Did you know beans are in right now? No, I didn’t either, but a fellow foodie friend says they’re the new kale, alongside brussel sprouts and sauerkraut (in case you haven’t kept up with the latest food gossip, here you have it). Though I’m not one to follow food trends, this one is actually a thing, even the United Nations have caught up, dubbing 2016 as the year of the pulses to heighten awareness of their nutritional benefits.
Beans beans the musical fruit…
I have to admit, I had a little proud moment after hearing that, given that for the first time ever I had been way ahead of the trend on this one, as is never the case with fashion. But having grown up in Spain, I have a deep love for Mediterranean style food. I’ve always loved beans, though I realise it’s not a feeling shared by everyone. That little rhyme ‘beans beans the musical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot’ has given beans a bad press for a long time. It’s about time they make a comeback!
Easy, quick and delicious?
With that in mind, this chickpea and spinach stew is just what the doctor (or midwife in this case) ordered. Easy and quick enough for the midweek table, yet satisfying and indulgent enough for a Sunday dinner. Need you any more?
What’s the fuss about Chickpeas?
Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are one of the most common and widely eaten beans. And for good reason; they are packed full of protein, fibre and nutrients such as iron, manganese, B6 and choline among others. Choline is an important nutrient for the development of your baby’s brain and nervous system. But here’s the bonus; choline helps your body convert folate (and folic acid) into its usable form in a process called methylation (all of this is explained in another post), and is therefore very important to prevent neural tube defects in the first trimester.
A relationship made to last!
And so, the addition of spinach here is not only tasty, but also strategic. The choline in the chickpeas will help the folate from the spinach to be converted and used by the body. Talk about a synergistic relationship! Spinach is of course also high in iron, something every pregnant woman needs a regular supply of! This dish makes a great meal for those at any stage during their pregnancy, and also during breastfeeding. It freezes well so make sure to double or triple the batch to keep for those days where you really can’t be bothered to cook. Needless to say, this dish is also very suitable for those women with gestational diabetes, as it is high in protein and low in starch, so will help keep those blood sugar levels stable.
A final note about chickpeas; you can buy these dried or canned. If you have the time to soak them, buy them dried and soak overnight or for at least 10 hours with a little salt. Drain and simmer for about 90 minutes or until tender and soft. If you buy them canned, try to get the larger variety, and make sure that they are cooked properly as sometimes they can still be al dente.
RECIPE Serves: 2 Total time: 35 minutes (unless you buy dried chickpeas)
Chickpeas dried- 400g (or 2 cups) / canned 800g (x2 cans)
2 medium sized onions
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon sweet paprika (pimenton dulce)
1 teaspoon spicy paprika (optional- if you can find it)
1 teaspooon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
2 ripe tomatoes
250 grams/4 cups packed fresh spinach, washed
2 eggs (if desired)
Salt & Pepper to taste
*If you’ve bought dried chickpeas, please see note above about soaking and cooking.
1. Start with the onions. Chop small and add to a casserole with the olive oil, and cook over a low heat.
2. After about 10 minutes, add the chopped garlic, paprika, cumin and chilli and continue cooking for another 10 minutes over a low heat.
3. In the mean time, put a pot of water to boil, and once ready, add the tomatoes very briefly, for about 30 seconds. Remove from the pot and peel the skin off (making sure to use a slotted spoon to remove the tomatoes from the boiling water, as you may want to use the water to boil the eggs if you are using these).
4. Chop the tomatoes finely and add to the casserole that has the onions and garlic, and cook for another 10 minutes.
5. In your pot of boiling water, add the eggs and cook until hard boiled yolks (if you’re the pregnant one) or until you achieve the softness you like (about 6 minutes for very runny yolks, 8 minutes for soft boiled, and 10 minutes for hard boiled).
6. Add the drained and rinsed chickpeas to the casserole, and add a little water (about half a cup).
7. Set the spinach in a small pot over medium heat, add a little salt, and cover for about 1 minute. The spinach should wilt and when ready, add to the casserole and mix in with all the other ingredients. If the stew is looking a little dry, add a bit of water. Taste and season accordingly.
8. Drain and peel the eggs, and serve alongside the hot stew.