….tales of taste and food wisdom, for modern times


Although you’ll find it throughout North Africa, the Middle East, India and in parts of Italy and Greece, there are few places where the “garbanzo” bean, or chickpea, is more popular – and revered – than in the Spanish kitchen.

The Spanish are particular about how their garbanzos should be treated.  Cooks will debate the relative merits of garbanzos coming from specific areas – are they better from Segovia or Zamora, from Badajoz or Cádiz?   It’s often a case of  “my mother-in-law’s garbanzos” are superior to “your sister’s garbanzos.”

Chickpeas are eaten almost daily in Spain, appearing in the cocidos (one-pot meals) and potajes (thick soups) of every region and soaking up the strong flavours and spices in Spanish cooking — salt pork, sausages, tomatoes, cabbage, garlic and onions, pimentón and cumin.

So, in honour of the noble chickpea, I offer a spiced mash in which the little golden nuggets can really strut their tasty stuff….

Chickpea, Carrot & Parsley Mash


(Serves 2 – double up for 4)

Carrots: 2-3 (approx 200g)
Onion: ½ medium (red or white)

Red Pepper: 1/2 medium

Garlic: 1 fat or 2 small

Cumin seeds: ½ teaspoon
Olive oil: 2 – 3 tablespoons (not extra virgin)
Sea salt & ground black pepper
Lemon: ½ lemon, zest and juice
Boiling water
Garbanzo beans (Chickpeas): 400g can, rinsed & drained
Flat-leaf parsley: Large handful, chopped
Tahini paste: 1 tablespoon

A terracotta “sides”  pot large enough to serve 2  (or 4) and a heat diffuser.


1. Firstly, prepare your mis-en-place: Peel and dice the carrots, onion and red pepper into chickpea-sized dice. Peel and grate, or chop the garlic finely. Zest half a whole lemon (it’s easier!), then halve it and juice the zested half. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Chop the parsley (but not too finely). Set aside.

2. Next, place a heat diffuser over a COLD gas ring or hot plate (see Cooking Techniques: Terracotta Cooking).  Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil  in the terracotta pot on a slow heat and add the cumin seeds.  Heat gently, until the seeds are fragrant (don’t over-heat or they’ll burn and taste very bitter, in which case start again!).

3. Then, add the chopped veg to the frypan with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the lemon zest and juice and enough boiling water to just cover everything. Season well, cover with a cartouche (see Cooking Techniques) and cook on over a medium heat, stirring from time to time and adding a little more water until the carrots are tender but still have a good bite. The pot should now be almost dry, so if you have a lot of liquid going on  increase the heat slightly and remove the cartouche.

4. Add the drained and rinsed chickpeas, season again and heat through on a medium heat, stirring everything well.  Add a splash or two of boiling water to create steam – this will help to get the chickpeas hot without making everything soggy.

5. Now put the whole lot in a food processor, with a good tablespoon of Tahini paste (I use “light” for preference) or mash well with a strong fork. Check the seasoning to taste.

6. Add the chopped parsley and enough olive oil to give the consistency you want: You may want a stiffer mash to accompany a well sauced dish like Spanish Chicken (see Recipes), casseroles or stews, or a softer mash if you are serving it with a drier dish, say, lamb chops or pan-roasted fish.

7. The mash will “hold“ really well in a warm oven, covered with foil. Or, it will refrigerate a couple of days. Re-heat it in a frypan until piping hot, adding splashes of boiling water to create steam.