No, the title of this post does not refer to creating chickpeas by some mad science experiment, or even growing them in your backyard. What it does mean is freeing yourself from the tyranny (cost-, additive- and taste-wise) associated with using canned chickpeas. Okay, tyranny might be a little strong, but just making a point.
I confess, I’ve always used canned chickpeas. Until now, that is. Over the years there’s usually been a sad bag of the dried legumes sitting neglected in the cupboard, until eventually getting pitched. They don’t last forever, you know; according to my reference book, Keeping Food Fresh by Janet Bailey, dried peas, beans and lentils shouldn’t be kept more than a year. I did use a bag of dried chickpeas for pie weights once, but that’s the only useful purpose I’d ever made of them.
Rehydrating them yourself does take some planning ahead; the time you need chickpeas for a recipe is definitely not the moment to get that bag out of the cupboard. If caught short without any rehydrated on hand, a can of low-sodium chickpeas is fine, but with little effort you can have the better alternative most, if not all, of the time.
I’ve discovered that you can freeze rehydrated chickpeas, making it possible to make a chickpea dish whenever the fancy strikes, without opening a can. In terms of effort, you need to put them in water the night ahead, and then have a couple of hours the next day where you’ll be hanging around the house while the legumes cook. This is a good time to whip up a cake, watch a cooking show or catch up on your blog reading; totally up to you! After this, the most you need to do in terms of advance planning is take the bag out of the freezer ahead of time to thaw, either overnight in the fridge or for a couple of hours on the counter. If you’re putting them directly into a soup or other dish where they’ll be cooked more, there’s no need to thaw them.
Doing it yourself also gives you the opportunity to marvel at how that pile of shrivelled, clatteringly hard sandy-coloured legumes transforms into golden, plump-cheeked chickpeas with their adorable pointy caps. As legumes go, they’re quite cute.
Reconstituting Dried Chickpeas
The night before, pick over and rinse 2 cups dried chickpeas, place them in a large bowl and add 8 cups water (the formula is easy: 4 cups water for each cup of chickpeas). Leave them to soak overnight, then drain and rinse the next morning. Put them in a large pot, add fresh water to cover the legumes by a couple of inches and put it on high heat. Let boil for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to a rolling simmer (the bag I bought says a slow boil). Skim off the foam that rose to the top near the beginning of this process. After an hour and a half to two hours, when they are still firm but tender, it’s time to stop cooking them.
Drain off the water (you can reserve the cooking liquid to cool and then freeze to use in soups later). Shake them in a colander to get as much water off as possible, and spread the golden legumes in a single layer on a baking tray to freeze. This results in individually frozen chickpeas instead of a solid mass of them, making it easy to measure out quantities as needed. Once frozen, place in well-sealed freezer bags.
Emmy from Emmy Cooks (do check out this excellent food blog!) recently published a post on preparing chickpeas ahead of time, and she says you can also freeze them right in their cooking liquid. This is a great idea if you’re going to use them in a soup — stock and legumes are all in one container, making life in the kitchen even easier.
As a parting thought, you can put your newly rehydrated chickpeas to good use in this grilled vegetable salad. Don’t they look pretty intermingled with the colourful vegetables?