I’m not a vegetarian but I am an advocate for an environmentally friendly lifestyle. I believe that one of the most impactful things we can do on that front is to consume fewer animal products.
From my first post, 5 baby steps to a more sustainable lifestyle, you’ll remember that the production of animal products consumes a disproportionate amount of resources and is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
Anyway, I love cooking and I constantly challenge myself to cook with fewer animal products. I do this in 2 ways: by trying out more vegetarian recipes, and by experimenting with substitutes. One of my culinary muses right now is the chickpea.
Aside from looking adorable (come on, doesn’t it look like a pixified version of a pea?? – a little mischievous even?) it’s extremely versatile, with some surprising uses. Now, I’m sure you’ve already experienced the joys of hummus and falafel but have you ever tried chickpea pancakes? I discovered these recently via pinterest. It turns out they’re a breakfast staple in northern India. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to discover them, but I’m happy I did. These pancakes or chillas (pronounced chill-ah)are great eaten on their own or rolled up with my favourite filling of spinach and feta (I’m a bit of a spinach freak). When I was making them the first time I thought “it looks kinda like an omelette. Perhaps it could be a vegan omelette?” Last week I finally got around to trying it: I loaded it up with cheese, sprinkled on some mixed herbs and folded it over. If I had mushrooms I would have thrown those in too. The result was delicious. So there you have it – vegan omelette. It’s gluten-free in case you were wondering.
I’ve also seen recipes for chocolate mousse using the liquid from canned chickpeas (no jokes!). Apparently it froths up when whipped, just like egg whites. This supposedly magical liquid also has a fun name: Aquafaba. There’s even a website dedicated to it! I’m super curious about the possibilities of whipped aquafaba and want to try it soon.
Chickpeas are not just treasured in the middle-east. This cute legume and its flour are used quite a lot in Indian cuisine, from Chana masala to bhajias. Nutritionally, they are high in protein as well as fiber, which is what makes them a great meat substitute.
Chickpea pancakes/vegan omelettes are easy to make, and the basic recipe only requires chickpea flour, water and salt. For flavor you can add whatever spices you like. I like to use garlic powder, cumin, turmeric, spring onions and coriander. Oh, and sometimes chilli, depending on how zesty I feel. The pancakes are great to eat for breakfast just as they are, or omelett-ified with cheese and veggies of your choice. If you’re making omelettes, use less water for a thicker batter. You can also add a pinch of baking powder.
If I’m making a filled pancake (usually for dinner) I leave out the spring onions and chilli. A spinach and feta filled pancake is something that makes me very happy – possibly because it takes me back to my childhood, when my mom would make my absolute favorite: spinach lasagne.
You could use ricotta instead of feta if you want and, of course, go wild experimenting with different savory filings. Another one I’d recommend is smoked salmon and cream cheese. I know many people would love to put avo in these pancakes… Don’t shoot me, but I just don’t get the fascination with those things. The flesh is a dreamy shade of pale green but I find the flavor off-putting. But I digress…
Without further ado, the pancake recipe, as on veganricha.com:
Vegan Chickpea flour Pancakes – Besan Chilla
(Recipe from Vegan Richa’s Indian KitchenCopyright © 2015 by Richa Hingle. Used by permission Vegan Heritage Press, LLC.)
- 1 cup chickpea flour garbanzo bean flour, or besan (gram flour)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 teaspoon carom seeds ajwain or cumin seeds
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
- 1 hot green chile finely chopped (remove seeds to reduce heat)
- 1/4 cup packed chopped cilantro
- 1 to 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon safflower oil divided
- 1/2 cup shredded zucchini or other vegetables optional
- 1/8 tsp Indian Black Salt kala namak
In a bowl, combine the chickpea flour and 3/4 cup water. Whisk to get a smooth consistency. Whisk in another 1/2 to 3/4 cup water to make a thin lump-free batter. (If using besan, you will need less water to get the same consistency).
Add the salt, turmeric, cayenne, carom seeds, onion, chile, cilantro, and 1 teaspoon of oil, and mix well. Add zucchini if using. Let the batter sit for 5 minutes.
Heat a skillet over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, drizzle a few drops of oil on the skillet. Spread the oil using a paper towel. Pour a ladle full (1/4 to 1/3 cup) of the batter onto the skillet. Spread the batter by moving the skillet to make a 6 to 8-inch pancake. Drizzle a few drops of oil on the edges of the pancake.
Cook until the edges start to leave the pan and the bottom is golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Flip and cook for 2 to 4 minutes. Continue to make the rest of the pancakes. Serve hot with ketchup, chutneys or sriracha. Chilla can also be stuffed with roasted veggies or potatoes.
As I mentioned, I prefer to use finely chopped spring onions instead of red onions, simply because it’s easier. Pancake, ommelette, stuffed… however you like to eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner, I guarantee you’ll find these to be a tastey nutritious treat.
I can’t wait to try this as a vegan version of my sister’s nacho omelette. The recipe will follow soon so stay tuned.
I also wonder how this batter would work as a base for a vegan Spanish tortilla. Have any of you tried it? I’d love to see the variations you come up with! Make good use of the comment box 😉