. It’s versatile too – use it in curries, as a pasta or pizza sauce or in various other ways. That way if you want to make these toasts for breakfast, pull some sauce and chickpeas out from your freezer, put them straight into the pan in their iceberg state and cook to the right consistency. (Granted you need a big cavernous freezer for all the stuff I constantly suggest freezing.)
Any kind of bread would work for this recipe, but a more sturdy loaf like sourdough works especially well as it gets really crunchy upon baking. The crunch offers a really nice contrast to the soft mash and the sturdy nature of the bread is very forgiving if your mash is too runny. (If using regular sandwich bread make sure your mash is at the right consistency before piling it on.) I’m a sucker for the end bits and always use those here. Which if you hadn’t heard, by rights, goes to the cook.
CHICKPEA AND SPINACH CHEESE TOASTS
- 6 slices of bread (see notes)
- 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (½ cup uncooked)
- 150 grams of spinach
- 75 grams mozzarella, grated
- 4 large tomatoes
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 ½ teaspoons chilli flakes, or to taste
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- ½ cup uncooked chickpeas = approx 1½ cups cooked. Soak in plenty of water for 6-8 hours and cook until tender. If using cooked, use as is.
- Add the tomatoes to a blender jar and blitz to a coarse purée.
- Add the spinach to a pot and cook for 2-3 mins until wilted. Remove and roughly chop.
- Heat olive oil in the same pot and add garlic cloves. Once they’re lightly browned, add the puréed tomatoes, chickpeas, chilli flakes, oregano and salt.
- Cover and cook over a low heat until the sauce thickens and reduces significantly. You want it just coating the chickpeas. This may take anywhere between 15-25 mins depending on the type of pan you’re using. Keep an eye out and stir once or twice in between.
- Once the sauce has reduced, use a masher to mash the chickpeas. You want them almost fully broken down. If the sauce appears too wet, turn the heat up and reduce some more. You're looking for a mashed potato consistency. Stir in the chopped spinach.
- Top the bread with the chickpea and spinach mash. Top with cheese. Bake for 8-10 mins until the cheese melts through. Serve immediately.
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