Monday, October 17, 2011

Braised Chickpeas with Spinach and Haloumi with Crisp Onions and Mojo Verde

         This dish really ought to come with a passport.  It has undercurrents of India with its cumin and coriander.  But the Haloumi cheese is pure Greek. The chickpeas could be Indian or Italian or German. And if we called them “Garbanzos”, they would be as Spanish as the incredibly delicious “Mojo Verde” that accompanies them.  To top off all this culinary globe-trotting, I found the recipe in Cuisine, a New Zealand food magazine.  So if you feel like singing “We are the World” while cooking this incredible vegetarian feast, go right ahead.
The delicious Braised Chickpeas made the
lamb chops seem superfluous. 
  I’d bought Cuisine when doing a survey of international food magazines.  And I clipped this recipe because it looked so intriguing and the ingredients were so enticing.  The first time I made it, I followed Cuisine’s advice and served it with some simple lamb chops, ignoring their note that this was “a fine vegetarian meal”.  The truth was that the chickpea dish was so good and the mojo so full of flavor, it made the lamb chops seem like an afterthought.  I wanted another opportunity to make the dish so Andrew and I called up our very good vegetarian friend, Stephen, and invited him to dinner. Within a week I was making a huge platter of chickpeas laced with baby spinach, topped with grilled cheese, crisp onions and a deliciously vinegary garlic and cilantro sauce.  It was a huge hit.  And here’s the surprise: it took all of 25 minutes to make. 
        The recipe comes in four parts.  Do not be put off by that.  Each part is simple to make and the combination of flavors and textures is delicious.   It’s the perfect meatless meal. Here is the recipe for 4 servings.
Recipe for Braised Chickpeas with Spinach and Haloumi with Crisp Onions and Mojo Verde from New Zealand’s Cuisine Magazine
First, make the Mojo Verde:
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted & ground
1 tsp salt
¼ cup fresh coriander (cilantro)
2 tbs red wine vinegar
4 tbs olive oil

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, place the garlic, cumin and sea sat and process until smooth.  Add the cilantro, vinegar and olive oil. Process until emulsified and quite vinegary tasting. Set aside.
Next, make the Crispy Onions
1½- 2 cups vegetable oil
2 onions, sliced into thin rounds

Heat the vegetable oil and onions in a small saucepan, slowly bringing to the boil. Deep fry for around 10 minutes until the onion rings are golden. Watch them carefully as they crisp quickly towards the end.  Remove and drain well on absorbent paper. Set aside. 
Make the Braised Chickpeas
2 x 400g (14 oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbs olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, diced
3 small red chillies, crumbled
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbs tomato paste
16 oz. baby spinach, washed
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
8 oz. haloumi cut into ¼ to ½ inch slices
In a large saucepan heat the oil and fry the onion until soft; add the garlic and chilli and ground cumin, fry for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

Add the tomato paste and chickpeas, toss until chickpeas are well coated; add a little water (¼ cup) and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Meanwhile panfry the haloumi in batches over a medium heat in a little olive oil until golden; a minute or so each side. Drain well on absorbent paper and keep warm.
Add the spinach to the chickpeas and toss until just wilted.

Serve the chickpeas in individual bowls topped with strips of warm haloumi drizzled with Mojo Verde and finished with crispy onions.


  1. This looks so flavorful and satisfying. We love all the ingredients, but I may not be able to find haloumi in my small Midwestern town. Would any other cheese work?

  2. Hi Nancy! This really is a wonderful dish and I am sure you'd love its wonderful flavors. The Haloumi cheese is remarkable in that you can fry it which, lets face it, isn't something you can do with a lot of other cheeses. It is similar in taste to Feta so you might substitute that, not fried but crumbled over the dish. Mozzarella has a somewhat similar texture but again, I don't think it would fry either. Do let me know what your results are. And thanks so much for your comment.

  3. Thanks, Monte. I may have a source for Haloumi; I'll check it out and try the dish.