The landscapes between the county of Nice and Lebanon are strikingly similar; the ingredients used in the respective cuisines are nearly identical; the cuisine is different. For instance, the way chickpeas are used. In the county of Nice, chickpeas are made into flour and turned into pancakes and savory breads (socca, panisse, crêpes), or made into simple salads or soups. In Lebanon, chickpeas are made into hummus or fatteh, or used as stuffing for some vegan kibbeh.
I searched high and low in Nice and in other towns like Grasse, until I found a place selling a French-made chickpea flour. No recipe was printed on the bag for socca, mind you (that would have been the American way!)
To make the best use of my measly 2 pounds of chickpea flour, I decided to split it into a sweet pastry and a savory one. For the sweet pastry, I looked for inspiration in the Iranian kitchen. The Iranians make chickpea cookies, and a type of chickpea halva. I tried the cookies, delicious. I set out to make the halva, using a recipe from Najmieh Batmanglij’s New Food of Life and ran into a snag. The dough was too crumbly. I added one egg and decided to bake it like a cake. The result is a dense, sweet cake, cut into small bites, with the mellow taste of chickpea. It reminded me of the Chinese moon cake stuffing of red bean paste, except there is no shell to fuss with here. A perfect option for a gluten-free treat.
Chickpea sweet bites
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Passive Time: 10 minutes
1/2 cup oil or clarified butter can use ghee as well
2 cups fine chickpea flour sift if possible to prevent lumps
1 large egg
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp rosewater or other flavoring
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom or other spice of your choice
1/2 cup peeled pistachios or other nuts
1. Pour the oil into a nonstick skillet and set over medium heat. Wait 3 minutes then add the chickpea flour and start stirring continuously for about 10 minutes.
2. Transfer the dough into the bowl of a food processor or a mixer and add the sugar, spice, flavoring and egg and process till a dough forms.
3. Transfer into a greased pan and pat gently to smooth out the surface. Score the surface into diamonds if desired and insert pistachios (or other nuts) for garnish.
4. Bake the cake in a preheated 350F oven for about 12 minutes or until dried and golden brown around the edges. Remove and cool and cut to serve into small bites.
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