This powdery yellow coloured flour is a very common ingredient in India where it is known as besan; it is also known as gram flour in the west. It is used in some Indian breads and is the main ingredient in the batter for pakoras, tiny deep fried appetizers which are India's answer to tempura.

The chickpea most commonly used for besan is Cicer arietinum, rather than the more common chickpea, C. mediterraneum. Chickpeas used for flour are smaller and darker than the common variety. This flour is also added to the Burmese national dish, Moh Hin Gha.

Aside from Subcontinental uses, we make a chickpea terrine at work, which uses chickpea flour. It turns out similar to a loaf of bread, but has a somewhat heavier texture, making it suitable for grilling and serving alongside vegetarian dishes. If you are keen, here is a recipe.


Chickpea and Parmesan terrine

Ingredients

  • 300 gm (10 oz) chickpea flour
  • 100 gm (3 oz) self raising flour (or plain flour with 1 tsp baking powder)
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped (or use garlic oil)
  • 50 gm (2 oz) parmesan cheese, grated
  • Milk
  • Sea salt
  • Pepper

    Method

    In a large bowl mix together the two flours. Add the egg yolks and cheese and combine using a whisk. Start adding milk while whisking. I don't give a quantity for the milk because different chickpea flours have wildly different absorption capacities. Start off with 1 cup (250 ml), but you may well need up to 2 cups. The result you are looking for is similar to a heavy pancake batter. Add the salt and pepper.

    In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks (they will be white and hold a peak when you lift the whisk through them). Gently fold the egg whites through the chickpea batter then pour into a greased loaf tin. Bake at 180 C for 45 minutes. Test with a skewer to see if the centre is not still wet and turn out onto a cake rack to cool.

    Cut into thick wedges and bush with olive oil. Grill until golden brown. These would be delicious served with some warm eggplant salad and a few shavings of fresh parmesan on top.

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