Chyches (Spiced Roasted Chickpeas)

73. Chyches.
Take chiches and wrye hem in askes al nyght oþer al a day, oþer lay hem in hoot aymers. At morowe waische hem in clene water, and do hem ouere the fire with clene water. Seeþ hem vp and do þerto oyle, garlek hole, safroun, powdour fort and salt; seeþ it and messe it forth.
The Forme of Curye

Chyches. Take chickpeas and cover them in ashes all day or all night, or lay them in hot embers. The next day wash them in clean water, and do them over the fire with clean water. Boil them and and add thereto oil, whole garlic, saffron, powder forte and salt; cook it and serve it forth.

I first ate this dish at Canterbury Faire in New Zealand, where it was a dish from the redoubtable Peerless Kitchen. From memory they made several large serving trays, all of which were scraped clean by all the diners. When a dish is that delicious, you have to try and make it yourself! And it’s also fairly easy.

Ingredients

approx. 500g canned chickpeas (roughly 2 cans); OR
250g dried chickpeas 1/2 tsp black pepper
4 small garlic cloves, peeled 1/4 tsp cloves
1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil Pinch saffron threads
Pinch salt

Method

  1. If using dried chickpeas, soak for at least 12 hours in cold water, if possible changing the water after 6 hours. Then drain and simmer for at least an hour, until the chickpeas are tender.
  2. If using canned chickpeas, drain them and rinse them well.
  3. Line a baking tray with baking paper, then spread the chickpeas over the baking paper in a single layer. Bake in a 150 ° oven for approximately an hour. The chickpeas will turn golden and smell very nutty.
  4. Grind the saffron to a powder, then soak in boiling water.
  5. Grind the pepper and spices to a powder.
  6. Put the chickpeas in a pan with the oil, spices and saffron water, and cook until the garlic has softened.
  7. Add the salt, and enough water to cover the chickpeas. Bring to the water to the boil and cook until it is mostly absorbed by the chickpeas.
  8. Serve hot or cold.

Notes

  • “Powder forte” refers to a spice mix composed of powerfully flavoured spices. I have used pepper and cloves, but you could use any strong spice (except chilli, which was unknown in 14th century England.
  • I have seen other redactions where the oil and water are added together. This is suggested by the words of the original recipe, but I have found the oil doesn’t incorporate well and stays in a film on the top of the cooking water. Frying the chickpeas, garlic and spices first intensifies the flavour.

 

Chyches

Further Reading

Anonymous. Curye on Inglysch. ed. Constance B. Hieatt and Sharon Butler. London: Oxford University Press, 1985.
This is a collection of manuscripts from 14th century England, with a full glossary to aid in translation. These are the earliest manuscripts in English devoted entirely to cooking.

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