chickpeas merquén

A Vegetarian in Chile: Part 4 Chilean-style Chickpeas

It’s been a while since my last post. To make up for it, I’m planing to share 2 recipes with you guys this weekend as part of my “Vegetarian in Chile” series.

The first one is Chilean-style chickpeas. This actually has a sister dish, Chilean-style lentils, which is essentially the same thing, just swap out one legume for the other. Usually, the lentil version is served with a fried egg on top, and the chickpea version comes with longaniza, a type of chorizo from the south of Chile. For the purpose of this series, I’ll keep it vegan and leave out the longaniza.

ingredients raw

This dish is basically a staple in my house. It’s quick, easy, you can make tonnes at a time to store the leftovers, and you only need one pot, which in theory, should minimize the amount of washing up (this doesn’t work in practice in my house. For some reason washing up increases exponentially from when I cook for one person to when I cook for two. To me, this seems to defy the laws of physics; shouldn’t the overall increase in dishes only amount to an extra bowl and a spoon? Does this phenomenon affect anyone else? Or is it just me? Explanation would be greatly appreciated).

flavour chilean chickpeas

I buy all my legumes dry and in bulk at the local feria from a lovely caballero (in Chile, this is the term for a gentleman or an alternative to señor). He sells the beans of the season, which are so soft, you barely have to soak them before hand, and when you cook them they are as smooth and creamy as mash potato. I usually soak a HUGE amount of chickpeas the night before I make this dish. If you don’t like to plan that far in advance, go ahead and use the tinned kind, works just as well.

This is a simple dish, traditionally just made with carrot and pumpkin. However you can get creative and add a little silverbeet for a bit of green or anything else you think will go well.

So without further ado, here you have the base recipe to play with:

Ingredients

  • Half a kilo of dried chickpeas, rinsed, soaked over night and drained. Remember you can use lentils as well
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, pressed or chopped*
  • 100g each of carrot and pumpkin chopped into small pieces
  • 3 or so small handfuls of rice, I used medium grain white, but you can use brown too
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Olive oil

chickpeas on stove

Method

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Sautee the garlic and onion over medium heat until the onion becomes translucent. Add the carrot, pumpkin, chickpeas, rice, stock and spices and stir through. Add enough boiling water to cover the mixture by about a 1cm. Cook on low heat with the lid on until the rice is cooked and the chickpeas are soft. If all the water has been absorbed before the rice and chickpeas are done, you can add a little more, just keep in mind not to let it get soupy.

chickpeas merquén

Served with as sprinkle of merquén on top for an extra kick

*I read a really interesting article called “the best way to mince garlic” on how the method of preparation affects the flavour of garlic. I like to crush the clove with the back of my knife a bit and then finely chop it. This results in a much subtler, smoother garlic flavour compared with crushing the clove using a garlic press.

I’m a Vegetarian but sometimes I eat chicken: Cazuela de Pollo

stash-1-50f46db89ed2fMost of you are probably thinking that the title of this post makes me sound a little inconsistent. So before you judge me and call me a bad vegetarian, let me explain.

I am vegetarian for ethical reasons. The most important reason is I disagree with the meat production industry today. Factory farming is environmentally unsustainable, unhealthy, often tied up with horrible working conditions, and almost always with animal cruelty. But I’m not going to write an extensive essay about this, if you don’t believe me, you’ve probably been living under a rock, and I suggest you type factory farm chicken into google and take a look.

I am vegetarian because I want to see a shift back to traditional, small to medium scale animal farming systems such as family farms or cooperatives. These are often shown to be more sustainable, practice better animal welfare standards and offer fairer working conditions. Which brings me to why I sometimes eat chicken.

As you probably know by now, a lot of my recipes are based on what I find at the local feria (street market). Today we walked passed an “abuelita” (Chilean for little grandma) selling whole, plucked chickens that she raised at her house. You could tell that they weren’t commercial chickens she was trying to pass off as home grown, because the fat appeared yellow. This is caused by the presence of beta carotene indicating that the chickens had higher amounts of nutrients in their diets, which corresponds with more access to fresh food i.e. pasture and veggie scraps. This is the look of a true free-range chook which hasn’t been living in a packed shed with only the space of an A4 piece of paper to move around in for the entirety of its life.

chooksfr

I am a realist. I don’t expect the whole world to turn vegetarian. But I would hate to see a world where the only option after vegetarianism is meat from multi-national, highly industrial, large scale, factory farms that destroy the environment and reduce the lives of animals to quotas on a production line.

I don’t believe that buying chicken from that woman in the street is against my vegetarian ethics, in fact, not buying chicken from her would be less in line with them! I buy meat from small scale producers because I want those sorts of farms to exist, and to continue to exist.

Cazuela de Pollo (Chicken Cazuela)

P1060238Cazuela de Pollo (chicken cazuela) is a traditional Chilean dish. It is derived from the Spanish cazuela, left over from the colonial days. There is a specific order to eating a cazuela, typically Chileans will drink the broth first and then eat the meat and vegetables. This dish is a regular meal in the country side and also commonly made with beef.

Ingredients

  • 1 Whole chicken – if you are in Australia, I suggest Inglewood Chicken, as a sustainable, ethical option
  • 4 cloves of garlic, whole but crushed to release the flavour
  • Half an onion, thickly sliced
  • Handful of carrot, sliced
  • Handful of red capsicum, sliced
  • 6 small potatoes
  • 1 large cob of corn, cut into 6 pieces
  • 6 portions of pumpkin with skin
  • Small handful of rice
  • 1 heaped tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Half a vegetable stock cube
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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Method

Prepare the chicken by removing the skin and fat.* Cut into parts (wings, breast, thighs etc.) and set aside. Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is translucent. Add the chicken and fry until white all over. Add carrot, capsicum, potato, pumpkin, rice, stock, herbs and spices along with enough boiling water to cover everything. Cook for about 30 – 40 minutes on low heat. When potatoes are just cooked, add corn and cook for a further 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, each bowl should have 1 potato, one portion of pumpkin, 1 piece of corn, 1 portion of chicken and the bowl filled with the broth. This recipe serves 6.

*Depending on how fatty you want the broth to be more or less fat can be removed.

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